Kitchen space was never
a big concern for the Babcock family. Jim and Barb Babcock managed
to raise four children in their Meridian-Kessler home with its
aging kitchen, and no one had a problem with the room's awkward
But when it came time to remodel the kitchen,
space became an issue. The Babcocks wanted their 70 year old home
to have a spacious kitchen area like today's newer residences.
Barb specifically wanted more counter space in her future kitchen
– preferably via an island – but any changes would
have to stay within the confines of the previous kitchen. Building
out was not an option, because the house sits in an older neighborhood
with small yards. There was little room left on the lot for more
So the Babcocks turned to Bill Tait, president
and owner of W.G. Tait, Inc. Inc., to help them with their kitchen-space
problems. Twelve years ago, when Tait was solely in the homebuilding
business, the Babcocks asked him to remodel their family room.
The project was the first remodeling job Tait's company worked
on, the first of many. "These clients have a very special
place in our heart, because they were the first clients we ever
did a remodel for," Tait says.
The Babcock's existing kitchen predated their
30-year stay in the home. Manuals for the double ovens dated to
1959, so their best guess is that the kitchen was remodeled that
year. If for no other reason, the kitchen needed a style update
from its late-'50s feel.
The previous owners had chosen styles typical
of the era: The cabinetry was brown, the floor was linoleum and
ceilings were low. Scalloped woodwork highlighted the sink area.
There was room for a range along one wall and a double oven on
the other. While the kitchen lacked a pantry, there was some shelving
and a small cabinet area that the family used for food storage.
Barb received the kitchen remodel as a wedding
anniversary gift from her husband in 1997, but the couple took
the next five years to think about what they really wanted. The
couple had their priorities: they wanted an island, they wanted
a separate pantry, and they wanted to maintain as much of the
home's architectural integrity as possible. They also needed something
more fitting their empty-nester lifestyle. They needed something
that would be grandchild-friendly, something that would accommodate
two people daily and an entire extended family on holidays. And
finally, Barb was also tired of the dark colors-she was ready
for something light and bright.
"We had used our kitchen for 30 years,"
Jim, a local attorney, says. "We got a lot of life out of
it. We entertain a lot, and everybody seems to end up in the kitchen.
So we wanted it to be functional that way."
Tearing out the kitchen's
bulkhead (inset) and utilizing the space hidden within allowed
the Babcocks to organize the kitchen's existing space more
Tait and his team were faced with the challenge
of coming up with a new design incorporating all of the Babcocks'
priorities. It was a daunting task, especially since the remodel
had to stay within the confines of the existing space. "The
hardest thing to do is try to imagine how it could be different,"
Tait says. "What the client usually knows is they want it
to be different, but they don't know how to change it."
A team that included representatives from Tait's
company and Reese Kitchens came up with several ideas. Many of
the new concepts called for new cabinetry to line the walls, but
the Babcocks kept insisting on an island. The team toyed with
the idea of moving a staircase that ran behind the kitchen to
the basement, but that option was deemed too expensive. They also
considered removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room,
creating one free-flowing space, but the Babcocks wanted to keep
the two rooms separate and distinct. "When we entertain people
for dinner, we like to eat in the dining room," Barb explains.
"We like to have a formal dining room."
Ultimately, the Babcocks chose to install a
peninsula rather than an island. The Tait and Reese team came
up with a plan that had a peninsula dividing the sink and range
area from the new double ovens. The refrigerator, dishwasher and
sink run along one wall, with the peninsula running parallel.
The refrigerator is not as deep as a standard refrigerator, so
it fits nicely into the corner. A Jenn-Air grill and range sit
across from the sink, and two barstools sit on the other side
of the peninsula. "An island is free-floating," says
Shari Porter, kitchen designer with Reese Kitchens. "With
the peninsula attached to the wall, we only had to be worried
about a walkway on one side."
Construction began last July and continued through
the end of 2002. During the disruption, the Babcocks moved their
old refrigerator into the dining room and managed to prepare meals
with a toaster oven, microwave and outdoor grill. (They also ate
out a lot and accepted dinner invitations from friends.) In the
meantime, the kitchen was torn down and rebuilt to meet their
To a layman, the original kitchen looked as
though it used all its space efficiently, but Tait saw pockets
of unnoticed space: He wondered what was above the kitchen's bulkheads,
and whether the ceiling could be raised. Ultimately, there was
only one way to find out. Tait took a hammer to the ceiling above
the breakfast nook, promising to repair any damage if the space
could not be used. He uncovered a boatload of unused space both
above the ceiling and in the bulkheads. The only mechanical components
in the way were can lights that were going to be removed anyway.
"Bulkheads are a quick way for mechanical guys to run their
ductwork," Tait says. "But bulkheads were also in style
way back when, so it wasn't that big a deal."
The bulkhead removal allowed new cabinets to
reach the ceiling, but that was only part of the puzzle. Jim suggested
looking at the stairway behind the kitchen to see if space could
be borrowed there. Tait took some measurements and discovered
he could take some space from the stairway's headroom and push
the kitchen walls out a bit. "Old homes have a lot of nice
little crannies and nooks," Tait says. "We were just
able to stretch and bend where we didn't think we could stretch
The Tait team stretched and bent the stairway
space to create a pantry. By tearing out the old cabinets and
shelves, he expanded the pantry space into the stairway behind
it. The new design was only a few inches deeper, but a few inches
on each shelf added up to a lot of extra storage space. The pantry
area was then lined with shelves, allowing the couple to store
food items, utensils and appliances in an orderly manner.
The stairway space came in handy along the back
wall, where the old range and cabinetry had been. Barb knew she
didn't want a blank wall in her kitchen, and she suggested installing
fake doors for appearance's sake. But Tait was able to build shelves
into the wall by extending them into the stairway space. As the
shelves get higher and the stairway's headroom is less of a concern,
they also become deeper, giving the Babcocks a convenient spot
for storing glassware. Tait also carved out a long storage area
starting in the pantry and running along the back wall. Although
the area is not easily accessed, it's a perfect spot for storing
seasonal items that aren't used frequently.
Tait discovered other treasures during the remodel.
When the old walls were torn down, the remodelers revealed a stately
arch over the sink window that had been covered during a previous
remodel. The Babcocks wanted a larger window in that space, but
they also wanted to keep the arch concept. So Tait removed the
original arch and built a new one sized to fit the custom window.
The exterior of the window was framed in bricks that had been
removed during the family room remodel. Tait also found an abandoned
laundry chute buried in a kitchen wall, and by removing it freed
up more unused space.
The Babcocks hoped to find a beautiful wooden
floor below the linoleum, because many other rooms in their home
had wood floors. Unfortunately, wood only extended into the kitchen's
nook area, so Tait installed a new hardwood floor throughout the
After years of brown and orange tones in the
kitchen, Barb was ready for a brighter color combination. The
couple chose Mouser custom-made cabinets in a soft, alpine-white
color. The new cabinetry lines the walls, and its glass-paned
doors along the top give the kitchen an attractively spacious
look. Barb considered putting glass-paned doors on all the cabinetry,
but decided she didn't want to have to worry about keeping everything
neat and orderly inside every cabinet.
Tait paneled the peninsula with off-white beadboard,
a touch that gives the kitchen an air of casual comfort. The top
of the peninsula is covered with off-white tile and edged in a
rich red, which gives the kitchen a colorful accent without becoming
overpowering. One kitchen wall is also painted in a matching red
hue, adding to the kitchen's cheerfulness.
The Babcocks originally ordered stark-white
appliances, but their glare didn't match the soft colors of the
kitchen. So most of the appliances went back and alpine-white
appliances took their place. The color combinations work in the
older home, Porter says. "We recommended a soft white painted
cabinet, because so many of the homes in the Meridian-Kessler
area have had painted white cabinets since the 1950's," Porter
says. "When you walk in there, the house should feel like
it is in keeping with the neighborhood."
Fitting in was one of Tait's priorities as well.
His company specializes in building new homes with the quality
workmanship of older ones. By using top rated materials and craftsmanship,
newer rooms can blend in easily with older interiors. "The
rooms that scream 'remodel' do not add value to the house,"
Finally, the kitchen has several details that
give the room personality. Although the Babcocks considered putting
cabinets in the old nook area, they opted to bring in a loveseat
for a casual sitting area. There was also room for glass shelves
at the end of the peninsula, which allowed Barb to decorate according
to the season. "She's very good about seasonal changes,"
says the couple's daughter, Christy Whaley. "I would say
that's going to be her favorite part of the room.
The couple is pleased with the kitchen's changes,
because although the space may have changed, Barb doesn't think
she had to sacrifice anything. "Some people feel like I don't
have as much cabinet space, but I think I do because everything
goes up to the ceiling," Barb says.
The project has become one of Tait's favorites
as well. It forced him to stretch his vision and see things that
weren't always obvious. "This kitchen is not going to win
any awards." Tait says. "This kitchen is not as grand
as other kitchens that I've built, but it's probably one of the
best kitchens that I've done."
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