By Emily Williams
Winds of change blew into Wende Grehalva’s Hoover home shortly after the new year.
From January through March of this year, Grehalva’s kitchen was being transformed from cramped quarters to an open space with plenty of room for family.
The kitchen, stuck in the 1980s, was renovated with help from AllSouth Appliances designer Lynn McWhorter.
“It’s really her kitchen, we just tweaked it a little bit,” Grehalva said.
The original kitchen was dominated by dark wooden cabinets and enclosed by walls that segmented the space from surrounding rooms.
The Grehalvas bought the house in 1997 and hadn’t done any major work beyond a bit of painting and maintenance. So, the renovation marked their biggest endeavor.
“The biggest issue I had was working counter space,” Grehalva said. “Another we really needed was a bigger oven. We still had the original oven and, back in the ‘80s, ovens were much smaller.”
With children and close family living in Birmingham, Grehalva said it was important to create a space where the family could gather for dinner and parties. The dining space and kitchen became increas- ingly cramped as her kid’s own families began to grow, so much so that there wasn’t enough space for everyone to sit in the same room for a meal.
“The laundry room was on the front of the house bordering the kitchen and dining room, which seemed cramped,” said McWhorter. “And the kitchen, well, it was like a cave with a low soffit-boxed ceiling at seven feet high around the entire room.”
McWhorter’s plan was to open up the space and create a lighter and brighter feel, with sight lines to the rest of the home.
Knocking Down Walls
The renovation began just days after the New Year’s holiday as gener- al contractor Reliable Remodeling began knocking down the wall that separated the kitchen from the front of the house and dining room. The laundry room was moved to a room between the back wall of the kitchen and the entryway to the garage.
“The kitchen needed a much light- er and brighter feel for conversation and sight lines to the rest of the house,” McWhorter said.
Grehalva describes the new look of the kitchen as clean and understat- ed in a way that complements the rest of the home’s interior.
The sweeping space, formerly bro- ken up into four separate areas with walls and cabinetry, is now furnished with white cabinetry and flooded with natural light from windows at the front of the home and a large bay window overlooking the backyard.
“White is ‘in’ and it is timeless,” said McWhorter. “Her Wellborn, Millbrook cabinets have a transition- al feel which update a traditional home without dating the remodel.”
For the countertops, Grehalva and McWhorter selected a granite in a light neutral with small touches of darker brown, which complement the hardwood throughout the main floor of the home.
A large rectangular island rests in the center of the room, providing extra counter space as well as coun- tertop seating. To help brighten the room further, McWhorter incorporat- ed silver pendant lighting fixtures from Baker Lamps over the island.
All of the major appliances have been placed along the back wall of the kitchen, including a new KitchenAid glass-top cooktop and a separate wall built into the cabinetry at eye level.
Because they were working with dated appliances for so long, Grehalva said considering new fea- tures available has been a learning experience, namely for the stovetop. One of the first times she used it, Grehalva admitted she hadn’t read through the manual and accidentally put the stovetop on lockdown.
“It was kind of traumatizing at first,” she said. “We accidentally set something on the edge of the stove where the controls are and it com- pletely shut off and all of these alarms started going off.”
The stovetop has a touch screen control panel instead of dials and includes safety features, such as automatic shut off features and a control lock that helps reduce acci- dents.
The low-maintenance chefs opted for a single KitchenAid oven that is much bigger than their old oven. For added convenience during family dinners and gatherings, a Sharp microwave drawer was installed in the kitchen’s island to help accom- modate multiple cooks in the kitch- en.
If she had known how smoothly the process would be, Grehalva said she would have done this years ago. She had been intimidated by all the decisions that would have to be made.
“I was really surprised by how easy it was,” she said.
The Grehalvas found that living without a kitchen for nearly three months was not much of an inconve- nience. When asked what she’d cook first in the finished kitchen, Grehalva did not have an answer. She found that she didn’t miss the act of cook- ing.
A bonus room on the second floor of the home served as a makeshift kitchen space for simple breakfasts and lunches during the renovation.
“We would eat out about five days a week and the rest of the days we would fend for ourselves or have dinner with family,” she said. “But eating dinner out really made it very simple.”
Once the project was completed, Grehalva found that she didn’t miss her time away from cooking; what she missed was gathering with fami- ly. And she wasted no time bringing her kids and relatives together for a meal.
The builders finished the kitchen on a Friday and that next Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Grehalva hosted a birthday party for her grandson. Though the home was filled, for the first time the kitchen didn’t feel cramped in the slightest.
“I couldn’t believe that amount of people we could fit in there, and it didn’t feel like anybody was working on top of you,” Grehalva said.
Inspired by the results of the kitchen transformation, the couple is moving on to their next project: the master bathroom. Rough plans have been drawn up, but Grehalva hopes to have a little more downtime before diving into another renova- tion. ❖