Maeve and Phillip live in a charming house filled with plenty of personality and traditional character. But with a young son and a large, rambunctious dog, home life can get pretty chaotic. Their kitchen should have been a family-friendly hub where everyone could relax and enjoy meals together, but the overly floral room just didn’t suit their needs or their style. It had an awkward layout, a cramped feel and an outdated look.

To top it all off, Maeve’s relatives were coming to visit from Ireland and the couple wanted to make the space more of a focal point where people could gather and get caught up over their morning coffee. With some good ideas, a new design and perhaps a little luck of the Irish, I knew I could turn this problem space into a practical, yet cozy, family kitchen.

The kitchen was a classic case of form following function. But the kitchen desperately needed to function better (the dishwasher wasn’t even connected). This project required a radical rethinking of the entire space to create several well-contained areas that would blend seamlessly together. I decided to flip the floor plan by switching the eating and kitchen areas, and creating a large island between the two. I also created a small work area with a computer station, storage area and access to the outside via a new, modern sliding door.


Once the floor plan was outlined, I got started on the kitchen’s fresh, new, contemporary look. I scraped the flowery paper off the walls and the ceiling, yanked out the old-fashioned cabinets and counters, pulled out the dreary lighting, ripped up the unsightly flooring — and, finally, we were on our way.

To brighten up the room, I chose creams and blues as the main colors with a little Irish green thrown in. I painted the walls an antique cream, added banks of cream-colored cabinets and installed new baseboards and crown molding. I then created a kitchen backsplash in a dreamy, blue hand-made tile, topped the maple-finished island in a speckled, denim blue and replaced the vinyl flooring with a diagonal pattern of large cream-and-blue tiles.

For the kitchen’s main accents, I chose a striped pattern of blue, cream, green and red. This fabric was used to create several throw pillows, as well as a new valance that was created somewhat above the window to give the illusion of height.

The lighting in the room was almost nonexistent, and what was there was drab and dull. I cheered things up by adding recessed lighting around the space, installing under-cabinet lighting to accentuate the backsplash, suspending stainless-steel lighting pendants over the island and hanging a contemporary chandelier over the kitchen table.


The finishing touches for the room included a modern, built-in coffeemaker, a blackboard-coated cupboard for grocery lists and memos, and several storage baskets and shelves. I even installed the dishwasher, and voila! — the cluttered, clumsy kitchen was no more.

By mixing together a functional layout, a dash of color, a handful of accents, a smattering of lights and a large dollop of comfort, Maeve and Phillip’s kitchen is now ready for family gatherings and entertaining the relatives.

Coffee is served. How divine!

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Divine Design.”