If home is where your heart is, the kitchen is where you feed your soul. It’s where the day begins with a cup of coffee and often ends with a late-night snack. Where kids tug on an apron, asking is it done yet? It’s the home’s main source of serenity, comfort and joy, whether it’s a holiday gathering or not. Where family and friends gather to eat, talk and laugh… and then eat some more. For our food issue, we look at three wildly different, but equally beautiful kitchens.
When Kirstin and Patrick Spiers started renovating their kitchen, they knew it was going to be a long haul. There were interior walls to remove, floors and cabinets that needed gutting, and appliances that needed to be replaced. It made for a messy two years, but it was worth it. “It’s completely different,” Kirstin says. “Everything before was lots of little rooms. The kitchen was fully closed, with a tiny dining room and little windows, all closed off with French doors.”
As the family chef and someone with a food science and business degree (who created and sold her own food company), Kirstin knew what she wanted, and that it wouldn’t be easy to do. So she enlisted the help of designer Mindy Gudzinski. In addition to knowing Kirstin’s meals well, Gudzinski says the kitchen is all about connection — to people, food and, through the new massive windows, the beautiful backyard. “It all starts in the kitchen,” Gudzinski says.
The finished product feels like a stylish cafe, complete with a padded window bench for customers (or, in this case, filled with children’s toys). “I like having a sitting area in my kitchen because I live in my kitchen,” Kirstin says. “My husband will visit with me, and we have a big family, so it’s nice to have a place to sit.”
The coolest part is the island’s steel, custom pullout table, which has so far served as extra prep space, a colouring book station, a bar and even a divider to keep the kitchen clear of impatient party guests who want a quick taste before dinner.
It matches the steel, open cabinets, which are perfect for a hungry family of five. “It’s restaurant style, so the plates are handy,” Kirstin says. “Everyone said ‘you’re crazy, you’ll be constantly dusting’, but it’s the best. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
It’s one thing to renovate a room, or even a floor — it’s quite another to move the entire wall of a house. But that’s what Cheryl and Troy Anonson did five years after moving into town from their acreage outside Sherwood Park. As experienced house-flippers, they focused on the kitchen, the “most used room in the house.” A big part of their dream kitchen was a very big granite island — almost double the original four-by-six foot island — which required moving the house’s east wall two feet out. “It was a big job, a little scary,” Cheryl says. “But there wasn’t much space. You couldn’t open the fridge if you sat on that side.”
The massive island makes the most of the extra area, serving as a prep space and kitchen table, with plenty of room for guests to snack and mingle while waiting for the big meal. And the stunning, light-up granite mini bars on both sides of the TV bookend the joining living room, making it more like the kitchen’s seating area than a separate space.
With white, classically trimmed custom cabinets, a subtle backsplash and chandeliers that make the ceiling sparkle, they turned a mid-’90s, mostly wood-styled space into an elegant and classical kitchen, a style the Anonsons have refined over years of experience. “Whenever we plan something like this, we talk about modern, or something different, but we always end up going back to traditional,” Cheryl says. But don’t let that sophisticated method make you think the kitchen is off limits for a party. “We usually have UFC fight nights here,” Cheryl says. “The island is filled with food and munchies.”
Sometimes you find your dream home, and sometimes you build it… three blocks away. Bill and Patti Thompson did the latter, and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, especially their ultra-modern kitchen. “We really liked the house we were in, but when you’re in a house a while, there are things you want to change,” Patti says. “So we built similar, but tweaked it.”
They knew before ground broke that one particular feature would definitely reappear in the new space — actually, two: The double islands separating the kitchen and living room, although they didn’t escape alteration, either. “We had two islands in the old home, but one was raised,” Patti explains. “We entertain a
ton, and people would sit (at the raised island), and we’d be here with our knees hitting the lower island.”
They levelled and expanded the islands, and did something similar with what’s become a common feature in modern kitchens, the butler pantry. The standard is a large walk-in pantry, with some prep space and maybe a sink. The Thompsons made theirs bigger, with three entrances, a dishwasher dedicated to glasses and room for all the snacks guests could possibly want. It’s essentially a mini version of the main kitchen (minus the islands), with quick access to the main kitchen, living room and garage. “It worked out even better than we expected,” Patti says. “Everyone makes a beeline to the butler pantry.”
But a kitchen isn’t truly modern without a modern appliance, and Patti couldn’t love her steam oven more. “Every high-end appliance salesman pushes it on you,” she explains, “and most people think it just steams, but it does so much more. You can put leftovers in there and they come out perfect, even old bread or bagels. You can make a hard- or soft-boiled egg. I had to take time to learn to use it, but the sales guys were right. I would never go back.”