The kitchen is truly the heart of the home. It’s the place we gather, nurture our families, and entertain. To celebrate this favorite room in the house, we partnered with Triton Stone Group to host a kitchen contest. Professionals entered. Readers voted. And the winners couldn’t be more different. When it comes to kitchen design in Birmingham, it seems we all like a little something unique.
1st Place: Clear Vision
A circa-2006 Vestavia Hills home receives a makeover filled with French country flair while taking advantage of its mountaintop views.
The view was incredible. The kitchen? Not so much. “It took some convincing to talk my husband into buying this house,” says owner and interior designer Mary Ann Smith of Dogwood Designs. The standard stock cabinetry looked dated, an overabundance of upper cabinets crowded the space, and the window above the kitchen sink was little more than a peephole into the expanse beyond. “Ultimately, though, it was the view that sold him,” Mary Ann says of the birds-eye view of Samford University and Vulcan.
The goals for the renovation were two-fold. Mary Ann not only wanted to open up the kitchen to those spectacular vistas, she also wanted to update finishes. To start, she removed all of the upper cabinets (save the bar area) and replaced the wall and tiny window above the sink with a trio of counter-to-ceiling windows. Functionality and flow weren’t issues, so she maintained the location of the appliances—a budget-saver that allowed for custom appointments in country French style. She did replace a too-small island with one that now suits the scale of the room.
To get the refined-yet-rustic aesthetic she wanted, Mary Ann brought in materials with plenty of patina to complement the new cabinets. Cedar beams frame the windows, honed marble replaced speckled granite countertops, and pecky cypress trims the range hood. A pair of brushed aluminum lanterns over the island appear aged. For authentic, Old-World character, she installed antique doors between the kitchen and dining room. “I think the finished space is a good example of never settling for a stock plan if it doesn’t accomplish your design goals,” says Mary Ann. “A room can always be modified to suit your style.”
Looks to Love
The same marble on the cabinets (honed shadow storm marble) is repeated on the backsplash. The custom fabricated curve complements the lines of the hood.
Gold sconces, sleek appliances, and a smooth finish on simply-styled cabinets balance out the room’s rustic, country French design elements.
Drawers, not doors, fill the area below the countertop. “Drawers are easier to organize,” Mary Ann says.
For French flair, and to break up the expanse of white, Mary Ann painted the island a soft, French gray-blue finish (Repose Gray, Sherwin-Williams).
Inside the Box
Considering a renovation? Mary Ann Smith of Dogwood Designs shares her tips for achieving a whole new look just by resurfacing the space you have with updated finishes.
Focus on what you can change easily without relocating plumbing or electrical.
Eliminate upper cabinets to make the space look and feel larger.
The difference in stock and custom is in the details. If you can’t refresh everything, choose a few places to elevate a stock plan. Consider new hardware, lighting, an accent paint color, or a custom hood or backsplash.
Factor in how long you plan to live in the house when making budget decisions, but remember that the kitchen sells the house. A beautiful kitchen is always a good investment.
Interior design: Mary Ann Smith, Dogwood Designs, 205.541.0250, firstname.lastname@example.org Builder: Ross Neely, Neely Construction Hardware: Avondale Specialty Hardware Appliances: AllSouth Appliance Countertops and backsplash: Triton Stone Group Cedar beams: Cole-Hall Lumber Co. Pecky cypress (range hood accent): City Hardwoods Counter stools: Stock & Trade Design Co. Antique doors: Old World Antieks, La Grange, TX Lighting: Ella Home, Atlanta, GA, and At Home Furnishings, Homewood, AL
2nd Place: Culinary Arts
Downsizing to a one-level rancher meant upgrading the kitchen. For empty nesters Amy and Steve Jackson, designer Katrina Porter brought in a transitional aesthetic that put the focus on space and style.
Most ranch houses were built long before the open-concept kitchen became vogue. Their 1950s-style kitchens were typically small and tucked away from the rest of the house. Designer Katrina Porter is very familar with these spaces. In her 25 years of kitchen design, she’s remedied more than a few by knocking down walls and reconfiguring layouts—and the results certainly speak for themselves.
For the Jacksons, empty nesters with three adult kids, Katrina stepped in to design a spacious kitchen with easy flow and lots of amenities. The couple needed a space that would suit just the two of them but also allow room for convivial gatherings when friends visit or their children come home. And they wanted something with a bit of a dramatic, modern edge to highlight their art collection—brightly-saturated paintings with predominately red and yellow hues.
Relocating the home’s existing laundry and mechanical space made way for the room the Jacksons craved. “Even though the kitchen stayed within the walls of the existing home, it became more efficient for the family,” Katrina says.
The homeowners love their morning caffeine. Katrina served up a coffee cabinet with retractable doors that keeps everything close at hand for morning brews yet stays out of sight for everyday living. A 15-inch-wide, under-counter beverage refrigerator holds coffee creamer and drinks.
Interior design: Katrina Porter, Katrina Porter Designs Cabinets and wood hood: custom, Village Woodworks Builder: Mike Ross, 205-296-1025 Perimeter countertops, backsplash, and shelf: Triton Stone Group, fabricated by Alabama Stone Works Island countertop (Caesarstone Pure White Quartz): Alabama Stone Works Appliances: AllSouth Appliance Group Hardware: Brandino Brass Rug: @Hazelhousecollection Sconces: Cedar & Moss Fixture above island: Mayer Lighting Faucet: V&W Supply Bar stools (sourced from Rejuvenation): Paula Coldiron Cafe curtains: Paula Coldiron
3rd Place: Modern Love
Designer Katrina Porter rises to the challenge of re-creating a kitchen that incorporates stylish finishes yet plays well with this mid-century modern home.
After purchasing her circa-1963 mid-century modern home, Cathy Pryor enlisted the help of Katrina Porter to upgrade the kitchen. She asked for something that would honor the home’s edgy style while offering a fresh, contemporary look. The home featured timber-framed windows and doors, along with brick pavers—finishes Cathy was determined to keep.
One of the biggest challenges in the space was its lack of light. “There were no real windows in the kitchen,” says Katrina. “We knew we needed to remove the wall to borrow light from the adjacent living room.” Not only did that solution bring in more light, it also gave the kitchen expansive views of the backyard through the large windows across the back of the house.
To reflect the airy feel of the newly opened kitchen, Katrina designed a waterfall island of white polished marble. Black laminate perimeter cabinets offer a striking contrast that grounds the space and also complements the color of the LaCornue range. And while the unique color combination perfectly fit Cathy’s vision, it also attracted buyers when the house was sold shortly after the renovation. As Katrina says, “The kitchen is where lots of life’s memories are made.” And thanks to her expert design, this one stands ready to make more with its new owners.
TIP: Thick floating shelves made of white oak combine modern form with practical functionality. The same material is used for the refrigerator cabinet, the coffee cabinet, and the back of the bar, creating a cohesive look.
Interior Design: Katrina Porter, Katrina Porter Designs Builder: Steve Grigsby Island, backsplash, and hood: 3 cm. Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Premium Polished Stone from Triton Stone Group Stone Fabrication: Alabama Stone Works Range wall and sink wall countertops: soapstone purchased from and fabricated by Alabama Stone Works Appliances: AllSouth Appliance Faucet: Triton Black base cabinets: purchased through Counter Dimensions Custom refrigerator panel and cabinet surrounding the refrigerator: Village Woodworks Wood cabinet housing toaster oven and coffee maker and floating shelves flanking range: Village Woodworks Cabinet hardware: Brandino Brass
Editor’s Choice: Elegant Revival
For her own kitchen, designer Jan Ware created a space that pays tribute to the home’s past yet offers the conveniences of the present.
When interior designer Jan Ware moved into her 1928 French-style home, the bones were there. The house was filled with high ceilings, archways, and plenty of architectural charms. After all, it was designed by Warren, Knight and Davis, the venerable firm that designed so many of our city’s homes and landmark buildings (the Alabama Power building, Independent Presbyterian Church, the Country Club of Birmingham). Previous owners renovated the kitchen in the 1980s, but the hallmarks of the decade of decadence had seen its day. For Jan, it was time to design a space that would not only serve contemporary needs, but also pay respect to the home’s history and character.
Working with architect Jeremy Corkern and Francis Bryant Construction, Jan took advantage of existing plumbing lines and the location of appliances but pulled out all the stops for upgrades. Highlights include new cabinets with marble countertops, a fluted island with hidden storage, and a wet bar. The finished look is classic yet offers all the necessities today’s cook needs.
Smart Storage Solutions
Refrigerated drawers in the island: These convenient built-ins offer easy access to cooking staples. The fluted style maintains design consistency when drawers are closed.
Think about your furry friends. Jan created a cozy, out-of-the-way space for Lola, the family’s Latotto Romagnolo. “Of course, she never sleeps in there,” she laughs.
Out of sight. Jan made efficient use of every square inch within the kitchen, including space on either side of the range. Drawers and doors hide essentials while clever, vertically-oriented shelves keep muffin pans and cookie sheets within arm’s reach.
Interior designer: Jan Ware of Jan Ware Designs Architect: Jeremy Corkern Builder: Francis Bryant Construction Kitchen plumbing faucets and sinks: Fixtures and Finishes Countertops: Triton Stone Fabrication: Alabama Stone Works Cabinet hardware: Brandino Brass Antiqued mirror: Paintworks Appliances: Subzero/Wolf through AllSouth Appliance Hardwood flooring: Ovi’s flooring Rugs: LillieKat Lighting and furnishings: CleverHaven by Jan Ware Designs