The kitchen is the heart of the home, but what do you do if your kitchen is distinctly unappetizing? Victor and May inherited a dysfunctional kitchen renovation from the previous owners of their home, who managed to butcher the space with a choppy layout and a monstrous obstacle of an island.

May is a nurse who works 12-hour shifts. When she’s home she spends a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking one meal that fits her son’s special dietary needs and another meal for the rest of the family.

But there was no joy to be found when cooking in this kitchen. Only two people could be in the room at the same time, and the ceramic floor was way too hard for comfort. And if that weren’t enough, the tiny kitchen was sandwiched between a den and a dining room, with walls restricting the flow of movement.


So what was the recipe to fix this nightmare? Simple: We basically blew up the whole room and then began to rebuild Victor and May’s kitchen from the floor up. To give them the space they needed, I decided to remove the wall between the kitchen and the family room, and enlarge the archway into the dining room. Today’s busy families spend a lot of time in these rooms, so my plan called for seamlessly blending these areas into one multifunctional space.

During the demo phase we uncovered a couple of unexpected obstacles. Blown-in ceiling insulation had to be removed in order to install recessed pot lights. And remember that shoddy reno job I mentioned? It turns out that we had to shore up a supporting wall before we could even get started on the rest of our plan.

But once all of that was done, this project really started to heat up! My favorite part of the renovation is the treatment we applied to the floor. We had to select a material that would meld with the cherry-toned hard-wood and marble floor tile in the adjoining rooms, while providing the cushiony comfort May needed. Inspiration struck, and I chose a three-color Marmoleum checkerboard tile floor that is easy to clean and soft underfoot.

My plan called for a lot of counter space and storage capabilities, two things every kitchen needs. We extended a durable and stain-free quartz counter down the entire length of this space, and a tiled back-splash that picks up the floor colors. In the “den” end of the new kitchen, a cozy sofa and a small round table offer casual seating, while a built-in desk with lots of adjoining storage space provides a convenient place to do homework. A wall-mounted TV is positioned above the desk, which was one of Victor’s special requests.


White Shaker-style cabinetry was chosen for the perimeter of the kitchen, while dark cabinets were selected for the long, multipurpose island and for the storage units surrounding the desk. To give the dark wood a bit of a distressed look, black stain was sprayed onto each door and then removed by hand with a cloth, leaving behind just a hint of black in corners and crevasses. The final effect is modern with a twist of traditional.

We found a very cool hanging cutlery-themed light fixture for over the island, and selected a small chandelier for the breakfast nook, and its larger cousin for the dining room. New stainless-steel appliances, including a roomy French-door fridge with bottom freezer, are stylish yet incredibly functional. The fridge is flanked by builtin pantry storage and lots of cupboards. Everything is in its place — and there’s a place for everything.

New draperies and a dining-room suite put the finishing touches on this space. Victor and May’s kitchen reno was a huge project that took a month to complete, but in the end they were thrilled.

Their brand-new kitchen has all the right ingredients: style, functionality, form and flow. Now the kids just have to learn how to cook …


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