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Crafted kitchens
A kitchen is often a focal point of a home, a room where family and friends alike feel welcome and comfortable — and remodeling that often busy gathering space can sometimes completely transform a home; just ask three local families who recently redid their kitchen and dining areas


Family ties

Wauwatosa’s Cindy Busche dreamed of making her kitchen her own since moving back into the 1950s Cape Cod she lived in with her parents as a child. On Sept. 26, the OAR Group started helping her dream unfold.

OAR — Owner Assisted Remodeling — tore down walls separating the dining room, kitchen and a three-season room, tripling the amount of counter space and providing room for a computer desk. The three-season room’s bay windows were removed, replaced by patio doors leading to a new deck. "It became one open space," Busche says. "My husband and two sons and I can be in there without bumping into each other."

Butternut cabinets replaced hickory, hardwood floors replaced a raised design linoleum and multicolored granite counters added warmth to the kitchen. Recessed and track lighting, and an island with raised snack bar, also added a hominess to a room that’s restored Busche’s pride.

"I can’t wait to have people over now," she says.

Gathering space

Sue and Jeff Knutson wanted to redo the small kitchen in their 1928 Tudor home in the Washington Highlands since they bought the house in the late 1990s. While the kitchen, with its white laminate cupboards and butler’s pantry, was the seller’s favorite room, Sue Knutson hated it. "Ever since we looked at the house, I said, ‘We’ve got to redo the kitchen,’" she says.

Last summer — and four children later — Cream City Construction of Milwaukee got down and dirty. "We ripped everything out, gutted the whole thing," she says. All that was preserved were leaded-glass windows.

The void, though, was quickly filled. Weathered-looking brown cabinets with oil-rubbed bronze hardware replaced the old white cabinets, and high-end stainless steel appliances — including a farmer’s sink, dishwasher and dish sink — were installed.

A dramatic island that seats four was added, too, as was a natural pebble marble back splash behind the sink. And the ceramic floor contains mosaic tiles that border the island. As Knutson loves to cook, a cookbook library was added on one wall.

Knutson hopes the new kitchen becomes the gathering space for her children as they get older. "I want their friends to come and gather here as well," she says.

Cook’s kitchen

Phil Callen says the "before and after" pictures are unbelievable.

Before, the kitchen in their Wauwatosa home was a small galley, and what had been used by the previous owner as a third bedroom was the Callens’ dining area.

After, with two walls knocked down last summer, the new kitchen is open and airy, with a peninsula that seats three, windows that face the backyard, an entertainment center and warm, dark cherry cabinets, green granite counter tops, a limestone floor and a corner sink for prep work.

"It opened it up tremendously," says Callen, one of the owners of Callen Construction, which did the work.

The Callens owned their home for 17 years and had considered building an addition to the kitchen, as the cramped galley had little counter space, making cooking — a favorite pastime — difficult.

But a Callen designer came up with the idea to renovate instead, making the kitchen more of a family room that comfortably accommodates Callen, his wife, Anne, and their two children. "That’s where a lot of business takes place in the family," he says.