Natural Light

A thoughtful renovation turns a previously dark ’90s kitchen into a bright, functional space

Photos by Stephen Voegeli

Skylights and an entire wall of windows flood the kitchen with natural light.

For Eden Prairie couple Tim and Lori Koloski, it was the view—or lack thereof—out their kitchen windows that brought about their plans to renovate the space. With a yard that backs up to the lush woodlands of Purgatory Creek Park rather than a neighbor’s lawn or patio, the two had a great capacity for gorgeous views out their five existing windows, but an unfortunate combination of dark cabinets and a refrigerator blocked more than half of them. When it came time to update the room’s skylights (the effect of which was also underutilized at the time), the homeowners took the opportunity to call up Lisa Loushin, president of Plymouth-based custom design company Haute Kitchens, to get her opinion of the space.

The preexisting kitchen.

“The views definitely weren’t being taken advantage of,” says Loushin. “They had these beautiful skylights, but there was this monstrosity in front of the windows. They knew they didn’t like it, but they didn’t know where to move the refrigerator.”

From the start, Lori knew she wanted a brighter, more open space with a better flow and modern finishes. But at the same time, she wanted the updated space to blend in with the remainder of the home. “They wanted light, bright, and white, but they didn’t want to have to renovate the rest of the house to reflect it,” explains Loushin. “So, it was a bit tricky making sure the new space blended well into the existing home and didn’t make everything else look old and tired.”

The project was completed in two phases, the first being a minor remodel—carried out by Tim, who acted as the general contractor for the project and undertook the framing of the new space himself—which straightened out an angled wall that previously housed a set of double ovens to provide space for a larger island. “The previous island was this odd octagonal shape that wasn’t very user-friendly, so adjusting the wall allowed for a lot more counter space in the new island,” says Loushin.

A new hutch near the staircase functions as a bar or buffet when entertaining.

Then came the solution for maximizing views: Moving the refrigerator and removing the cabinets that obscured the windows and creating an entire wall of windows that not only allowed for more counter space, but also played off the angle of the existing skylights to flood the entire area with natural light. “We were able to line the windows up with the skylights so nicely with just a little bit of calculating, and it worked out really beautifully,” says Loushin, who raised the new kitchen cabinets to the ceiling to compensate for the loss of storage space. The addition of glass panels to a pair of cabinets flanking the range also balanced a new window installed on the opposite wall, and helped contribute to the bright, open effect the homeowners so desired.

“My favorite part has got to be the windows,” says Lori. “I love having it so open with the view, and with the cabinets up to the ceiling, it really helps open the space up even more. Granted, I have to use a ladder to get to the top of them now, but I can put more things away up there and the entire area just feels less cluttered to me.”

A matching hutch in the butler’s pantry provides storage and acts as the family’s hub for mail, messages, and phone charging.

To meet the homeowners’ final request of blending the updated area in with the remainder of the house, the existing oak floor was sanded and refinished a light caramel to meld the new medium-finished oak island with the trim found in the rest of the home.

“They’re a family who really enjoys cooking and being in the kitchen, and I love working on projects where people truly utilize the spaces and they’re not just for show,” says Loushin. “It was wonderful to be able to use those preexisting elements like the views and skylights that weren’t being showed off as much as they could be, to see the beauty of what was already there and play off it to turn a dark, gloomy space into a bright, cheery, and extremely functional kitchen.”

Anna Bjorlin is managing editor of Midwest Home.

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