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Project Manager's Journal

The Martha Stewart Show, May 2007

Julie Ratliff, a high school teacher from Seymour, Indiana, just won the Second Annual Martha Stewart Dream Kitchen!

Joey Kola and a team of cameramen flew to Indiana last night to surprise Julie and her family of eight (and growing). Everyone was at the house when we arrived, and when Joey told Julie she had won, they were all in a state of disbelief.

Joey left Seymour this morning, but I will be driving over to the Ratliffs' in a little while to go over some of the details of Julie's existing kitchen and to hear her hopes and aspirations for the new one. My name is Calia Van Dyk, and I am the Studio Manager for "The Martha Stewart Show." Over the next six weeks, I will also be the coordinating project manager for the construction of Julie's new kitchen. I am working with an incredibly dedicated team of art directors and producers, as well as a local team of contractors. We will spend the next few weeks creating a kitchen we hope will become Julie's Dream Kitchen.

I am flying back to New York now. I spent the most amazing morning with the family. Julie baked the most delicious blueberry Danish pastries and Rick, Justin, Jen, Riley, Tommy, Jed, Josh, Becky, and Leila were there to share in the conversation. I learned a great deal about the family's history and their home. I was so surprised when Rick handed me the original blueprints from 1917 (the family has lived on this property since 1858). I also discovered that on any given day, 6 to 12 people sit down around the dining room table for a home-cooked meal -- and they don't even have a dishwasher!

Next week, we create a design plan with Martha and hire a local contractor. Stay tuned.

This week, we select a contractor and finalize the design with Martha! The timing for this is crucial, because it will set the tone for the entire project -- if we fall behind now, we will not meet our deadlines for the big reveal on May 18. The pressure is on!


The first thing I need to do is hire a local contractor. Now, finding someone to trust with your own home is difficult enough. Finding someone thousands of miles away, to make someone else's dreams come true, is a monumental task. Add a snowstorm to the mix, and it creates a couple of sleepless nights.

It's Monday morning and I am at the studio. I should have been in Seymour, but the snowstorm closed the airports down. Since I don't want to lose any momentum, I have been scouring the Internet and spending a great deal of time on the phone. So far, I have contacted the Better Business Bureau, the Seymour Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor's Office and I have consulted the professional trade organizations in Seymour and southern Indiana. I have set up a couple of meetings for this Friday but since time is of the essence, I have sent the preliminary candidates a clear outline and timeframe of our project. This will help to make a proper evaluation when the quotes arrive and I highly recommend that you do the same when you plan your own kitchen.


Since there is nothing I can do about the contractor until Friday, I am going to focus on the design of the project. This will help me to place all of my orders with time to spare. Our art director, Anduin Havens, and field stylist, Jim Gardner, have put together some design boards based on our preliminary conversations with Martha to give us some inspiration when we meet with her on Thursday morning after the show.


It's Thursday afternoon and our meeting with Martha was very productive. We talked about all the aspects of the kitchen, finalizing our cabinetry and flooring choices, the trim, color, and GE Appliances. I can now put all these selections into production for delivery and get on a plane.


It's Friday, I'm in Seymour, and I have found our contractor! WM. J. Abraham and Sons! As it turns out, the owner's grandfather rebuilt Julie's grandparents' home in 1917 after the original home burned down. Their business has existed for over a hundred years in Seymour and their work is first rate. After meeting with Louie and his project manager, Rhonda, I felt really comfortable and knew that they would give this kitchen the love and nurturing that it deserves. Their proposal was thorough and extremely fair.

If all goes well, next week we will begin the demolition and renovation of Julie's new Dream Kitchen. Let the work begin!

This week, we finalize all the construction plans, make sure that all the necessary orders are placed, and start demolition. Hopefully we won't find too many surprises once we start taking the cabinetry down.

It's Monday and I am at the Ratliffs'. Demolition started this morning! The cabinetry will come down first then we will take all the walls down to the studs. Since this can get really messy, we made sure that the vents were covered and placed plastic over every door opening. This will avoid getting too much dust in the rest of the house. It is so important to try to minimize the amount of dust that gets into the rest of the house as much as we can since Julie and her family have to live here while we do the kitchen renovation.

Yikes! As it turns out, this farm is so far away from the rest of the town that they don't have DSL or cable access. It's Tuesday and I'm back at the studio. One of the areas that we designed for the new kitchen is a workstation with a computer. It would be such a shame if we couldn't include the HP TouchSmart Computer for the family. It is such a great tool and will help the whole family to keep their calendars and memos in one place. I'll have to work on a solution with Rhonda, our local project manager. Will we be able to make it happen? Tune in on May 18 to see the reveal on the air.

Since Martha has provided us with the inspiration and the floor plan, the art director, Anduin, and field stylist, Jim, have finalized the layout and details. Working with designers at GE and Armstrong, we have come up with a beautiful design for this kitchen that should be extremely functional while providing a gathering place for the family.

In Martha's "Homekeeping Handbook," there is a really helpful section on planning kitchens. The chapter includes tips and measurements that we have referred to repeatedly. It also details Martha's ideas about creating work stations for your kitchen. We found that extremely useful in creating Julie's kitchen, which will include a cooking station, a baking area, an area for socializing, a planning station, a cleaning station and a beverage station; all this in a space that is 13 and a half feet by 15 feet. Since the design is functional, the family should not be tripping over each other at any time.

It's Thursday, we've got the cabinetry and flooring ordered, and we've been able to get a general idea of how it would look with the planning software that Armstrong has on their website. GE provided us with the necessary electrical requirements. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, we could make sure that all the plumbing and electrical requirements are in place before we close the walls and avoid any unsightly additions.

If the contractors keep moving along this way, by next Monday we'll be closing up our walls...already!

"Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook," page 34
Armstrong Flooring and Cabinetry,
GE Appliances,

We are starting our fourth week of the Dream Kitchen Renovation. This is where the real transformation begins, and Julie is on full lock out. We blacked out the whole room so that Julie's Dream Kitchen will be a great surprise when the kitchen is ready for her to discover.

Leslie, our field producer is in Seymour right now filming the work that is happening at the house. She tells me that everything is moving along smoothly and that Julie has not peaked once. The funny thing is that, even without a kitchen, Julie always manages to have freshly baked cookies waiting for the crew when they arrive.

I called Julie last night to see how she was holding up. She told me that she is using her grill a lot. Since the weather is so unpredictable, that can't be a lot of fun! Since Julie is a home economics teacher, she is preparing a lot of meals at school so that she can heat them up at home in her makeshift kitchen. All and all they are handling this rather well.

It's Friday, and I am in Seymour again. Now that the walls are being framed out and that the drywall is going up, it's time to think about our cabinetry and flooring again. We placed our order, so everything is in construction, but it really is important to double-check all the measurements in "the field" as they say. This way, we can make any necessary adjustments resulting from the demolition and build out.

I just met with the flooring installer on site. I was there with our contractor, Louie Abraham, and his project manager, Rhonda who have a real handle on the day-to-day work that is taking place. We walked through to determine the type of sub-flooring we need for the room, the transitions we will need from room to room, and the logistics of the installation. I feel really great about the timing and how this installation is going to work.

As a general rule, we like to have the flooring go throughout the room, even under the cabinetry. This makes for a cleaner look and also finishes the room really well. What this means is that the flooring has to be the first thing to go down once the room is ready. We chose a high-quality flooring from Armstrong that would complement the rest of the house and allow each room on the ground to flow smoothly from one room to another. To see the result, please be sure to watch when we show Julie her new kitchen on the 18th of May.

Choosing flooring is an important decision. You want to consider wear and tear, the aesthetic, and care of your floor. Our friends at Armstrong have a complete guide to flooring on their website at You should take a look at it when you are planning your new kitchen.

One quick word of advice: Don't forget that flooring height will affect the height of your cabinets in relation to the rest of the room. So be sure to let your cabinetry installation team know of any modifications you are making to the floor. Since we wanted to use as much space as possible in the room, we have planned to bring our storage all the way up to the ceiling. So, even one eighth of an inch can have a tremendous impact on the rest of your room. This is where communicating with all the parties involved is so crucial!

Next week, the floors and cabinetry are installed. I'll keep you posted.

Martha's Second Annual Dream Kitchen is now entering its fifth week. We are starting to see Martha's vision come to fruition, and it is going to be gorgeous.

I couldn't fly into Indianapolis today, because we have some exciting projects happening at the studio. Fortunately, our project manager in Seymour, Rhonda Claycamp, has been updating me daily, so I have a very good idea of what is going on at the Ratliff home. It is so nice to know that we have a local general contractor who is really vested in this project as much as we are here at the studio. All of the people working on this project are really giving 100 percent of their energy, and it is such a pleasure to be part of such an amazing team.

I just got a picture of the flooring that was installed today. It looks amazing! The color and the texture are beautiful, and the installation went so smoothly. Armstrong has such a broad selection of flooring that even if the one we chose for Julie isn't right for your house, you're bound to find something to work in your own home. You may want to check out their website at for suggestions.

It's Tuesday, and I just heard from Rhonda that most of the trimming is up and that they are priming the walls today. We matched the trim for the doors and the windows as closely as we could to the original trim. Since the house was built in 1917, we wanted to make sure that this kitchen flowed naturally with the rest of Julie's home. We had heard from Julie's son, Justin, that they had tried to do this with the rest of the house as well, so hopefully, we made the right choice -- only time will tell.

It's Wednesday, and they are installing the beautiful new bay window today. Our friends at Pella really helped us to expedite the order and it looks incredible in the space. The first time I met Julie she told me how much she loved the view from her window, overlooking the beautiful fields. She also said that she had thought of putting a bay window there. Martha thought that was a marvelous idea and suggested that we have an herb garden in the window. They were both right. As you will see when we reveal the Dream Kitchen on May 18, the new window is a showstopper.

If you decide to add a bay window to your kitchen, be ready to answer the question about the exterior construction of your window. What type of roof would you like? Will the construction of the window extend down to the ground? If so, do you have to contend with any permitting issues? These are all questions that you should discuss with your general contractor before you install the window. Our friends at WM. J. Abraham and Sons guided us through these questions one step at a time, and we are very pleased with the results.

The cabinetry arrives on Friday and we will start installing it right away. Be sure to check in tomorrow when we talk about Julie's new cabinets.

As we start our sixth week, we will see a big transformation from the old kitchen to Julie's new Dream Kitchen.

At the end of last week, our Armstrong cabinetry team started to install the lower cabinetry. It's Monday today and it looks like all the lower cabinetry will be in place by tonight. This is good timing, because tomorrow we will have someone from Corian come to template the countertops. So it is really important that we have all the lower cabinets in place by this evening. Our contractors are all working so hard, so I am confident that we will make the deadline.

Rhonda, our project manager in Seymour just called me. Leslie Peirez and her team are at the house today to film the cabinetry installation and the templating process. This is such an important part of the new kitchen, and Leslie is capturing the transformation so that we can show it to our viewers on May 18. She has been working very closely with all the members of the Dream Kitchen team to capture all the facets of this transformation. I can't wait to see what she and the rest of the production team have put together.

The Corian installer arrived this morning ready to template the new countertops. The Corian counters that we have chosen are going to look wonderful with the paint and cabinetry that are going in the kitchen. What is wonderful about these surfaces is that they are so easy to maintain, and it is going to be perfect for this large family. Corian has such a large selection of colors. If you are thinking of using it, you should go to their website and order their free Color Design Guide. You should also take a look at "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" to find a countertop that is suited to your personal needs.

Once you have decided on the type and color of countertop to meet your needs, you should also have a good idea of what kind of a backsplash you are going to have, the type of finish you want, and the type of edge that will work best for you. Your countertop installer will want to know this information when he comes to template your kitchen. Finally, be sure to have your sink and faucet available when your installer arrives so that he can template them as well. We worked very closely with Kohler and Ann Sacks to find the appropriate sink and faucet for this kitchen. I can't wait until next week to see it all in place! I know it will be stunning.

It's Thursday, and the news from Seymour is positive. The trim is now around the windows and painted. The upper cabinets are going up and the kitchen is so bright and beautiful. The electrician and the plumber have all been at the house, and we are moving forward. Kichler's under-cabinet lights are now in place and the outlets that Martha wanted mounted underneath the cabinets have been installed.

I can't wait to see the kitchen in person. The contractors have sent us pictures that I have now shared with our production and design team, and we are all so pleased with the transformation. I can't wait to get there tomorrow morning to see it all in person.

"Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook," pp. 48-53
Armstrong Cabinetry,
Corian Countertops, Color Design Guide,
Ann Sacks Faucet,
Kohler Sink,

Spring has sprung in Seymour, Indiana. The bright colors of Julie's new kitchen are coming to life and by the end of this week, construction on Martha Stewart's Second Annual Dream Kitchen will be complete.

It is hard to believe that we are almost done. This has been such an amazing journey and all of us have enjoyed getting to know Julie and her family along the way. Last weekend was Easter weekend, so I stayed in the area. Southern Indiana is so beautiful this time of year, and Julie and her family gave me many pointers as to what to see and what to visit.

When I walked into the kitchen today, I was struck by the beautiful transformation that has taken place over the past five weeks. The space has become a beautiful, functional kitchen where a large family can share many entertaining moments. The color has a lot to do with this. In the May 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living, there is an interesting article on color and I would recommend that you take a look at it if you are planning a new kitchen or any other room in your home.

The countertops arrived on time and were installed very quickly. Having them templated on-site, the fit is precise and well integrated into the space. These countertops truly finish the room and are really striking in this kitchen. The gentlemen who installed them were very knowledgeable about their product, so they gave us the right type of cloth to use when cleaning the counter. Regardless of the surface you choose for your own home, take advantage of the time you have with your installation specialist. Ask any questions you might have about maintaining the surfaces -- be specific -- and ask about products they recommend for daily maintenance and deep cleaning. With Corian, the representatives are certified by the manufacturer so they know a great deal about their products and warranties.

It's Tuesday morning and there are a lot of craftsmen here at the Ratliff house. GE will be delivering the appliances today, so we want to make sure that everything is working properly by the end of the day. The electrician, cabinetry installer, and plumber are here, so is our field production team. We can't wait for the appliances to arrive.

At 10 a.m., the truck drove up the long driveway with all of the GE Profile appliances on board. With every box they took off the truck, we got closer to completing Julie Ratliff's dream. Julie will now have a highly efficient and well-equipped kitchen where she can not only create many dishes for her family and friends but also clean them with her brand-new dishwasher. On the day of the appliance delivery, Julie had two kinds of cookies and ice tea waiting for us -- we couldn't eat them up fast enough! Thank you, Julie.

Now that everyone has left, I'm preparing to return to New York. There is still a little bit of work to be done. The tiles are due to arrive tomorrow for the backsplash. I would say that today is definitely a highlight of the kitchen transformation. The full set of GE Profile appliances work so well in this kitchen and the design that Martha and her team created is really coming together.

Once the tiles are up and the lighting fixtures are in place, we will be able to turn the kitchen over to Jim Gardner, our field stylist. At the end of the week, we will see the transformed kitchen and more importantly, Julie's reaction to her new Dream Kitchen.

Martha Stewart Living, May 2007
GE Appliances,
Ann Sacks Tiles,

This is the final week of our web journal for Martha Stewart's Second Annual Dream Kitchen. Construction was completed last week, and we are now turning the kitchen over to the Emmy Award-winning art department of "The Martha Stewart Show" to place the finishing touches on the room.

It's Monday morning and a nor'easter has kept me from flying to Seymour to do a walk-through. Fortunately, our field stylist, Jim Gardner, flew out last Friday and I have been in touch with him since he landed. He completed a thorough inspection on Saturday and assured me that we are in very good shape. This week, Jim will be working with two assistants to make sure that all the details are perfect for this Friday's reveal. Since we want the family to be truly surprised when they see the transformation, we are sending them to a hotel for a few days so that Jim can work his magic.

Jim and his team will need some time to go through the numerous boxes of kitchen utensils, dishes, and serving platters that have arrived in Seymour over the past five weeks. While they are doing this -- checking for any imperfections and making sure that they will all work well in the kitchen -- a cleaning team will be working in the kitchen. It is considered the industry standard for contractors to leave a work site "broom clean," so we highly recommend that you hire someone at the completion to do a thorough cleaning after any major construction. This will ensure that when you put your glasses and plates away, you will be putting them on a clean surface.

Once that is done, they will dust all the surfaces in the adjacent rooms and in any room where the contractors have been working. Soon, Jim and his team will be transforming the kitchen and dining room for Julie and her family. As you can imagine, turning an ordinary kitchen into a Dream Kitchen involves a lot of planning and close attention to every detail. Each item was carefully chosen for this specific space in order to accentuate the color scheme and the architecture of the room. We hope that when Julie returns to her new kitchen, behind every cabinet door she will discover another treasure: new plates, silverware, glasses, pots and pans, knives, and cutting boards. A great deal of care and foresight has been put into this last week of transformation.

In our original meeting with Martha, Anduin (the art director of "The Martha Stewart Show"), and Jim, Martha wanted to make sure that the visual flow from the dining room to the kitchen was fluid. To ensure this, Jim will be adding some decorative elements to the dining room as well. One of the features that he has selected is a beautiful Safavieh rug from Martha's new line. We have all been hoping that we chose the right colors for Julie's new room, but today Jim called to tell us that she had two new wreaths for the front door. You can imagine how thrilled I was to hear that they match the new kitchen -- and the family assures me that Julie has not peeked once!

We're on the home stretch and this Friday we will all be flying down to Seymour, Indiana, for the last time to surprise Julie. This is going to be a bittersweet trip. Over the course of the past eight weeks, we have all grown extremely fond of our Seymour friends and family. Personally, I will miss every one of them when this kitchen is complete, and I know that I am not the only one. Now that we are giving Julie back her kitchen, I can only hope that it truly will be her Dream Kitchen! Watch "The Martha Stewart Show" this Friday to see Julie's reaction.

We would like to give special thanks to the amazing team that made this kitchen possible:

"The Martha Stewart Show" Team
Martha Stewart, Bernie Young, Laurie Rich, Liz Koman, Jason Hermes, Shoshana Natt, Jaime Blanc, George Davilas, Anduin Havens, Shara Kabakow, Jon Coniglio, Kim Miller, Leslie Peirez, Ayesha DeMond, Mary Forrest, Jim Gardner, Laurie Hepburn, Rose Curtis, Jana Petrosini, Jason Pickens, Julian Brennan, Josh Lasser, Robin Alston, Daniel Rohn, Frankie DeJoseph, Jeremy Minton, Jeff Hatfield, Jim Snider, and Dominick Gillette.

In Seymour
The town of Seymour, Indiana; Mayor James Bullard, Louis Abraham, Rhonda Claycamp and the team at WM Abraham & Sons, Chris Rose, Lesa Miller, Tommy Day, the Ratliff family, and of course, Julie Ratliff.

Our Partners
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