Without stripping the 100-year-old manse of its historical elegance, Ben Brannen at Bespoke Design redesigned this dark and dysfunctional “saloon” (as the family referred to it) into a beautiful and airy kitchen for five. Living in the 1912 heritage home in Oak Bay since 2001, the homeowners tolerated the malfunctioning kitchen during their young children’s “destructive” years with the intention of one day giving it a much-needed makeover.
A meeting with Brannen at Bespoke to discuss Farrow and Ball paint (the previous owners painted the entire home in it) progressed from new colour selections for their home to a complete kitchen makeover. With a revamped sunroom, breakfast nook with gas fireplace and Farrow and Ball wallpaper, Brannen created a spacious, family-friendly hangout awash in natural light.
With one burner left for cooking and damaged cabinets, the family was ready for a complete transformation. The couple adds that “we used to hang heavy blankets across the sunroom windows on hot days to make the rest of the kitchen tolerable.” With a list of issues including inadequate storage, a dysfunctional range, awkward layout, dated lighting (think saloon theme), and a sunroom that turned the kitchen into “a greenhouse from April to November,” the family gave Brannen carte blanche to bring this turn of the century kitchen into a modern meeting place.
A firm believer in multiple designs done on paper before swinging a hammer, Brannen provided several plans and suggested the clients choose their favourite elements to come up with the final design. “In this case, we spent a lot of time swapping the cooking area with the prep area, discussing all the pros and cons of both, before settling on the best result,” says Brannen.
Brannen suggested the family reorient the kitchen’s layout and replace the entire sunroom. It was a priority to move the working area from the over-heated sunroom area to the cooler north-facing wall which required moving the plumbing and losing one of the three entrances to the kitchen. “Ben was so thorough. Before we began construction, he had us consider our layout in great detail. For optimal functionality, he wanted us to determine a place for everything right down to our dishes and pots. I can’t imagine taking on this project without him.”
Coveting marble for its elegance, the couple knew that with three children there was risk of staining and marking. Brennan recommended honed black granite for the hardest working countertops. “Granite is beautiful and forgiving for this family’s busy kitchen,” states Brannen. Playing with a layered look, three different countertop surfaces were used to differentiate separate work areas responsive to the family’s ever-growing needs. “The black granite adds so much softness and is a low maintenance material. Where it was practical, we used a couple pieces of white Callacata marble and butcher block on the prep areas,” states Brannen.
Taking out a wall and opening the kitchen to the dining area, Brannen prioritized continuity and flow for the open plan space. “Ben often narrowed our choices to two or three which really made decision-making manageable and enjoyable. I am so glad we hired Ben as he really listened to our ideas and designed a kitchen that is beautiful but incorporates all the functionality we needed. He was involved in every decision and was by our side the whole time. Thankfully, he was really fun to work with; we had no idea the number of decisions a renovation entails.”
Bringing pattern play and creativity to this contemporary kitchen, Brannen used one of Farrow and Ball’s latest wallpapers to add warmth to the space and temper the stark feel of a monochromatic palette. A showstopping brushed and polished stainless hood fan, a bold blue Wolf range and a gas fireplace next to the breakfast nook add to the wow factor of this inviting kitchen. And no kitchen with three children should be without two dishwashers and a crumb sucker.
One of the main challenges of this redesign was the existing sunroom. The family loved the natural light and was attached to the idea of replacing it, so Brannen had it rebuilt from the structure below to the glass and structure above. “One of the highlights of the new design is eating at the breakfast nook in the new shaded sunroom which is comfortable, even in the heat.
We play games here, the kids do homework, we eat and entertain in that lovely area. It also serves as an extension of the outdoors where we can enjoy the Garry Oaks that surround us,” say the homeowners.
The gas fireplace next to the breakfast nook invites family and guests to linger and relax. The couple adds that “I love heating the space in the morning so it’s cozy when the kids tumble down in their jammies. On wet days, we love the sound of the raindrops on the glass with the warm fire in the corner. It is the perfect place in the house to be. When we entertain, we dim the lights and sit at the table in the kitchen with a fire; it’s so cozy.”
Initially concerned with removing one of the entrances to the kitchen, Brannen emphasizes that two entrances to a kitchen is plenty. Now instead of walking in the front entrance and seeing the kitchen door, Brennan created a dramatic art wall in the open plan living/dining area to welcome guests.
Living in the home as it was renovated was not as challenging as the family had anticipated. “Our contractor, David Young, made it possible by sealing off the renovation space from the rest of the home with a large sheet of plywood. The electrician placed an electrical box on the wall for a cooktop stove, David put our dishwasher in the hallway and our fridge was in the living room. Water was the biggest challenge so Ben brought us his own water dispenser which made a huge difference. Losing access to the basement and laundry was challenging, but David worked hard to minimize the reno time and inconvenience. Overall, the entire renovation was a positive experience; we couldn’t be happier.”