Designing Minds: Going from Good to Great

When Don and Patty moved from California to Boise, it wasn’t with the goal of either upsizing or downsizing their household; they moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

They rented a home in southwest Boise with idea of eventually finding a more permanent place to live. Although the kitchen fell short of their expectations, they loved the location of their rented home and its view of the New York canal, which was clearly visible from their dining nook and backyard deck. When the opportunity to purchase the home presented itself, the couple decided that it would be far easier to remodel the existing kitchen than it would to find a new home with a location and view they liked as much.

While both homeowners felt that the kitchen in their home was dated, a more serious issue was its size and the amount of storage space it offered. “Our kitchen in California was much larger,” says Patty, “and a lot of our kitchen stuff was still packed away because we didn’t have room for it in our Boise home. We definitely wanted more cabinetry to use for storage.”

Another issue with their kitchen was its sense of isolation from other rooms in the house. It was available to the formal dining room only through a door, while a bank of cabinets above the kitchen counter obstructed the line of sight to the dining nook and its view of the backyard beyond.

The couple learned about STRITE from a lady that Patty was swimming with at a local health club. “She had used STRITE twice, and she recommended them when I told her about our plans for the kitchen remodel.” Although they had intended to get three bids for the project, after their initial meeting with STRITE designer Michael Snow, Don and Patty decided to look no further. As Don remembers, “After meeting with Michael, we were both convinced that STRITE would be the best choice for us. He was so professional, and we’d heard so many horror stories about flaky contractors. We trusted STRITE could do a quality job on time and at a fair price.”

Looking back at how they approached the design of their new kitchen, Don recalls that he and Patty focused in on a couple of things beyond increased storage in their discussions with Michael. “We wanted a more open kitchen,” says Don. “The cupboards that were hanging from the ceiling blocked the view. We wanted those gone, but we still wanted an island in the kitchen…and we wanted a more modern look like the newer houses that we had seen when we were originally shopping the real estate market.” At the same time, Patty remembers, they recognized that they faced some constraints in design options. “We were limited with the space in which we could do this remodel. We had thought about moving our appliances to other places, but it just didn’t work out, so we had to keep them pretty much where they are now, with the exception of the dishwasher.”

Like most homeowners, Patty and Don faced the challenge of visualizing how a kitchen that would meet their needs would actually look once it was finished. Once STRITE came back to them with drawings, however, their confidence rose immeasurably. Says Patty, “How do you visualize this? Until we had the drawings, I wasn’t really sure. But once STRITE presented them, we could see it was going to be a beautiful kitchen when it was all done.”

As STRITE prepared for an August demolition of the old kitchen, Don and Patty went shopping for appliances and finishes. Somewhat to Patty’s surprise, the granite they decided on as the replacement for the existing counter tile was “Cosmic Black,” for which they selected a matching tile backsplash. They combined dinners out with visits to suppliers STRITE had recommended, which included local partner Chapel Hill for the creation of the cabinetry, which would be extensive given the expansion of the kitchen storage area. With Don’s handyman skills as a commercial carpenter, the couple decided they would take on the installation of new laminate flooring, while Chapel Hill would produce and install baseboards with a wood and stain that matched the cabinets. In choosing a new set of kitchen appliances, Don and Patty were particularly pleased to be able to replace the existing electric range with one using natural gas, which the couple preferred to cook with.

During the remodel process, STRITE created temporary walls to partition off the construction area from the rest of the home, and set up a makeshift kitchen in the couple’s family room. By the end of September, however, Don and Patty were once again cooking in their kitchen — a kitchen that bore little if any resemblance to the one that STRITE had demolished a month earlier. Gone were the extended counter and overhead cabinets that blocked the line of sight into the dining nook. In its place was an island with raised counter top and seating on one side, and additional prep space on the other. Says Don, “The island makes the kitchen look bigger, and it definitely makes it more functional. In addition to the line of sight being opened up, there is a walkway between the kitchen and the dining nook, which we didn’t have before.”

To further enhance this line of sight, STRITE created an opening in the wall between the kitchen and formal dining room and living room — which meant that a person standing at the stove could see and communicate with people at either end of the home. The kitchen was further opened up by extending it along the wall of the dining nook, which now comprised the additional counter and storage space that had been Patty and Don’s goal at the inception of the project.

The Castles couldn’t be happier with how their kitchen turned out. Says Patty, “It was hard to envision what it was going to look like on the plans, but as it all came together it opened up the kitchen tremendously, and there was no point in the process that seemed overwhelming because we did things at our leisure.” The Castles were also able to do things according to their budget. “We started with a figure that we gave STRITE right off the bat, and which they stuck with,” notes Patty. “We got everything we wanted for the price we wanted.” It didn’t hurt, of course, that Don was able to do some of the work himself. As a result of the remodel, the Castles also had the opportunity to get to know some really great trades folks. “We were really impressed with the people that STRITE hired,” Don says. “They were very responsive, professional, and easy to work with. I was really impressed with the quality of their work. Since then we’ve hired the plumber to do some other repairs around the house.”

Looking back at their remodel experience, Patty is particular struck by the difference the feeling of openness makes to her new kitchen, and the way it connects to the rest of the home. As to the biggest challenge the project posed? “Having to eat in the family room and wash the dishes in the laundry room sink,” she recalls. “It was like camping…but nicer.”

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