Photos by Spacecrafting
Ask anyone who loves to entertain: Working within the cramped confines of a tiny kitchen is far from ideal. Still, Lisa Huey managed to find ways to work around the small cooking area of her 1920s-era Minneapolis Tudor for more than three decades. “You wouldn’t believe it, but I used to host parties for 30-plus people in that tiny little kitchen,” she reminisces. “I’d set up chairs downstairs, but everyone was always split up.”
Measuring in at just under 100 square feet, the kitchen was much too tight for comfortable cooking, and with nearly nonexistent counter space and less seating than she would like, Huey knew it was time for a change. Luckily, her close friend, Martha O’Hara, had plenty of ideas of how to better utilize her culinary space—and how to open up and brighten up the rest of her home’s main level as well.
The home’s original living room was typical for a Tudor of its age, with dark walls and floors, dated fixtures, and heavy, traditional furniture. Still, there was plenty to love about the space: the exposed wooden beams that led the eye up to the ceiling, for instance, along with the grandiose fireplace across from the kitchen and the original front door that Huey had painted black during a previous remodel in 2015. In fact, O’Hara suggested painting the ceiling beams black to match the door, and then brightening the space with white walls, lighter floors, and more contemporary furniture.
“After spending about three hours with Martha and a bottle of wine, I was really looking forward to the changes,” says Huey. “When she suggested painting the ceiling beams black, I was all for it because I love my black front door.”
O’Hara brought in lead designer Gabriela Laboy and Kate Adamcsek from her eponymous design firm to spearhead the project, and the two began by tackling the biggest problem first: the kitchen. They called on Mitch Shepheard of MDS Remodeling, who managed to nearly double the footprint of the space by opening up the wall between the kitchen and an adjoining—and oft-unused—dining room, creating room for an eat-in nook complete with a custom bench designed to disguise the radiator. Storage was improved with new cabinetry and a spacious pantry that was converted from a rear closet.
Widening the kitchen’s cased-opening into the living room also created space for a peninsula and additional counter seats, and created the more contemporary layout the owner desired—an airy space with the kitchen, dining, and living areas all open to each other for easy entertaining.
Although a window needed to be eliminated to reposition the stovetop, the kitchen was kept light with plenty of white, from a glossy subway tile backsplash to sparkling countertops and gleaming upper cabinetry. Lower cabinetry was painted a pale gray to provide subtle variation, and trim was painted stark black to contrast with the fresh white walls. Brass kitchen hardware, a chic pendant light above the peninsula, and a tiered crystal chandelier above the eating nook provide the perfect finishing touches.
“When you see what the space was like before, there’s a definite ‘wow’ factor,” says Shepheard. “It was one of the smallest kitchens my team and I had been in, so it was a challenge to figure out how to make it work. But now, you’d never even guess.”
The living area, too, is now refreshingly modern with light wood floors and a dramatic black-and-white color palette to add contrast and highlight architectural details such as the beams, which were previously lost among the dark walls.
“We tried to keep everything light and neutral, and then bring in some bold pops of color through fabrics and accessories,” explains Laboy, who added accents like navy velvet chairs, fuchsia pillows, and brass fixtures.
Now a stylish, sophisticated space ready for entertaining, Huey is more delighted than ever with her home. “The whole space feels open and airy, and I’m just thrilled with the kitchen,” she says. “It really added the space I needed, and it’s truly a pleasure to be able to work in a functional kitchen.”
With her sights set on her lower level for her next remodel, Huey is already looking forward to the next project. “When you remodel one part of your home, you see all kinds of other things that need refreshing,” she laughs, adding, “After the polar vortex of last year, I decided I need a gas fireplace down there.”