Modern, Family-Friendly Kitchen
In a Cook's Kitchen
In 2011, after buying a 1950s ranch house in Birmingham, Alabama, Jessica and Dixon Thuston spent eight months pulling pots and pans out of boxes whenever they cooked. Preparing meals for themselves (including Tripp, now 6, and Eve, 4), they shared their kitchen's small electric stove but avoided iffier appliances, such as the leaky, 40-year-old dishwasher. "And I never unpacked. The cabinets were so run-down," says Jessica, executive editor of sister magazine Southern Living.
Combining pretty with practical, the new kitchen pairs limestone countertops and marble tile with ready-made cabinets and stainless-steel appliances. After eight months of planning, the transformation took just eight weeks to complete.
Upsizing the Sink
Washing pots was a trial in the original kitchen's divided sink. The new Kohler farm-style sink, nearly 3 feet wide, not only makes the job easier but its 9-inch depth also hides stacks of dishes when the Thustons entertain.
Simple, Shakerstyle cabinets cost half the price of tailor-made and include semi-custom add-ons like soft-close drawers.
"My philosophy is to spend more on what you touch and see the most," Jessica says. She picked Studio Moderne Calacata white marble field tile by Walker Zanger over inexpensive subway tiles. Meanwhile, inexpensive IKEA shelving replaced space-stealing upper cabinets.
When Jessica and Dixon first moved in, the kitchen was outfitted in yellow laminate countertops and matching, scuffed vinyl flooring. At Dixon's request, Jessica hunted down a darker Lagos Azul limestone because it hides wear and tear better.
Drawers fitted with organizing caddies make finding the right tool easy. One, close to the dishwasher, features sections for cutlery, knives, and kitchen shears.
Favoring gas for greater heat control in stovetop cooking, the Thustons liked the look of Thermador's Professional Series Pro Harmony Range. "It has the style but not the price of other professional models," says Jessica, "with an ultra-low burner that lets you truly simmer." The Kohler pot-filler is handy for quick pasta cooking.
Anna Evans, an architect friend who consulted on the kitchen, suggested housing the new fridge in a former closet and surrounding it with cabinets for dry goods and small appliances. This gives the fridge a built-in look and eliminates countertop clutter. Pull-out shelves add convenience; an outlet in the back of one cabinet makes the microwave usable in place.
After studying the old blueprints, Jessica opted to restore a breakfast nook that had been scrapped in the '70s. Crafted of MDF and accented with tongue-and-groove paneling, the banquettes have hinged tops and double as storage bins. Dixon, a handy engineer who loves to cook, designed and built the dining table, finishing it with a high-gloss, easy-to-wipe-down white paint. Jessica added classic, Tolix-style chairs.
So What Makes This a Cook's Kitchen?
Counter space is key for parents catering to different palates. Ample storage in lower cabinets keeps tools handy and prep spots clear. The breakfast nook corrals the kids, who color or watch TV while Mom and Dad cook. On party nights, the same alcove invites guests to sit and chat. Everyday bowls and cups line wall shelves for easy access. Appliances lie in close proximity, but there's plenty of space for tag-team cooking (even with a growing family) in the open, 18 × 8–foot room. New casement windows let in daylight and fresh air, while pendant lights brighten work areas at night. A convenient laundry closet tucks the washer and dryer out of sight, and a pull-out drawer conceals trash.