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An Appetizing Area

"We wanted to mimic the 1920s style in the pantry, but updated...We knew we wanted white cabinets and trim...we wanted to incorporate (wood).. We had a lot of ideas but we had no idea how to pull them all together." (Photo by Rolf Hagberg.)1 / 3
Before (Photo courtesy of Linquist & Company.)2 / 3
After (Photo courtesy of Linquist & Company.)3 / 3

Ketchup and mustard are kitchen staples - in your pantry, not on your walls. That's the thought Lee and Julie Harris shared back in 2006 when they moved into their Cloquet home, complete with a red and yellow kitchen.

They immediately decided the color palette would need a complete overhaul, and the rest of the kitchen much more than a mere paint job.

Built in the 1920s, the home is a model of the old-world elegance and opulence left in the wake of the Roaring Twenties. The kitchen, however, had clearly been remodeled during the 1970s.

Sleek pressed board and laminate cabinets lined the mustard-colored walls, and the drop-panels adorning the ceiling were low enough for Julie to graze with her fingertips. The appliances were aging energy hogs and the kitchen layout left much to be desired in terms of useful space. Though the Harrises tried to make do, the kitchen was well past its prime.

"The cabinets were literally falling apart. We kept moving things around from drawer to drawer," said Julie. "Yeah," Lee added. "We were down to only a few drawers that worked."

What they really wanted was for their kitchen to feel less at odds

with the grand old style of the other rooms. To begin their

remodeling vision, the Harrises took design cues from one feature

they did love - the butler's pantry.

"We wanted to mimic the 1920s style in the pantry, but updated," said Julie. "We knew we wanted white cabinets and trim because that went with the rest of the house. But Lee loves wood, so we wanted to incorporate that. We had a lot of ideas but we had no idea how to pull them all together."

The couple had remodeled a kitchen in a previous home and knew it was no small feat. While they felt comfortable with some tasks (such as painting,) after a year-and-a-half of poring through kitchen magazines and formulating ideas, they decided to hire a professional designer to coordinate what they knew would be a monumental project. They called Linquist & Company Kitchens and Baths in Duluth. Rebecca Gullion Lindquist, certified master kitchen and bath designer, collaborated with the pair to create a comprehensive vision.

"A kitchen has to meet the lifestyle of the family living there. When people call me it's because the space is ready for change, for whatever reason," said Lindquist. "I have a very organized process of working with people to try to figure out what isn't working for them and what they want to accomplish."

Though she knew it needed help, Lindquist was happy with the original canvas. "The house has unbelievable architectural details... good bones, we call it," said Lindquist. "I wanted to capture what's really wonderful."

Lindquist detailed a plan to fit the needs of a family while incorporating the historic lineage of the original architecture. A large alcove that

once sat as wasted space was converted to a pantry, a kitchen feature for which Lindquist is a big proponent. Though they sometimes cause a reduction in floor space, Lindquist says walkin pantries usually make up for it with added storage, efficiency and ease of organization.

Lindquist suggested a new window be added to the pantry to create more natural light, which can also be found filtering through the frosted

glass panes on the kitchen door. Lindquist also came up with a plan to make the space feel less cramped. No less than three layers of drop

ceilings had been installed over the years, and Linquist proposed the removal of all three to restore the kitchen to its original height.

Using experienced, professional help had its perks. As their home was older, Lindquist prepared the Harrises (and their budget) for the unexpected. Julie and Lee were counting on finding hardwood floors under the dark linoleum - they weren't there.

What could have been a budget-blowing blunder had been accounted for, however, because Lindquist had quoted costs for refinishing original flooring and installing new flooring - just in case.

Things also could have gone downhill when the contractor's pencil rolled across the kitchen floor of its own volition. "The floor was really uneven," said Julie. "The house had settled quite a bit." The floor had to be leveled and sanded before the new hardwood flooring could be installed.

"Not one thing in here was simple," said Lee. When they removed the side door and moved the windows, siding to match the original had to be handcrafted by carpenter Tom Kubat because it wasn't available for purchase after all those years. The period trim around the doors posed the same problem and the quartz counter tops had to be installed twice because of a defect in the manufacturer's product.

But the Harrises still think their remodeling project went well.

"Rebecca planned everything out to the smallest detail. This is the snack area, baking stuff here, food there," Julie said, showing off the finished product.

"She asked us a lot of questions about how we use the kitchen. By the stove are the pots and pans, and right above it are any utensils we'd use on the stove. It's like, we don't even have to move. The hot pads are right there, spices, and then the serving bowls," said Lee. "I don't think we would have ever thought that through."

Their best advice for someone planning a kitchen remodeling project? Don't hire a "yes person."

"We all watch HGTV and we think we're designers. And that works for some things," said Julie. "But it's nice to consult with someone to get an out-of-the-box view. You want them to challenge you a little bit."

Today, their kitchen today is a warm gathering place with a cozy breakfast nook, more electrical power supplied to the outlets and adjustable lighting. It's a room they use well and often with guests now comfortable to visit in the room that has become the true heart of the home.

And where they once saw only unappetizing ketchup and mustard, their walls are now covered in a rich, delicious, chocolate brown - much more suited to their tastes.