A Mechanicsburg Colonial in Need of a Refresh

BEFORE AND AFTER: Nothing makes us feel prouder than having a client ask us to come back and work with them a second time. While our first project was limited to a countertop, backsplash and a few decorative touches, this time we were invited to do an entire make-over of the kitchen adjoining dining space. If you own a 1990’s colonial kitchen, and wondered what might be possible, please continue reading!

One of our great joys at Mother Hubbard’s is working with customers more than once. As a service business, kitchen and bath designers rely on the referrals from previous customers to drive new business. Needless to say, there’s no better referral than when a customer returns to you for a second or third time.

Our new/repeat client is a vibrant woman in her fifties living in a 1990’s colonial in one of the lovely neighborhoods that meander along the bends of the Conodoguinet Creek. We first met nearly 25 years ago when we upgraded her builder-standard kitchen with Corian countertops, a tile backsplash and a few flourishes. As you can see from the “Before” floor plan and photos below, even though the combined space of the breakfast and kitchen was quite large, the U-shaped floorplan made the kitchen feel small and fenced-off from the beautiful breakfast room and any guests who might be in it.


While the work triangle of the old floorplan was functional, the oddly positioned cooktop at the end of the peninsula not only wasted precious floor space, it looked a bit out of place and “tacked on”.

The Before photos also highlight how dark the kitchen was, not only because of its interior location, but also because of the stained oak cabinets. As we’ve discussed before, dark colors can make a kitchen feel smaller than it really is, and this kitchen typifies that effect.

Finally, the old kitchen lacked sufficient, usable storage. Indeed, when we worked with the homeowner those many years ago one of the items she had us install was a ceiling-hung pot rack to accommodate the pots and pans that didn’t fit in her existing cabinetry.

Creating a Dream Kitchen Even With A Few Constraints.

Some of our most challenging and satisfying projects are those where physical or budget constraints spur our most creative thinking. With this Mechanicsburg kitchen remodel we were working with two fairly common constraints. First, we were asked not to displace any walls and second the owner emphasized her desire to maximize the return on investment, should she choose to sell the home in the near future.

For some designers this might mean cutting the budget across the board or retreating to safe but often boring design choices and solutions. By contrast, Mother Hubbard’s focuses on satisfying both the wants and needs of the client, finding solutions that will deliver the highest level of enjoyment and utility at a value that the homeowner can embrace.

Opening The Kitchen To the Adjoining Breakfast Space

The first step in this kitchen remodel was to design a more open floorplan that improved the flow while eliminating the feeling of separation between the kitchen and breakfast space. We began by deleting the peninsula leg of the u-shaped base cabinetry, replacing it with an island of similar length but greater width. Because we weren’t enlarging the footprint of the kitchen, extra space had to be found to allow movement around both sides of the island. In a choice some might find counterintuitive, we deleted a short wall of cabinetry to increase the space on either side of the island. Despite the short-term loss of storage space, (we ultimately increased the usable storage) the After gallery at the bottom of the page shows how much more open the kitchen feels.

Of course, by selecting a clean style and light grey color for the wall cabinetry, the open feeling of the new kitchen was greatly enhanced. White and grey can sometimes seem cold and uninviting, but we brought warmth and visual interest into the space with touches like the glass-paneled top cabinets to showcase glassware and a wine cube above the fridge. Storage above a refrigerator is almost always dead space because it’s nearly impossible to reach the back of any cabinetry. The advantage of the horizontal wine storage is that the length of the bottles nicely fills the unreachable void while retaining step-stool access to the bottles by their necks.

A Large, Functional Island with Countertop Space for Two

Another benefit of deleting the peninsula leg of this U-shaped design was the ability to float the island into the breakfast area and to extend the width of the countertop. The larger countertop allowed us to create an overhang that’s perfect for two people on stools. (picture). This solution not only adds desirable workspace, it also creates an intimate area where family or guests can congregate with the owner while she cooks.

One unique feature of the new center island was the inclusion of a microwave drawer in the gray base cabinetry. While a few hundred dollars more than typical wall-mounted microwaves, this microwave drawer is easier to access, improves efficiency, and is much safer for children and aging adults.

The final touch to integrate the breakfast and kitchen areas was replacing the original dark tile floor with hardwood flooring that continues through the breakfast space. Not only does the wood flooring unite the two spaces, it also adds warmth to the kitchen.

In the end, the Mother Hubbard’s process of working hand-in-hand with the client made it possible for her to create the kitchen of her dreams that functions beautifully, wows guests, and will provide a solid return on her investment when she decides to sell.


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