Why do guests always end up in the kitchen at parties? Is it a social phenomenon? Some strange gravitational pull? I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: If your friends are going to congregate in your kitchen, you’d better make it as nice as possible.

I recently designed an amazing kitchen for my favorite client: my mom (aka Judy, aka Grandma). Mom raised me all by herself, and although we went through our share of lean years, she always worked hard to make our home warm and welcoming.

I credit my mom with inspiring in me a love of design, matched by her creative, problem-solving abilities. This is a woman who could find an old, discarded piece of furniture, bring it home and turn it into something fabulous.


As close as Mom and I are, it’s been 20 long years since we’ve lived in the same city. But she recently retired and decided to move across the country to be closer to us. I found the perfect home for her in our neighborhood and decided to surprise her with an incredible new kitchen.

My mom loves to cook and socialize. So my plan was to give Mom the ultimate Social Kitchen.

The home’s existing kitchen was large and had an adjoining sunroom, but the space was outdated, dysfunctional and closed off from the rest of the house. I knew the transformation would be a big undertaking. And I knew I had to finish it before Mom moved in — a mere nine weeks away.

I decided to keep the room’s lovely terra-cotta flooring, but everything else had to go. So I blew out the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, removed the old cabinetry and appliances and opened up the entire space.


I wanted the kitchen to have a bright, clean look, but didn’t want it to be too formal or traditional as my mom’s style is more country chic. So I painted the whole space in a lovely off-white and used an oyster finish for the myriad of kitchen cabinetry. I also put up some off-white tongue-and-groove panels on the ceiling that added cozy country charm.

In the kitchen, I installed a new island in a contrasting finish, a natural wood finish, with a quartz countertop, a large white cast-iron sink and a concealed dishwasher. The island also provides a place where friends can gather around Mom while she’s cooking. Meanwhile, along one feature wall, I added lots of cabinetry, a range top, a custom-built in-range hood and a beautiful new oven. Along a second wall went the concealed fridge, freezer and pull-out pantry, and next to this I added a peninsula that serves as a sideboard and separates the kitchen and dining-room spaces without obstructing the sight lines.

After adding a host of perfect accents and accessories, the kitchen was finally complete. And just in time for Mom’s arrival, who was as delighted by the results as I was.

By keeping sight lines open, choosing comfortable furniture and picking cozy accents, I created the perfect Social Kitchen for my mom. My wish is that she will always enjoy cooking and entertaining in her new kitchen as much as she did back home, making memories and maybe offering to baby-sit once in a while.


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