Remodeler’s Corner: Modernizing the Wright Home Beginning in the Kitchen

The refrigerator at Patty and Jim Wright’s home deserves some credit for the couple’s full kitchen remodel. For years, opening the refrigerator door had blocked the doorway to the kitchen’s walk-in pantry. Then, the fridge itself started going on the fritz. In short, “It (remodeling) started with getting a new refrigerator and snowballed from there,” Patty says. 


Today, the couple and their two teenagers enjoy a completely renovated kitchen in their 20-year-old home. About half of the main floor in the northwest Rochester home has been renovated to maximize use of space and enrich the decor. 

In fall of 2015, Patty, a microbiologist, and Jim, a software programmer, decided to explore remodeling. They found The Kitchen Design Studio of Rochester on the internet (, and KDS designer Don Gustason found underused space in a short hallway bordering the kitchen. By tearing down a wall, the Wrights and KDS were able to close off the pantry, move in a new refrigerator and add counter space to the kitchen. There also was enough room left on the far side of the hallway to replace the pantry with a bank of cupboard cabinets for food storage.

Gustason suggested expanding the dining bar at one end of the kitchen into a large central island.  More than eight feet long, the island has space for four tall chairs, which overlook the Douglas Trail through several windows.  Previously, the seats had faced inward to the kitchen rather than toward the “prettier view” outdoors, Patty says.  

The design placed special emphasis on the island. “This is where we live,” Patty says.  It’s a gathering spot, a table for meals and a platform for chores—“great for laundry folding,” she chuckles. 


To enhance it, “We put in a more interesting pattern (on the) countertop on the island,” Gustason says.  Made of Cambria quartz, the new surface features a naturally streaked gray that complements—but does not match—the countertop and gray backsplash in the kitchen work space just a couple of steps away. 

A new stainless steel refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher add gleam to the scene. The remodeling also enriches the kitchen’s woodwork. The Wrights replaced the original oak cabinetry with cherrywood cabinets in a deeper brown color called “cherry cappuccino.” The decor also extends into the newly built cupboard wall and the base of the center island. Overhead, recessed ceiling lights and a set of three pendant lights were added to brighten the kitchen. 


From the kitchen, the remodeling also spilled over into two adjacent rooms. One room toward the front of the house now holds built-in library shelves for Jim’s collection of LP records. Patty also asked for a charging station for cell phones and other electronics. Gustason says he used a “flip-up door,” to tuck a computer printer and the charging station out of sight. To open, “It lifts up and slides back into the cabinet,” the designer says. 

The Wrights extended the cherrywood look into the laundry room on the opposite side of the kitchen and added work space by setting a countertop above the washer-dryer combination.

Choosing the flooring proved to be a challenge. Selecting the size and pattern of the tiles was tricky. “You want a beautiful tile, but you want it to be somewhat understated,” Gustason says. After a search, the Wrights settled on a subtle, natural pattern of gray and taupe large tiles. 


Of course, while the remodeling was underway, the Wrights’ kitchen was a construction zone. “During the holidays (December 2015), we were kitchen-less,” Patty says. For about three months, they coped by cooking in the lower level of the house, which fortunately has a refrigerator. Add other cooking appliances, though, and, “We blew fuses a lot,” Jim says. 

Their kitchen remodeling started with demolition in December 2015 and was completed in February 2016. “I love that it opened up (the space),” Patty says. “The house is the same size, but it feels larger than it used to.” 

The Kitchen Design Studio acted as both designer and general contractor for the Wrights’ project but now limits its business to design and to cabinetry, says Gustason, who is co-owner. 

The Wright house was among nine projects featured on the Remodelers Tour in September 2016, sponsored by Rochester
Area Builders. 

 Bob Freund is a writer based in Rochester.