It felt like an adventure driving to John’s and Bonnie’s farmhouse in Blissfield, Michigan. I drove the back roads, some unpaved dirt roads, others very bumpy narrow asphalt. I saw no people, lots of roaming cattle, and came upon cornfields, farm machinery, silos and the things that a city girl doesn’t often see. John farms for a living. Although Bonnie works outside of the home during the school year, she has her summers off.
As soon as I entered the farmhouse, the foyer looked like it could have been pulled from pages of an old history book. Besides Bonnie’s warm greeting, I was welcomed in their old-world entryway that led to a luxurious grand stairwell. The stunning banisters to the second floor were solid wood which created a theatrical focal point. I wondered if this stairway led to heaven. Large print floral wallpaper covered the walls in the foyer was cleverly done. It appeared the homeowners had lived in the home for decades. Yet, it had a fresh modern take. The gorgeous room took me back in time.
When Bonnie led me to their kitchen my jaw dropped off its hinge. I was astonished. I was expecting to see a country kitchen, not a Mexican blanket. Seriously! The sink wall was painted shockingly happy yellowish-orange and the perimeter soffit was painted a bright bold red. The wall that housed the refrigerator and range was painted vibrate neon green. Dark navy blue and deep plum were two other colors I could see from the spot I stood in. I hadn’t moved an inch since we first entered the kitchen. I couldn’t. My mind was trying to absorb everything my eyes saw. I really tried to be in the present moment and absorb everything that was going on around me. After my initial shock resided, Bonnie explained why I was seeing vibrant southwestern colors in her Michigan country kitchen.
You see, she wanted to remodel her kitchen—years ago—but her husband did not. So, Bonnie considered a new approach, although it was a little unconventional, she decided if she painted her walls with different, bold southwestern colors, her husband might give in and remodel the kitchen—right away. But to her unexpected disappointment, and surprise, John liked the cheery look. So, they ended up living with this very bright and colorful room—for quite some time.
Let’s set aside paint colors so we can take a look at the other issues this kitchen had. This was a room that just wasn’t serving Bonnie anymore. The space wasn’t functional—there wasn’t even a dishwasher. There wasn’t an adequate island with sufficient seating. Well, wait a minute. I better back up here and write the truth. It did have an island, it just wasn’t adequate. Bonnie had been using two base cabinets with a board placed across the top, along with a couple of stools as a table, as an island, and as her own little desk. Another problem was the L-shaped laminate countertop desperately lacked counter space. Since very little natural light entered the kitchen, there was insufficient ambient lighting in the room.
By the way, this was year 2007. Back before “Throwback Thursday” started and before the popular hashtag game was invented. In April of that year Bonnie had made do with this kitchen for long enough. After seeing her friend’s kitchen remodel (a past client of ours), she asked for a referral and gave me a call at Blue Creek Cabinet Company. After I came up with a new and improved kitchen designed just especially for them, I showed the homeowners my design on a large six-foot screen in the showroom. The 20/20 design software program I used allowed me to present many color photorealistic renderings and 3-D views to my clients. John was pleased, but Bonnie was shocked. She couldn’t imagine this newly designed kitchen could be theirs. But after some serious discussions, they asked me to make multiple changes. When I completed the changes, the homeowners traveled back to the cabinet showroom in Swanton, Ohio. Upon the second, third and fourth visits to the showroom, still unsatisfied, they requested more and more changes. Every time I complied. However, we realized that the 54-mile round trip was taxing, not only in miles, but in their schedules as well. So, we decided to rely on the means of the fax machine. Five months later we found the perfect layout and functionality that they were seeking. John and Bonnie had visualized their kitchen into the looker it is today.
During this 5-month period, Bonnie borrowed one of my kitchen design books and fell in love with a stainless steel farmhouse sink. Together we searched high and low for a replica of this cool looking sink. Eventually, we abandoned the search, but Bonnie just had to have this dream sink. So, she had one custom-made in California.
Speaking of five months, that’s how long Bonnie’s kitchen was torn up. A kitchen remodel doesn’t usually take this long, but this wasn’t a normal renovation. Down-to-the-studs renovation might scare most people away, but not these two. They were totally fine with it because they were making this kitchen truly theirs. The outside wall of their house, where the windows and plumbing were located, was extended additional two-feet. We wanted to open up the kitchen, but the interior wall between the kitchen and home office turned out to be load-bearing, so we had to keep a portion of it. To resolve the conundrum, I designed the double oven to be next to this wall. After the existing navy blue drywall had been removed the homeowners discovered a brick chimney. We opted to keep the exposed bricks as a natural element of the room. We were extremely happy with how it turned out. The other existing walls were taken down to the studs, then sealed with airtight installation that would surely reduce utility costs.
John and Bonnie were like many of our clients who would live in their home while the renovations were being completed. During this 5-month period, there were plenty of messy, chaotic happenings, with noisy power tools, dirt and dust scattered everywhere. Bonnie used her basement as a makeshift kitchen. Between her microwave in the basement and the outdoor grill, she managed to create tasty dinners for her husband, herself, and their son.
The homeowners wanted to keep the style of the kitchen to the characteristic tone of their home. It was also important to them that what they did was timeless, not the coolest, trendiest thing. The materials they choose included beadboard cabinet doors, painted linen with an ivory glaze, which will keep this kitchen looking fresh for years to come. Natural bamboo flooring replaced the linoleum square tiles. “Mediterranean Olive” by HanStone, an engineered stone, was the choice for the new countertops. Their white appliances were past their prime, so they were replaced with stainless steel. A cooktop was installed in the lower section of the two-tiered island. Goodbye to Bonnie’s two base cabinets with wood top and two stools, and hello to this spacious bar-height counter which allows seating for eight. Goodbye to the numerous bright paint colors and hello to a soft sage green.
Furniture base moulding was installed at the bottom of the island along with 12” by 12” square tiles. The same colored tiles, only smaller, were used for the backsplash.
Overhead lighting now pours light over the entire kitchen. We had ceiling-mounted fixtures and recessed can lights installed which provide good overall illumination. By scattering the fixtures throughout the room, light pools where it’s needed most: over the sink, near the double oven, over the cooktop area and over the entire island.
Flipper doors were installed on the wall refrigerator cabinet to allow a television to be viewed and when the homeowners do not want it to be seen, they can simply “flip” the doors closed. Now, there’s a vast amount of storage inside the two tall utility cabinets thanks to five roll-out trays in each one. A broom closet houses mops, brooms and such like items. By placing all of these elements side by side, they create a built-in look.
No matter how far one may travel to arrive at this home in the country, it won’t take you long to learn the house tells a story of who lives in it. Between the beautiful home and friendly homeowners, they both go a long way towards making guests feel welcome. They’ll make you feel very much like you’re visiting an old friend’s house. There’s no Oscar for best kitchen makeovers, but if there were, this kitchen would be my top contender. It is hands-down the most gorgeous country kitchen I’ve ever seen.