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A 21st-century makeover for a 1970s kitchen

By Candice Olson
Scripps Howard News Service

Cynthia and Jon live in a 1970s-era home that has been undergoing endless renovation. They’ve just about had it with home improvements, so we agreed to tackle one of the biggest projects on their list: the kitchen.

It’s not surprising that Cynthia was longing for a stylish and modern new kitchen. She knows it’s the heart of the home, but this massive space hadn’t been touched in 40 years. Walking in was like stepping into a time machine and jetting straight back to 1972! With its choppy layout, outdated finishes and small appliances, this kitchen just didn’t cut it.

Cynthia envisioned a beautiful, modern space where she and Jon could come together with their two kids, friends and other family members – in other words, a kitchen that would be not only functional, but also this home’s entertainment central.

To add to the scope of this challenging project, we also had to relocate the laundry room, which was just off the kitchen. It was going downstairs, and in its place I planned to add a home office space. At the last minute, Cynthia also asked us to design a mud room – somewhere to store hats, coats and bags after people come in the back door from the garage.

Luckily, this was a cavernous space that had endless potential. With a fantastic view of the pool and backyard courtyard, we just had to bring the inside up to par with the outside. There was only one way to get this job done: Bring down the walls to open up the space and do a complete gut, right down to the studs.

Once the demolition crew had done its work, we began rebuilding Cynthia’s dream kitchen. New vinyl casement windows were installed to ensure an unobstructed view of the beautiful backyard. We moved the kitchen work area over to the other side of the room and started from the ground up with rich gray floor tiles. One of Cynthia’s complaints had been the small appliances, so we chose only full-size, luxury appliances: a stainless-steel gas stove, a two-door fridge concealed by cabinetry doors, a microwave cleverly hidden in a drawer, and a big stainless-steel undermount sink in the island.

This is an elegant kitchen with surprising little touches of bling everywhere you look. The backsplash incorporates reflective hand-cut glass, and stainless steel and chrome accents shine brightly. The pendant fixture over the reclaimed wooden table catches and reflects the light, complementing the chrome table base, as well as white leather and chrome bar stools placed along the island. In addition to the island seating, a custom L-shaped banquette placed under the windows is upholstered in a durable soft blue fabric, with a tufted back and luxurious throw pillows.

Over the island, we hung three retrofitted light fixtures that were rescued from the old kitchen. A custom upgrade gave these pendants a whole new lease on life, and their soft light shines down on the island’s quartz countertop.

The best things about this gorgeous new kitchen are the little details that contribute so much to its functionality. A good example of this is the magnetic chalkboard that swings open to reveal a regular bulletin board behind it – a great place to store notes from school or the kids’ artwork. Over where the laundry room used to be, a home office workspace is the perfect place for Cynthia to do the household accounting, or for their young daughter to do her homework on the computer, under her mom’s watchful eye.

Just inside the garage door entry, we conquered the clutter by installing new cabinets, drawers, hooks and shelving for coats, hats and bags. Everything has a place now, and this neat and tidy space flows seamlessly into the kitchen.

With plenty of new cabinetry, full-size appliances and lots of seating, Cynthia and Jon’s new kitchen is both functional and ready for entertaining. It’s certainly true that home life revolves around the kitchen. Now, the heart of this home provides the ultimate in style while delivering all the necessary bells and whistles to get the job done.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.”

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