Renovation Inspiration Contest cooked up tasty kitchen renovations
March 3, 2012 10:00 AM
Alina Keebler's renovated 1915 Arts and Crafts-style home in Morningside includes cabinets from IKEA and low-maintenance Silestone quartz countertops.
Kevin Kulesa of Ross won the 2011-12 PG Renovation Inspiration Contest, small category, for the redesign of his 1960s kitchen.
By Gretchen McKay Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The kitchen is the heart of a home, so little wonder it remains one of the nation's most popular remodeling projects. Between cooking, eating, socializing and simply hanging out, it not only gets used (and used and used) but also abused over the years, requiring the occasional upgrade.
Adding fuel to the kitchen renovation fire is the never-ending supply of cool products dished up by designers and manufacturers that promise to make our culinary lives more efficient, more comfortable and more fun. This was demonstrated by several finalists' projects in this year's 2011-12 Renovation Inspiration Contest.
Co-sponsored by the Post-Gazette and Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, the annual competition sets the bar high for homeowners and the older homes they've reimagined. In addition to projects that feature age-appropriate materials and great construction, judges look for practicality and functionality. In short, the updated spaces have to truly work for the families who live in them and not just be showpieces.
The best of the best also ooze with creativity -- in essence, rooms that inspire admiration along with a touch of envy. We want to walk away thinking: "If only I'd thought of that in my kitchen!"
Kevin and Alana Kulesa's remodeled kitchen in Ross, winner in the small category (less than $50,000), was one such project, wowing with its clever mix of repurposed items and unusual finishes. The vintage steel hospital cabinets that jump-started the renovation and mandated its design (everything had to be customized to fit around them) were salvaged from Construction Junction. The island counter is similarly eco-friendly. Mistaken for natural stone, it's actually Eco by Consentino, a manmade surface utilizing 75 percent recycled materials. In the office area, a half-inch-thick piece of tempered glass serves as a desk. Tying it all together is the bright splash of red on a hand-painted glass backsplash above the cooking area.
The homeowners of a mid-1800s rowhouse in the Mexican War Streets chose a more subtle color scheme for their sleek new kitchen, opting for creamy white concrete countertops crafted by Outlaw Studios in the Strip District to play off the custom chocolate-brown cabinetry and reclaimed wood floors.
What makes this ultra-modern room designed by architect Heather Wildman Figley of Moss Architects really "pop" is the natural light that floods it through a dramatic glass opening at the rear. Originally a brick wall, the 14-foot-wide expanse of glass effectively blurs the line between inside and out. The major project also included removing a wall between the dining room and kitchen to create one large open space, and a deck with a west-facing pergola that steps down to a small garden.
The challenge in Paul Gould and Lori Boyle's Sewickley kitchen was how to make a small room with four doorways, three windows and a chimney that couldn't be moved into something that didn't just look good but also wouldn't break the bank. Architectural designer (and good friend) Junko Higashibeppu came up with hit on both cylinders. An awkwardly placed center island was removed, along with part of the wall leading into the dining room to allow for more counter and storage space. She also wrapped open shelving around the chimney and replaced a badly deteriorated linoleum floor with radiant heated ceramic tile.
Complementing the white Vermont granite countertops and subway tile backsplash is rift-sawn red oak cabinetry handcrafted by master furniture designer Arthur Reitmeyer, who just happens to be married to Ms. Higashibeppu. Other updates include a radiant-heated porcelain tile floor, recessed LED undercabinet lighting and stainless-steel Bosch appliances, including a new-fangled induction cooktop. The result is a kitchen that feels fresh and modern, but also looks like it's always been there.
Ms. Higashibeppu, a designer with Master Remodelers, also placed an induction cooktop in a high-end kitchen she devised for a couple in Mt. Lebanon, along with virtually every other bell and whistle you can think of: a built-in Miele coffee maker, wine-chilling cabinet, double wall ovens, and built-in refrigerator, freezer and microwave drawers. There's also a hands-free faucet on the sink in the 12-foot-long granite counter (you simply bump it to get the water running), and a 48-inch flat-screen TV on the wall next to a walk-in pantry is wired to connect to the homeowners' computer and iPads. The homeowner can display any recipe she wants on the big screen.
The remodel, which grew the kitchen from 135 to 390 square feet, also included new oak floors, maple cabinets and a travertine mosaic backsplash with lovely glass tile accents. A new deck adds 300 square feet of outdoor living space.
Glass tile plays a supporting role in Steve and Linda Hansen's kitchen, too, but much more subtly: the tiny squares spell out the first initials of family members in the black custom concrete counter tops by Outlaw Studios. Brightened by a two-story atrium that allows visitors to look from Mr. Hansen's upstairs office directly into the kitchen, this cheery space in the North Side's Manchester neighborhood also includes a nearly 11-foot-long stainless-steel island made by Bishop Metals that serves as both a table and an easy-to-clean work surface.
Style doesn't always have to come at a high price: Large category winner ($50,000 or more) Alina Keebler used Silestone quartz countertops and IKEA cabinets in the kitchen of the Craftsman-style home in Morningside she renovated from the basement up. And in Squirrel Hill, designer Dawn Day's solved sister-in-law Patty Schlicht's problem of too-little storage space in a long and narrow kitchen by raising the ceiling to allow for more cabinetry.
She also extended the quartz countertops all the way into the breakfast nook, where a raised upholstered banquette in front of the windows allows for comfortable seating, and resurfaced an extremely uneven floor with a seamless stone product called Galaxy Stone. Extremely durable and kind to the feet, it looks like terrazzo but is actually tiny river rocks mixed with a special epoxy. A Carrara marble backsplash, glass in selected cabinets and vintage-looking chrome cabinet pulls complete the 1920s look.
Watch for more on some of these projects in upcoming issues of the Post-Gazette.