Dare to undo conventional layouts, and design a kitchen that works for you.
Kitchen Counter
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn / Leigh Anne Montgomery

Bruce and Scottie Lanier weren't the type to leave a kitchen addition up to chance. With two preschool-age kids and a newborn, they desperately needed a cooking space that not only worked for their busy schedules, but also looked fresh and inviting. Because their existing one was far too small and outdated, the Birmingham couple decided to extend the space and start from scratch.

Bruce, an architect, undertook the kitchen redesign himself. "We needed a place that not only suited our needs but also flowed with how we live," says Bruce. "Like most people, our amount of cooking and entertaining goes into overdrive during the holidays, making a user-friendly kitchen even more crucial."

Shed Some Light
High on their list was natural light, which meant windows―and lots of them. Instead of filling the kitchen's end and side walls with upper cabinetry, the couple installed a series of double-hung windows. "We love not having to flip on a light switch every time we enter the kitchen," Bruce explains. "Plus, being able to survey the backyard was key, particularly when the kids are playing."

To make up for the lack of upper cabinets, Bruce designed two floor-to-ceiling units, each one placed at the ends of the U-shaped countertop. Apart from serving as pantry and cookware storage, one of these towers holds the refrigerator.

Because their house was built in 1912, the Laniers incorporated many existing features into their home improvements. They matched the trim profiles of the original house and picked dark cabinetry that corresponds to the century-old millwork found throughout the dwelling. Even the upper sashes of the windows contain mullion patterns appropriate to their home's Craftsman origins.

Meeting in the Middle
Still more storage space can be found in the central island, which is composed of 21/4-inch-thick limestone slabs. The island also contains an ample farmhouse-style sink rather than the expected cooktop. "Our goal was to keep the kitchen as open as possible; hanging a vent hood in the middle of the room would have defeated this," Bruce explains.

The range and vent hood are centered between the banks of windows. When the area is awash with sunlight, waiting for water to boil is not such a hum­drum task. Translucent subway tiles with a crackled finish enhance this spot even further.

With eye-catching touches such as these, it's evident that the Laniers chose their own ideas for a must-have kitchen over the same old, same old. We're glad they did.