A small kitchen remade for relaxing as much as cooking

Lorena Bow never minded having a small kitchen. But the tiny slivers of counter space it provided made it hard to get excited about cooking.

When Bow retired after 35 years as a D.C. public schoolteacher, she decided it was time to do something about her harvest gold refrigerator, hulking fluorescent light fixture, skimpy cabinets and leaky faucet. “My kitchen was just worn out,” says Bow, whose 1950s three-bedroom semi-detached brick house is in Northeast Washington’s North Michigan Park neighborhood.

She called in Iantha Carley, a Silver Spring designer with whom she had worked before. Carley plotted a stunning renovation, using the same footprint, that would give Bow, 66, a reason to buy some new cookbooks.

“Her kitchen was a sad time capsule,” Carley says. “The space was spotless and relatively well preserved, but definitely showing signs of wear and past its time.”

(RELATED: Chat with Iantha Carley, Thursday, April 3 at 11 a.m.)

The project required a total gut job of the narrow 17-by-51 / 2-foot room. There would be all new appliances, more than double the number of cabinets and an updated version of the small table where Bow, who is single, savored her morning coffee. “Although the kitchen was very compact, my goal was to get in all the conveniences you would want,” Carley says.

Bow, who has lived in her house since 1980, had never made many changes to it. But when she retired in 2004 after a long career teaching at Truesdell Elementary (now Truesdell Education Campus) in the District’s Brightwood neighborhood, she decided she had to either move or update her home. She chose to stay in her house and start by refreshing her living and dining rooms. She hired Carley in 2007 to help pull things together.

It was a comment from a family member about five years ago that made her focus on the forlorn room at the back of the house.

“My first floor looked great, and I was really happy with it,” Bow says. “My sister was over one day and said, ‘That kitchen looks terrible. You have to do something about it or otherwise you have to keep the door to it closed.’ ”

Bow knew it was time to call Carley back. Carley surveyed the situation and came up with a plan to turn the narrow, dated space into a functional and modern room. The renovation, which had a budget of $53,000, took four months to complete. The new space bumped up her number of cabinets from five to 11 and created more open counter space. A cluttered pantry was ripped out, and the space was fitted with a 24-inch-wide Blomberg refrigerator. “One of the most important choices we made was to opt for smaller, European-size appliances to allow for more cabinet and counter space,” Carley says. Bow had not had a dishwasher, and Carley found an 18-inch-wide Miele model that fit nicely next to the sink.

For cabinets, they chose a semi-custom KraftMaid line in cherry, with stainless bar pulls. She was able to put in a counter and more cabinetry at the end of the room, where a window looks out onto a community garden. Here, she installed lower cabinets that float a few inches off the floor and are fitted with low-voltage lighting below so there is a nice glow at night.

Bow had squeezed a small square table and two chairs in the corner of the kitchen, an eating spot where she was used to having her breakfast and that she wanted to keep. Carley found the Uppity, a 27-inch round glass-topped table by LumiSource, and two West Elm Scoop-Back chairs that took up less room and looked fresh and stylish.

Carley mixed patterns and textures in earthy shades of gold, bronze and cream: travertine tile floors, subtly striped wood cabinets, horizontal backsplash tiles and grass woven blinds.

Bow was excited about her new, modern yet warm and cozy kitchen with so much more space for food preparation. She went out and replaced her toaster, canisters, pots and pans and teakettle, mostly in stainless to go with the appliances. She admits to buying a few more cookbooks, and she has tried out a few new recipes.

“The truth is, I really don’t like cooking, although I’m working on it,” Bow confesses. “My friends all wonder why I did the kitchen. But I love to sit in there and read the paper and have my coffee. I just love that room. It’s so peaceful and sunny. It’s my favorite place to relax.”

Bow’s Shopping List

●Bertazzoni 24-inch gas range.

●Miele 18-inch dishwasher.

●Blomberg 24-inch refrigerator.

●Electrolux 30-inch over-the-range microwave.

Backsplash: Southern Hemisphere honed field tiles (beige stones on brown cement) in Artistic Tile’s Latitudes Collection.

Cabinetry: KraftMaid cabinets in Tiber Cherry.

Countertop: DuPont Zodiaq quartz.

Paint color: Tyler Taupe by Benjamin Moore.

Pull-out spray faucet: Hansgrohe.

Chat Thursday at 11 a.m.: Designer Iantha Carley joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice. Submit questions at washingtonpost.com/home .and sign up for e-mail newsletter.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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