Natural Ambiance

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The perfect recipe for a new and fully functional kitchen just might require tearing down a few walls!

Story by Ann E. Butenas     |     Photos by Matt Kocourek




Some folks less inclined to cook and entertain might argue they have a kitchen simply because it came with the house, while others realize the full potential for this central focus of the home.

When it was time to breathe new life into the outdated kitchen of this mid-20th century Mission Hills residence, designer Sue Shinneman left no stone unturned. More than just a kitchen, it is a command center, not only for how it flows and functions effortlessly now, catering to the busy lifestyles of its residents, but also for how it commands your attention from the moment you walk into the space.

The home had not seen much in the way of updates with respect to the kitchen over the years, so Shinneman, a Certified Kitchen Designer and co-owner of Kitchen Studio Kansas City, was brought in to tackle this project, and her 24 years of kitchen design experience truly shine in the end result.

“This is a busy family with three active kids,” explained Shinneman. “The couple desired an updated look with a contemporary appeal. The wife is actually an architect and brought her own set of designs and ideas to the table. From there, we prepared a variety of layouts and tweaked all of our ideas to obtain the final plan.”




As so many scrumptious details and highlights abound in this kitchen, what first catches one’s eye is the ingenious application of zebra wood and other wood finishes. For example, the center island enjoys a magma gold granite with the added splash of zebra wood flanking it.

“Pairing wood with stone provides a nice combination of materials,” noted Shinneman, who appreciates the warm touch the wood offers to the countertop.

The island is also a multi-tasking unit. It houses a dishwasher, a GE Advantium speed cook oven, a main sink, storage underneath and ample seating space around its perimeter.

The pre-finished wood floor is the perfect answer for partnership with the wood applications.

“We stripped out the old hardwood floors that were really worn down and installed this particular flooring with a baked-on finish, which allows it to be a bit more impervious to issues of wear and tear,” said Shinneman.

The complementary original ceiling beams were left intact, and only required a bit of touch up in a few areas.



And while this kitchen is quite spacious and open today, it was substantially smaller in its original form. Shinneman and her team took out a couple of walls and opened up the family room, not only creating its spacious feel, but also allowing for additional lighting from the sun.

The original floor plan was rather circuitous in that in order to access the dining room from the kitchen, one had to make a U-turn walk of sorts through the den and around the other side. In the remodeling process, the wall perpendicular to the den was torn out, opening up the kitchen to the dining room and ultimately to the family room.

“We closed off the doorway to the den and opened up the space into the dining room,” noted Shinneman.

That accommodation led to an increase in natural lighting, which was truly needed to brighten up the space. While the kitchen, dining room and family room enjoy a wide variety of decorative lighting fixtures, it is the sunlight that truly adds the perfect balance of warmth and glow.

“The kitchen window faces north and there is a porch off of the patio doors to the west,” said Shinneman. “By opening up the entire space from the family room to the kitchen, we availed the space to more sunlight.”

And more sunlight means more time to accomplish tasks. To the left of the window is a desk area, a perfect spot for the computer, mail, message center and technological devices.

On the other side of the window is the range, which, with its pull out drawers on either side for various cooking essentials, makes preparing a meal much easier. The free-standing stainless steel refrigerator adds a perfect balance to the area.




Another key element of the space is the fireplace.

“The fireplace was always there, but by taking out the wall next to it, we allowed more light to flow into the space,” said Shinneman who explained they also removed the red brick frame of the fireplace and installed a stacked stone brick in its place to accentuate the lighter, brighter appeal of the space. The adjoining cut-in for wood storage was similarly framed. On the kitchen side of the fireplace is a recessed cabinet, which is a perfect place to store dog food and dog leashes.

In stark contrast to the lighter tones used throughout the open space are the kitchen cabinets, that boast a darker finish as a result of the use of lyptus, which hails from the eucalyptus family. According to Shinneman, the eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree that is also a good renewable source for wood that resembles mahogany. All cabinets in the island also have the lyptus application, except for the one facing the dining area, which is made of zebra wood.

A closeted wet bar was removed to add a multi-purpose entertainment run, which is now home to a sink, an ice maker and ample cabinet space. Next to the run is a wine unit that sits above two refrigerator drawers for wine bottles. An indirect LED lighting strip provides soft ambient lighting above the run.

The family and Shinneman enjoyed this labor of love and Shinneman noted that the kitchen realized a “200% improvement” throughout the process.

“I enjoyed working with the homeowners,” she smiled. “They are a great couple and brought a lot of great ideas to the project. Certainly there were structural challenges when tearing out the walls, but the end result was worth the effort.”



Project Designer: Kitchen Studio: Kansas City

Home & Interior Designer: Jennifer Goeke

Builder/Contractor: Copper Construction

Appliances: Wolf, GE, SubZero and Scotsman    |    Cabinets: Crystal Cabinetworks    |    Countertops: Magma Granite and Marble and Caesarstone    |    Fireplace: Realstone    |    Flooring: Acme Flooring    |    Hardware: Locks and Pulls    |    Light Fixtures: Tech Lighting    |    Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler and Blanco    |    Tile: Somona Tilemakers    |    Windows/Doors: McCray Lumber and Andersen Windows & Doors

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