Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, full kitchen view
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Lose a wall, add windows, and reallocate adjacent space, then blend sparkling white surfaces with warm wood-tone accents. That’s the recipe for a bright, open kitchen made for family gatherings!

This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of This Old House MagazineClick here to learn how to subscribe

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, kitchen 3⁄4 view
Stacy Zarin GoldbergShown: Clean white cabinetry, marble-look quartz countertops, and a gray-stained hickory island and vent hood combine with new windows for a refreshed, welcoming workspace. Paint (walls): Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray; Cooktop: Thermador; Windows: Andersen Windows & DoorsFlexibility is fundamental to open-plan success, which can mean rethinking how you’ve used certain rooms for decades. Christy MacCormack discovered that in the process of renovating the kitchen of the 1970 Federal-style house in Bethesda, MD, she grew up in. “We wanted a welcoming space for everyone to enjoy,” Christy says—and she means everyone, since members of three generations have been sharing the home, including her and her husband, Mike. “The cramped, dark kitchen from the 1980s really needed an overhaul to function and flow efficiently.”

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, full kitchen view
Stacy Zarin GoldbergShown: Now the fridge, ovens, and cooktop are in convenient proximity for cooking, and there are ample food-prep surfaces. A barn door on the family room side closes off any kitchen commotion. The hickory island and vent hood—both given a cool, light-gray stain—warm up white shiplap walls, Shaker-style cabinets, and marble-look quartz countertops. Designers: Colleen Shaut and Zahra Keihani, Case Architects & Remodelers; Quartz countertops: Norwood Marble & Granite; Wall ovens, refrigerator: KitchenAidTo get there, designer Colleen Shaut of Case Architects & Remodelers helped the MacCormacks reimagine much of the first floor. The wall between the kitchen and dining room came down and a peninsula with cabinet storage went in, opening up the room. The dining room took the place of the adjacent formal living room, allowing for a sitting area with an office nook where the family can catch up while connected to the activity in the kitchen. (A family room off the other end of the kitchen remains the primary gathering spot.)

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, before
Before: Pickled cabinets and a brick-pattern vinyl floor were remnants of a 1980s remodel. Appliances ringed the room, which was closed off from the dining room at one end (shown) and the family room at the other.To let in more natural light and open up views of the park-like backyard, five large windows went in on the sink wall. Appliances were relocated to be closer together for more convenient cooking, freeing space for continuous runs of countertop prep area. Crisp white cabinetry and countertops are balanced by stained-wood elements, including a handsome hickory vent hood and the slim, table-style island that replaced its clunky, clutter-prone predecessor. “The kitchen is both beautiful and sensible, with more storage and no one jammed in the corners,” Christy says. “It’s well equipped, bright, and joyful!”

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, sink area and home office nook
Stacy Zarin GoldbergShown left: An update on a farmhouse staple, the new apron sink has an angular shape and a brushed-stainless-steel front. The sleek pull-down faucet offers plenty of maneuverability to reach every corner. New windows allow in plenty of natural light, and fully adjustable sconces provide both ambient and task lighting. Faucet: Moen; Sink: Kohler; Sconces: Visual Comfort; Hardware: Top KnobsShown right: Shiplap cladding and hickory shelves in the desk built-in echo the kitchen’s finishes to bring a cohesive look to the open space. “The sitting area is a popular part of life around here,” says Christy. The computer desk allows her to keep up with her social media while being part of the action.

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, kitchen view with dog
Stacy Zarin GoldbergShown: New white oak flooring was woven in and the whole floor given a cool-brown stain. A wide open aisle creates an unimpeded passageway for people (and pets). “The flow around the island and into the sitting area, then into the dining room or out to the deck, suits our busy lifestyle,” Christy says. Custom cabinets, island, and vent hood: Crystal Cabinet Works; Flooring: Atlas Floors, Inc.

Expert Advice

“When designing an open-plan kitchen, think about traffic flow from other areas of the room. Create an aisle wide enough for people to walk freely without getting in the way of the cooks.” —Colleen Shaut, Case Architects & Remodelers

Floor Plans

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, floor plans
Ian WorpoleTaking down a wall and moving the dining room opened up the kitchen to a new sitting area.

Demoed the wall shared with the former dining room, adding a peninsula and gaining 2 feet in the kitchen.Put in five large windows to open up views and usher in natural light, centering a new sink under them.Added a cooktop on the wall shared with the family room, shifting the doorway slightly to create a wider aisle to ease traffic flow, and replacing French doors with a barn-style slider. Removed a pantry closet and built-in desk, creating spots for wall ovens and a refrigerator. Replaced a built-in island with a narrower table-style model. Installed a beverage area with a wine fridge and cabinet storage. Moved the dining room into the adjacent living room, and created a sitting area in its place with a built-in desk and a wider opening to the new dining space.

Get the Look

Industrial meets refined in these reno-worthy finds, inspired by the kitchen on these pages.

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, sconce, sink
1. Library-style sconce / HINKLEY
Black-finished steel gives the articulating classic a graphic, modern slant.
Arti Black Joint Arm Wall Lamp, $249; Lamps Plus

2. Modern apron sink / ELKAY
Stainless steel updates the farmhouse classic, while straight sidewalls and a flat bottom maximize usable space.
Crosstown 18-Gauge Single-Bowl Farmhouse Sink, $691; Elkay

Summer 2021, Before and After Kitchen, movable kitchen island, pull-down faucet
3. Movable island / POTTERY BARN
This workhorse island on lockable casters can go from kitchen centerpiece to outdoor serving station, as needed, thanks to its durable acacia base and concrete top.
Abbott Island, $1,699; Pottery Barn

4. Pared-down pot washer / MOEN
This sleek pull-down packs Power Boost technology for faster filling and stronger spraying.
Align Spring Kitchen Faucet in Chrome, $541; Moen