Shades of Grey: Start in the kitchen and go into adjoining rooms

Rick and Linda Seime had been comfortable with the look and workings of their kitchen for almost 14 years. It featured a center island, white appliances, maple wood cabinetry, yellow-hued walls and a nook dominated by a hefty table and chairs.

Over the years, they had grown accustomed to a narrow space around the island and close clearance for the automatic dishwasher. They got used to the limited counter space next to the cooking range. They were content to maneuver chairs around the table in the dining nook, a family gathering spot. Those inconveniences now are gone. A two-month remodeling project transformed their dated kitchen area and gave it modern appeal. 


Trio of Designs

At a friend’s suggestion, the couple placed their remodeling in the hands of professional designer Donna Brumm, of Donna Brumm Kitchens & Interiors in Stacyville, Iowa. When they met to explore designs, Linda brought out pictures of a cousin’s home in Norway as one starting place. She was envisioning modern comfort with Scandinavian touches.

“They requested a simple, minimalist style,” says Brumm. She came back with three designs for the couple to consider. “I typically present three layout options,” Brumm says. “We can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each and talk through how they use their kitchen and what will work best for their lifestyle.” It also narrows the field for the homeowners. They pick among a few well-thought-out concepts rather than a jumble of possibilities.

Two designs were more modest changes, keeping much of the past layout. “We chose the one that was totally different,” Linda says.  

Removing and Remodeling

The project involved more than a facelift. Crews working with Dave Reynolds Design and Construction of Rochester gutted the kitchen and adjacent laundry to bring Brumm’s designs to life. Both firms worked together as the project developed.

Because of the work, the homeowners lived in the finished, lower level of their townhouse for two months. Rick, a retired Mayo Clinic psychologist, chuckles about spending the summer of 2013 downstairs. “Urban camping!” he jokes.

Among other changes, a new, gas-fired range with a stylish exhaust hood was installed on one wall. It is among the new, stainless steel appliances added during remodeling. The center island disappeared, giving way to a peninsula countertop. Sparkling over the counter are two large pendant lights with shades of clear, “seeded” glass. “By changing to a peninsula, we maintained counter space but opened up the work triangle so cooking…is easier,” Brumm says.  

One important ingredient also was underfoot. The kitchen floor is a light-colored, maple wood instead of porcelain tile found elsewhere. The wood is a softer, more comfortable surface to stand on than tile, says Linda.

The couple installed their main dining space to function without chairs. The dining nook, where they spend much of their time, features wood bench seating extending out from the walls. “The bench has been wonderful,” Rick says. “It’s very comfortable.” The table in the nook also is comparatively narrow (36 inches) but can extend to 109 inches, or more than 9 feet.

In the Seime remodeling, grey was the visual glue for the decor. “[Rick and Linda] wanted to incorporate some of the greys that are popular but not have the space seem cold or sterile,” Brumm says. A bold grey in the walls blends with grey-green backsplash and a lighter shade in the peninsula’s countertop. It works as a vivid backdrop for stainless steel appliances and contrasts a bit with the tones of cabinetry.

Beyond the Kitchen

At one point before construction began, “We were only going to do the kitchen,” Linda says. Nonetheless, the project spread into the adjoining rooms on the main floor. The Seimes added five overhead lights to illuminate their baby grand piano just off the foyer, where Linda teaches private piano lessons.

The project also raised a fireplace several feet off the floor. That feature became a showpiece, surrounded by striped, grey tiles. The remodeling also resulted in new carpet throughout most of the main level. In addition, it refinished the ceilings, scraping away the popcorn texture and replacing it with a smoother, and more appealing “knockdown” surface, Rick says. 

Bob Freund is a freelance writer based in Rochester.