conley6.gif (2529 bytes)

Personality test
Four new kitchens reflect homeowners' tastes and lifestyles



The Bayside kitchen of Jamie and Felicia Miller features maple cabinets and floors and a center island that offers additional storage space.

You might not think that your kitchen says much about your personality. Well, just look around. The prints on your walls, the souvenirs you picked up on vacation, the chairs you bought at an antique auction ó they all say something about your personal style. Even the reasons for remodeling a kitchen can express some aspect of your life.

Ranch update

The Bayside home of Felicia and Jamie Miller had a serviceable kitchen, but "It just didnít reflect our style," says Felicia Miller. "When appliances started needing replacement, we thought more strongly about remodeling."

The family, which also includes Erin, 12, and Hilary, 8, has lived in Bayside for nearly six years. The ranch homeís original 1960s style was also evident in the kitchen. Although a previous owner had done some minor remodeling, the kitchen was ready for a new look. In fact, cabinets that had been resurfaced years ago "were starting to fall apart," notes Paul Greenspan of Milwaukee Kitchen and Bath.

Eventually, the former kitchen was gutted, leaving the family without kitchen services for about eight weeks. The family continued to live in the home during renovation. "It wasnít as bad as I thought," Miller says.

The result is a sparkling new kitchen with rich-looking maple cabinets and floors. There are more cabinets than in the previous kitchen and additional storage space under a new center island.

The notion of adding an island almost didnít make it off the drawing boards. "I was reluctant about it at first," Miller admits. "I didnít think we had room for it." Greenspan coaxed the couple into it.

"Felicia couldnít picture how an island was the right move for her kitchen," he says. "We created a design that was much different from the U-shaped design of their former kitchen. Once Felicia walked through another kitchen we remodeled (with a center island), she felt reassured that it would work."

"Now Iím really glad we listened to him," Miller says.

One of the kitchenís highlights is a 20-inch LCD flat panel television that fits into one wall, and built-in speakers for recessed surround sound. "That is my husbandís contribution," Miller muses. One of her favorite touches is a series of red pendant lamps hanging from the ceiling.

Now the couple have a perfect space for relaxing with friends and family. "People who see the new kitchen for the first time just canít believe the difference from what it looked like before," Miller says, laughing. "I get such a kick out of that." Sheís satisfied that the new kitchen really does reflect the familyís personality.

Cookís kitchen

Itís well known that the art of compromise is one of the keys to a successful marriage. So itís a good sign that when Mark Brunner, owner of Brunner Builders in Cedarburg and his fiancťe, Sue Merrill, recently built a 4,100-square-foot home, kitchen design and dťcor werenít an obstacle. When it came to the kitchen, an unusual role reversal put Brunner in charge. "After all," he says, "Iím the one who does most of the cooking."

He was interested in a kitchen that was more functional than decorative. He calls it "a blend of traditional and contemporary elements." In terms of cost, he believes the price was "pretty average." Part of this is due to the fact that upscale appliances and fixtures ó which can quickly push a budget skyward ó werenít a priority for them. The attractive kitchen includes a double oven, hickory cabinets and oak flooring. The wood is accented by shades of pale green and window treatments in rust and gold colors.

This 1850s era Cedarburg kitchen has been updated for modern living, yet it still exudes historic charm with beadboard cabinets, a farm sink and other amenities.

The most unusual item in their kitchen is a center island. Unlike most islands, however, this one can move anywhere in the kitchen. It can even go into the next room to provide extra seating. Lockable casters prevent the island from shifting. Brunner says he appreciates the flexibility this gives them when entertaining. He isnít worried about the island damaging the wood flooring. "Nah, the floor is meant to take the weight, and the island is designed to distribute the weight evenly." However, the island itself is no lightweight, as it features a solid granite top.

Although Brunner says his cooking is more homestyle than gourmet, it ranges across many different cuisines. Wintertime can mean a roast and roasted vegetables, while summer favorites include grilled steaks. The only "must-have" item in the kitchen was a convenient spice rack, Brunner says.

Therapy project

Even though Jeanie Woodís 1930 Tudor-style home had undergone some minor kitchen remodeling through the years, Wood thought it needed a makeover. She wanted a bright and cheery spot to entertain friends, and to lift her spirits.

Wood says she might not have decided to remodel her kitchen if she were brimming with good health. But her cancer became "the catalyst for achieving a lifelong dream," she says. Wood refers to herself as a "chronic cancer patient." Chemotherapy treatments are now part of her regular routine. When she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2003, Wood went through chemotherapy and then into remission. For a while, she thought she was cancer-free ó until the cancer returned. The chemotherapy treatments keep it in check.

After the cancer came back, Wood decided to redo the kitchen. "I consider it a gift to myself," she says, proudly. Her dream was achieved with the assistance of designer Colleen Thompson, formerly of CabinetWerks, and Oren Pickell Construction.

The two women clicked from the start. "She just looked around my old kitchen and started sharing ideas," Wood says, admiringly. "I liked what I heard." Eventually, the kitchen expanded to 10 feet by 16 feet. An interior wall between the kitchen and a small eating area was removed to make extra room. Closets also were rearranged, giving Wood what she longed for ó a pantry. Storage areas were reconfigured to give Wood more wall space. She was delighted to have a place for her whimsical artwork.

Although the project went over the original budget, Wood decided to "go for it." After all, she says, almost kiddingly, "How long have I got?"

Her designer wanted to provide Wood with everything she asked for. "Jeanie loves bold, dramatic colors," Thompson says. So they decided to paint the walls red. Although this isnít what most residential clients would desire, Thompson says that red is a favorite color used in many restaurants. "For some reason, red stimulates our appetites," she says. The red in Woodís kitchen is a nice contrast to the bisque white cabinets and a cream-colored ceiling. Granite countertops and wood flooring finish the look.

Now Wood has space for friends, family ó or just herself. Itís a place where she says she feels both peace and energy. "I canít believe the transformation," she remarks, still marveling over the results. Itís a place guaranteed to lift her spirits when she is feeling down. "The kitchen was so beautiful when it was finished, I was almost afraid to use it," she says with a laugh.

Working kitchen

There are as many reasons for remodeling a kitchen as the number of people who elect to do it. A busy family life prompted a Cedarburg couple to redo their kitchen. Their home needed an update to meet the needs of three boys, ages 11, 3 and 1. However, they wanted to maintain the feel of the homeís 1850s origins without sacrificing any modern conveniences.

Luckily, their former next-door neighbor happened to be Jon Hennum, owner of Historic Building Co. When Hennum decided to remodel parts of his own historic home, the Gibeaus took note. When they moved into their historic Cedarburg home, they knew who to call.

The couple established a firm budget before they even sent the project out to bid. With three children, they had to make priorities about how to meet their financial needs. They thought about college costs as well as other items that needed to be considered. "Jon was fantastic about working within our $40,000 budget," the wife says. "He really gave us an excellent value for what we spent."

In order to meet the Gibeausí budget, Hennum suggested standard-sized beadboard cabinets from Kraftmaid. He also recommended repairing the original maple floor, rather than replacing it. Items that would be expensive to move, such as the sink, stayed in place. Even the matching stainless steel appliances all are medium-priced.

As anyone with an old house can attest, remodeling contains a lot of "hidden" costs. "Nothing was up to code," the wife says. For instance, the voltage had to be increased from 40 to 200 amperes. In addition, some of the plumbing needed to be fixed. The couple also opted to run copper pipes from the kitchen to an adjoining room that became a first-floor laundry. The sagging ceiling needed repair, as well as some of the flooring. A heavy granite-topped island required extra reinforcement under one section of the floor. New thresholds were added to the door openings.

Despite all the obstacles, the Gibeaus are thrilled with the results. "Itís a wonderful blend of historic and contemporary elements," the wife says. One standout item is the Kohler apron sink and old-style faucets. The lighting is another important element. Although much of the lighting comes from recessed lights and cabinet under lighting, a reproduction light fixture over the center island also draws attention.

Hennum, too, is pleased with the results. "Itís a great working kitchen for a busy, active family," he says. The Gibeaus typify what most people are looking for in a historic-themed kitchen, he says. "They want a warm, cozy feeling that an Ďoldí kitchen can provide." Yet, "They still want a lot of modern conveniences and low maintenance." He also congratulates the Gibeaus on staying within their budget. "So often, the remodeling process begins and then people get carried away," he says. "But the Gibeaus were very practical about where they needed to trim costs. They werenít unhappy with the choices they made."