Fancy countertops, nice cabinetry and the latest, greatest appliances would be nice. But that wasn’t top on the list for Sally and Steve Killgore’s dream kitchen. They wanted space for their five grown children and nine grandchildren to come together for holidays, special occasions and spontaneous cuttings of the rug.
“When we get together, we usually end up dancing in the kitchen,” Sally says.
Their 1977 five-bedroom ranch in Eugene had plenty of square footage for the couple, but the layout wasn’t conducive to their ever-growing gatherings. Sally wouldn’t even consider moving.
“I moved 27 times in my first 26 years and never want to move again,” she says. “My father was a restless soul.”
The Killgores met with a design team from Neil Kelly to talk in general terms about remodeling the kitchen, but they intended to wait until after their youngest daughter’s backyard wedding reception. When they came back to the drawing board about five months later, their needs had changed. Sally’s mother, Shirley Brown, had moved in with them. Now, in addition to the kitchen remodel, they were considering how to accommodate three adults living under one roof. They needed to rethink the entire space.
“We go through a process,” says designer Matt White of Neil Kelly in Eugene. “Our job is to find out what the clients’ preferences are, what their hot points are.”
The design team came up with several rough sketches of possible solutions.
“It was hard to visualize the space,” says Sally. But when she and Steve looked through the sketches, they both immediately knew they had found the one.
The plan they chose called for creating a large open kitchen/dining/family room, giving their mother their master bedroom and building a new wing to serve as the couple’s suite retreat.
“The existing kitchen functioned but was cut off from the rest of the house,” says White.
They removed a kitchen wall, as well as the walls of a small bedroom and office, to create a single large room. The kitchen didn’t move but now faces a family room and looks out to a covered patio with barbecue, sink and television. A transparent polycarbonate roof filters out harsh sunlight in the summer and provides shelter from the rain. A double-sided heat-generating gas log fireplace is the focal point of both the indoor room and outdoor room. Built-in shelves give the impression that the fireplace has been there since the house was first built. And that’s just what Sally wanted.
“I don’t have a modern bone in my body,” she told the design team in an early meeting.
“That phrase always came to mind as we were working,” says White. “We wanted it to feel updated and new, but it also needed to feel like it could have been there all along.”
“I’m very traditional,” Sally says. “I knew that I didn’t want that sleek look. I wanted it homey. I wanted people to come in and feel like they were home.”
Sally first questioned the Neil Kelly suggestion to use a mix of materials in the kitchen cabinetry and countertops. She worried the result would look like a hodgepodge. Ultimately, she put her trust in their design experience and is pleased with the results. The main countertop is a light-color engineered stone atop dark cherry cabinets. The island is made of maple wood painted a rich sage green with a durable dark-granite surface surrounding the cooktop.
“We like to vary the materials,” says White. “It makes each material a little more special.”
Both solid and glass front doors were used on the upper cabinets. The backsplash is a travertine, similar in color to the engineered countertop, with small glass leaf-tile accents adding a dash of color. The idea, says White, was to create a space “that fits well together and doesn’t look like every other kitchen out there.” He likens the eclectic mix of materials in the kitchen to furniture in other rooms of the house.
“When you buy furniture for your living room, you don’t buy all the same thing,” he says. “You buy things that go together, that coordinate, but aren’t identical.”
At the far end of the great room is a small wine cellar claimed from part of the garage. That helps create a transition space to the master-suite addition. A previous addition had turned the classic ranch into an L-shape, and the new master suite makes almost a C-shape courtyard for the outdoor room. The mix helps create the feel of a comfortable evolution.
“The last thing I want is for people to look at a project and say, ‘Oh, that was done 10 years ago,’” says White.
The house worked for the Killgores when their children were young, and now it works again for their changing family.
“Some people put in a nice kitchen and never use it,” says White. “It’s a lot more fun to design for people who really use it as the family hub of the home.”
It’s where four generations gather for good food, familiar conversation and, yes, dancing to their favorite tunes.