The house that Stacey Evans and John Grant share has been his home for 35 years; hers, for 10. It’s a pleasant, unpretentious place with a private backyard where the couple enjoys growing flowers and watching birds. For a long time they’d been living with a small, traditional kitchen that, while it overlooked the gardens, didn’t exactly make it easy to see outdoors.
“We had these old-style windows with mullions and storm windows,” says Grant. “You couldn’t raise them easily, you couldn’t clean them easily. The storms were kind of stuck.” In short, they didn’t function well and, even if they had, their many divisions would have made it hard to see the view. What’s more, the kitchen sink was positioned facing into a wall rather than a window, and one window was partially covered by an extra countertop that Grant had added a while back to gain workspace.
“It was cozy, and it was workable,” says Grant of the former layout, “but it wasn’t very functional.” With the old kitchen showing serious wear and tear, he and Evans decided it was time to update.
One of the first moves was to relocate the sink under a new, better window. “We wanted a big picture window and one small casement window that could open,” says Evans, “not to have the view broken by so much wood.”
The wall between kitchen and dining room came down, meaning that another large new window, near the dining table, also adds light and views to the kitchen space. With this change, the room gained a bar and barstools—an obvious improvement considering guests used to crowd into the kitchen as Evans and Grant tried to cook.
The couple hired Todd LeBack of Vaneri Studio to build cabinets, and he helped hone the layout to maximize storage, workspace and circulation. Little things make a difference—like the counter-depth refrigerator that leaves a few more inches of free floor space.
Evans and Grant, both artists and photographers, wanted to design a kitchen that wouldn’t go off trend within a few years and wouldn’t upstage their art collection. To that end, they created a neutral color scheme and a limited materials palette, starting with the floor.
“The kitchen had linoleum; it was really ugly,” says Grant, who admits he was the one who installed it decades ago. The rest of the house had hardwood floors, and the couple decided to unify all the rooms by adding new hardwood in the kitchen/dining room, then giving all the floors a common finish.
“I knew I wanted slab cabinet doors,” Evans says—plain-front cabinets for ease of cleaning and a minimalist look. LeBack built S-shaped shelves that swivel out from corner cabinets for easy access, and extended all cabinets to the ceiling for extra storage. The cabinets are finished in Benjamin Moore’s “Pelican Gray,” a choice that Grant says was hard-won, given the tendency of grays to change appearance in different lights. He and Evans examined multiple samples at various times of day before making the decision. Walls are also gray, with one dining room wall accented in a darker shade behind a large abstract painting that Grant has owned for years.
Dark-gray quartz countertops complete the neutral scheme, but the couple had no intention of shunning color altogether. They asked local glass artist Vee Osvalds to create a stained-glass panel to be installed above the stove. Illuminated by LED backlighting, it adds warmth and color to an area that Grant had worried would otherwise feel dark. “It gives a pleasant homey atmosphere,” he says. “It substitutes for a backsplash.”
Completed last September, the kitchen brought ease to cooking and entertaining and allows the backyard view to become part of the room, like another artwork that’s ever-changing. For the most part, these improvements hinge on quiet, rather than splashy, choices. “It’s a modest house,” says Grant. “We didn’t want to overbuild.”