Fresh Kitchen Contest 2012: Less is More
Who said an empty nest is lonely? A Mountain Brook couple found freedom in clearing out the old and making their home fit their new lives.
The Carleys kept their new kitchen on a simple scale suited to their needs. “I still just have a 36-inch stove, one sink, one dishwasher,” Dotty says. “I have friends who have a 56 inch-stove and they never cook. You open it up and find the mail stashed in there.”
Dotty and Joe Carley had a revelation when their children graduated from the family home—they could have a new life, too. And the Ozzie-and-Harriet split-level needed an overhaul to keep up with the changes. “We had a basic 1960s story and a half that was too small to raise five kids in, but we did it anyway,” Dotty says. When kids move out, they tend to leave a lot of stuff behind, and it had to go. “I did a feng shui thing and got rid of everything” she says. “I cleansed my life of stuff.”
The Carleys didn’t stop there. They dove into a whole-house renovation as part of their simplified approach to life. In the kitchen, they kept it simple by stirring in new elements with existing ones. A previous update installed custom cherry cabinetry and sleek concrete countertops. Not only did they still look good, the cabinets were better, having developed the rich patina that only age can give. So the architects worked their magic incorporating and enhancing those elements.
Relatively minor changes made a big difference. Designer Betsy Brown recommended the soft putty stain that gives a natural, airy feel to the room. Pendant lamps that interrupted the sight line between kitchen and living area were traded for out-of-the-way recessed lighting. A custom plaster range hood was crafted to be out of sight, as well.
“I got tired of looking in there and seeing the giant metal hood,” Dotty says. The new hood blends into the background, letting a new concrete island, crafted as a look-alike of the existing counters, step up as a focal point.
To cap off her uncluttered nest, Dotty kicked the kitchen table to the curb. The site of the traditional family table now has a new cherry wood bar. A restructured back entrance leading to a patio has been a boon to entertaining. Guests can go from patio to bar without having to go into the kitchen.
When the house was filled with people and things, Dotty was reluctant to do much entertaining. But the home’s simpler, freer atmosphere is inviting.
“Now if, on the spur of the moment, people want to come over, we can do it.”
architects: Standard Creative! cabinets: Cantley & Company island: John Ward; Concrete Answers