Kitchen Remodel

While the kitchen remodel was just one element of the ambitious whole-house makeover of this 1920s lakeside cottage in Minneapolis, it was this part of the project that really made the difference when it came to transforming the home's character from dark and dated to modern and inviting.

August 31, 2008
Kitchen Remodel
Ceiling Design Hides Eyesore

The new kitchen island features a recycled red birch counter made from wood reclaimed from the bottom of Lake Superior. The perimeter countertops are granite topped by a glass tile backspash.  Photos by Sylvestre Construction

While the kitchen remodel was just one element of the ambitious whole-house makeover of this 1920s lakeside cottage in Minneapolis, it was this part of the project that really made the difference when it came to transforming the home's character from dark and dated to modern and inviting.

Today, the kitchen functions not only as a completely modern workspace for the clients' daughter, who is a professionally trained chef, but also as the gathering center of the home.

“Remodeling the kitchen had a remarkable impact on the overall livability of the entire house by redirecting its entertaining opportunities to the new 24-foot-long space at the rear of the home,” says remodeler John Sylvestre, head of Sylvestre Construction, the local design/build remodeling firm responsible for the project.

Once cramped and cluttered, the completely updated kitchen now takes full advantage of what was always its most appealing, but formerly overlooked, attribute: its lakefront orientation. Space expanded both visually and physically when the remodeler removed an interior wall between the existing kitchen and an adjoining room and then increased the depth by six feet. The new design now offers two dining options — a large island with snack bar seating as well as a built-in dinette; new appliances, cabinetry and finishes; and a distinctive coffered ceiling punctuated by stained beams and strategically positioned task lighting.


A garden window above a new sink, corner windows surrounding the banquette and an oversized sliding patio door, give the homeowners a bright, cheerful and much more welcoming room.

The clients had used Sylvestre for several small-scale projects, and when the time came for their long-planned major remodel of the home, they turned to him again. In addition to the kitchen, the basement and second floor were updated.

“What was so important about this part of the overall project,” says Sylvestre, “was that we took two spaces — the sitting room and kitchen — that were largely overlooked and out of the way, and combined them to create a gathering space that really functions as the central hub of the home now. This has completely altered the arrangement of the main floor living space, making it much more sensible for the way a family lives and entertains today.”

The kitchen had originally been remodeled in the early 1970s but had not been updated since then. The key, says the remodeler, was creating a single large room out of these two disjointed spaces.

“The sitting room was not doing anything for the house in terms of function. All it did was make the kitchen a much smaller and more restricted area. The family already had a dining room in the house to use for formal entertaining when they needed it.”

They were ready to sacrifice the separate sitting room to enlarge the kitchen itself, he says. “And, since this side of the house faces the lake, the opportunity to get as much glass on this elevation as possible would really increase the view potential significantly. This was very, very important to our clients.”

When it came to selecting the appliances and finishes for the space, the homeowners' desire was to have a space that featured the latest in commercial-grade amenities but one that would, at the same time, complement the overall style of the home and be warm and inviting.

The continuity of the color scheme, as well as the repetition of details and materials found in other rooms, ensured that the new kitchen would appear as though it had always been a part of the home.

While this project was planned and completed before green became a hot button for the remodeling industry, says Sylvestre, it does include a number of environmentally friendly elements, such as: high-efficiency appliances; reclaimed red birch countertops for the island and banquette; and energy-efficient windows and doors.

“Our practice is to try to offer all options, green or otherwise, to our clients at the outset of a project as design suggestions. When it comes to making the choice, we give them as much helpful information as possible — including the pluses and minuses of each option. They don't always opt for the green options but we are finding more and more people are asking about them all the time.”

Ultimately, the homeowners are thrilled with their spacious new kitchen, he says. “They now have this huge room that they can really get a lot of people into comfortably when they need to. It is really a great entertaining area. But, it's also a really comfortable space for just one or two people as well. Their comments to us were that we more than delivered on what we promised them.”


Kitchen Remodel

Remodeler and architect: Sylvestre Construction, Minneapolis
Project location: Minneapolis
Age of Home: 80 years old
Scope of work: Expand and reorganize existing kitchen to capture lake views and increase functional space

The variety of wood finishes used throughout the kitchen lend the space a warm and welcoming ambiance and match details found throughout the rest of the home.

Ceiling Design Hides Eyesore

A beautiful coffered ceiling is one of the most distinctive features of the new kitchen, says remodeler John Sylvestre. The design actually disguises a structural beam that was added to support the home's upper floor after a partition wall was removed between the kitchen and sitting room and the entire rear wall was extended six feet.

“The original sitting room was an unnecessary and confusing space and the result was an improperly laid-out kitchen. In order to make the most of the space, we removed the partition wall between the two rooms and added a 6-foot by 27-foot addition. A single steel beam, which spanned the entire width of the kitchen, had to drop below the existing joists and presented us with a significant design challenge because it was visible.”

The solution was to use the beam as the basis for the creation of a grid of “wood” beams that frame the ceiling coffers. “While only one beam is actually structural steel, all of them were finished in stain-grade fir so that they would match,” he says.

“In this case, it was the structure that really drove the design.”

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