Remodelers Corner: The Cory Kitchen

When Alicia and Matt Cory moved into their home four years ago, the kitchen was a separate room with a doorway. A half-wall provided a limited view into the kitchen. It was a squeeze for their growing family. “The problem for us was traffic flow,” says Matt.

The Rochester couple remodeled the home’s original kitchen and adjacent laundry room last summer and fall. They worked with local Design Studio B to rework the kitchen for efficiency. At the same time, they wanted to complement the home’s existing style, which is dominated by a two-story limestone fireplace. A stone pathway also extends through much of the main living space. 

Topped with a slab of granite that is almost 8 feet long and just over 5 feet wide, the kitchen island is the “epicenter” of the family’s daily life, describes Matt. The irregular shaped island is large enough for their school-age boys to spread out homework on one side while a parent prepares dinner on the other. Furnished with five chairs and stools, the massive countertop also gives the kitchen a social gathering point when guests arrive.


One of the first remodeling jobs was demolishing the half-wall and, effectively, opening the kitchen out to home’s main living area. The transformation resulted in new space and a new view. Their modern, 5,000-square-foot house just north of Rochester features light wood paneling in the ceiling, an expansive great room and large windows opening to a deck and a second-story view of backyard trees.


The Corys, who work in the restaurant industry, drew on ideas from their professional lives about what kitchen features would work in an efficient and convenient kitchen. So, they built in improvements including:

  • a hidden stand for the mixer, which folds out and up for use.
  • a drawer microwave built into the wall.
  • roll-out racks and shelving, including some carriers.
  • two-level silverware drawers.
  • new major appliances, including a second oven and oversized refrigerator. All are stainless steel, except, “We chose to panel the fridge,” Alicia says. 
  • a small appliance garage equipped with electricity.

“Functional is good,” Matt says, “but so is style.” The couple decided that their remodel had to blend with the look of their house, too, Alicia says. 


Perhaps the most unique feature is a light band that runs like a rim high on the kitchen wall. It replaces a wooden fluorescent light canopy that originally hung out over the kitchen counters. Alicia credits Karen Blissenbach, who leads Design Studio B, with inspiring the unusual wall feature. The light band, or valance, is composed of translucent panels that are lit from behind. The panels contain real twigs from birch trees. They are made by encasing the twigs in a type of resin (called 3form) that hardens into a panel, the designer says. The light band not only acts as a decorative accent, but it illuminates the kitchen countertop below, she explains. 

Blissenbach and the owners also embedded the pattern elsewhere. They had it etched large into the tall doors for new pantry cabinets. Alicia herself searched out the light fixture (Troy Lighting, Drift Collection) with a branch design to suspend over the central island. The tree-inspired designs also complement other naturalistic elements throughout the house.  For example, earth tones and deliberately rough edges of the granite island reflect other stonework in the house. 

They installed walnut wood floors throughout the remodeled area, but added another twist. They had the walnut planks distressed, or scraped, by hand to hide damage from everyday use. “It helps it (the walnut) age more gracefully,” Matt says.


The remodel also extended into the laundry room, which, as in many modern houses, functions as the family’s everyday entrance. It connects to both the garage and an outdoor deck. Each family member has an open locker and bench for changing into and out of outdoor wear.  The design used a pocket door at the kitchen entrance to save some room.

Blissenbach says she and the Corys began planning in earnest in January 2016. The demolition and remodeling work began in July and was generally finished in October. The last touches were completed right before Thanksgiving. Design Studio B acted as both the interior design firm and general contractor. 

The Corys expect to open up their house to visitors for this year’s Rochester Area Builders Remodelers Tour.

Bob Freund is a Rochester-based writer who is a regular contributor to Rochester Women magazine.