Martha's brother George Christiansen and his wife, Rita, have lived in their Fairfield, Connecticut, ranch house for more than 15 years. The house had undergone several major additions over the years, but the original U-shaped galley kitchen remained unaltered.
George and Rita felt that the kitchen was too small, as only one person at a time could prepare a meal comfortably, and the laminated Formica countertop had a permanent burn mark and was coming unglued. Linoleum squares were popping up from the floor, while limited storage space in the outdated faux wood-grain cabinets meant that Rita had to stash her fine china in closets around the house. Pequot Remodeling, George's contracting firm, accepted the task of bringing the kitchen up to speed; Ellen Courtney, the firm's interior designer and production manager, refined plans for a renovation that the couple had drawn up years before.
The dining room, which adjoined the Christiansens' kitchen, went virtually unused, so instead of two small rooms, the Christiansens envisioned one space where they could cook, eat, relax as a family, and entertain guests. They wanted the space to be big enough for dinner parties but cozy enough for family suppers. The joining of the two rooms was accomplished with the removal of a load-bearing wall, and two small windows above the kitchen sink were combined into one large boxed bay window.
While their kitchen was under construction, the Christiansens relocated the microwave, oven, and toaster to the basement so that they could still cook meals at home. Rita says the family tried to keep meals simple so that cooking in their makeshift kitchen would be less hectic, and they often cooked outdoors on the grill as an alternative. To keep the rest of their house free from grit, the Christiansens laid down plastic floor mats surrounding the work area.
As the renovations proceeded, the kitchen was transformed with solid cherry-wood cabinets and a freestanding, cherry-wood kitchen island. George and Rita chose polished gray-green granite to top the counters and the island. The kitchen island is centrally located for easy access from all sides. It also holds a microwave and a warming drawer useful for warming dishes or keeping second helpings hot. The island is a perfectly positioned for preparing food and can also be used for a buffet during parties.
The Christiansens invested in restaurant-quality appliances for their new kitchen. They installed a professional Thermador range with an "ExtraLow" feature that allows the cook to simmer or cook delicate foods on a very low setting, as well as a dishwasher with a rustproof stainless-steel interior. George and Rita wanted a double oven, so they ordered two convection ovens, which are piggy-backed wall units.
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