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Create a Country Kitchen | Fall 2003 Out Here Magazine

By Hannah Wolfson


Consider these tips for creating your own country kitchen:

  • Start at the library or bookstore, where you can scan design books and magazines for ideas. Collect the ones that appeal to you — perhaps you like a floor in one, or a cabinet in another.

  • Choose your priorities. Is a second sink essential? Or a separate baking area? If you make a list early, it's easier to decide what can go if you're over budget.

  • Think about reusing what you already have. A coat of paint can revive tired old kitchen cabinets for very little money, and can be distressed to look rustic. Cabinets can be refaced for less than replacement. Even simply adding new hardware can provide a fresh look.

  • Work with a professional, if possible. Designers know all the shortcuts, and actually can save you money by showing you how to get the look you want for less. Just be sure you're clear on what you want before you meet with a pro.

We all have our own image of an ideal country kitchen: the family gathered around a big farmhouse table, the smell of cookies baking, perhaps a blazing fire. It's easy to recreate that cozy feel — but with all the modern conveniences.

Today's country kitchen is all about bringing the family together, says Cynthia Clark, a project manager with Schwerdt Design Group in Topeka, Kansas. More and more people are making the kitchen and its adjoining spaces their home's centerpiece.

"People have always been drawn to the kitchen," she says, remembering her aunt's crowded kitchen out on the farm. "That's the epitome of the country kitchen — everybody's got a piece of it.


Today's country kitchen is bigger than ever; indeed, most clients add on to their homes for more kitchen space, Clark says.
A popular feature is multiple countertops, with room for everyone to pitch in. That way, Mom can make biscuits at a separate baking station while Dad cooks steaks and Junior works on a salad.

The farmhouse table has been replaced by an oversized kitchen island with room for cooking preparation, cleanup, and casual eating. That's in addition to an adjacent breakfast room that can seat six or more and serves as the daily dinner table as well.

And the kitchen doesn't stop there. Many are adding a "hearth room," a small sitting area often centered around a cozy fireplace. Introduced about a decade ago, the hearth room provides a comfortable spot to flip through cookbooks, sew, read while something's on the stove, or just enjoy a cup of coffee.

Make it a little larger and it becomes a family room with a computer and television, so the cook isn't left out of the evening's activities. Some clients even are forgoing a formal dining room to create a larger kitchen complex, says architect Bob Jones, who also works at Schwerdt Design Group.

"A stand-alone kitchen by itself is a very rare thing right now," he says. "It's often hard to see where the kitchen, living room, dining room, or breakfast room start and the next ends."

That can include an old-fashioned, walk-in pantry with plenty of space for summer canning or a 24-pack of paper towels. And clients are reviving the mud room, creating an entry space with cupboards and hooks.

There's also a greater connection with the world outside. Rather than a tiny view over the sink, cathedral ceilings, oversized windows, and even skylights flood the kitchen with natural light to give an outdoorsy feel.


Nature is the buzzword when it comes to cabinets, counters, and flooring as well.

Vinyl floors — and daily scrubbings — are long gone, Clark says. They're being replaced with natural stone or tile, often in larger-sized squares that may measure 16 inches across. And while glossy wood floors were popular about a decade ago, today's homeowners are switching to realistic looking, but synthetic, wood laminates.

Wood still is the standard for cabinetry in a country kitchen, but options exist beyond the usual oak. Alder, a hard wood, can be cut to look like rustic pine but stands the test of time, while crackle paint or layers of warm glaze can make new cabinets look antique. Counters of granite or stone-look laminate are the most popular choices.

Cabinets may look old-fashioned, but they often hide an ultra-modern kitchen. Clients these days are going for top-notch appliances and either covering them with wood panels to match the cabinetry or choosing stainless steel for a rustic, utilitarian look, Clark says.

Just remember that coziness is what it's all about. Because with a little planning, your country kitchen can become the heart of your house.
In a new trend, they're doubling up on appliances. A full-sized sink may be supplemented with a smaller prep sink on the kitchen island to make cleaning vegetables or filling water glasses a breeze. A separate warming oven keeps dinner hot when folks are out late in the fields or kids are off at practice.

An extra, under-the-counter refrigerator keeps snacks or essentials right at hand, and some clients are even adding a second dishwasher to help clean up after parties.


Once you've got the basics down, it's time for the creative details that make a country kitchen feel really cozy.
Today, inspiration comes from other rooms in the house as cabinets take on the style of real furniture. A kitchen island may have ball-and-claw feet or a stove hood can be made of stone to look like an old-fashioned hearth.

Even cabinet knobs and hinges made of pewter or wrought iron can mimic the look of traditional furniture. An open cupboard might have a built-in plate rack for everyday china, while bookshelves can be incorporated in an island to show off a collection of cookbooks, family photos, or children's art projects.

Just remember that coziness is what it's all about. Because with a little planning, your country kitchen can become the heart of your house.

Hannah Wolfson lives and works in Birmingham, Ala.