Designer: Karen Sedwick
Written by Jon Shadel | Photos by Nick Garibo
The kitchen is the hub of a home. It's where our mornings begin and our workdays end. It's where we cook, eat and spend time with our families over dinner. But a kitchen is much more than just a place to prepare a meal; it's the social pulse of a household.
So, when it comes to entertaining, our kitchens set the stage for the party. That’s because—no matter the size of our homes — people always seem to congregate there during festive events. But not all kitchens are created equal, and a poorly designed space can make hosting any sized party a drag.
This was certainly the case with Anne and Steve Clemens. While they live in a happening neighborhood in Portland, the kitchen in their Ranch-style home was not conducive to entertaining. They wanted to have friends over for dinner parties and festive events, but the dated ‘50s kitchen was cramped and shut off from the rest of the house.
“There was so little to like about our kitchen,” Anne says, describing the dark cabinetry, tacky fruit wallpaper and asbestos-laden vinyl flooring that dominated the old design. “We just didn’t like to spend any time there,” she says. “We knew we wanted a clean and calm style, but we didn’t know what that would look like.”
While the Clemens invested in updating the rest of their home, they didn’t know where to start with the kitchen. They put the remodel off for over a decade. But one day they realized they couldn’t wait any longer. Karen Sedwick, an interior designer with design-build firm Square Deal Remodeling, helped them form an action plan.
Being a certified kitchen designer, Karen knows how to design spaces people want to spend time in (she is also a certified bathroom designer). “A lot of what we do at Square Deal is educating,” she says. “We aim to help homeowners visualize what is possible with great design.” Her process begins by digging to the root of the problem, collaborating with homeowners to discover what isn’t working for them. She then designs a space that suits their lifestyles.
For Karen, the key to a successful space isn’t any single style. It doesn’t matter if the home is traditional, modern or somewhere in between; a few key principles help make kitchens perfect for entertaining. The Clemens’ kitchen is a great example.
First, Karen reimagined the space so that it feels open and inviting. She had the Square Deal crew carefully remove walls that previously made the rooms seem small and detached. The remodeled kitchen now feels bright and open, naturally flowing into the dining room and an adjacent family room. The spaces no longer feel disjointed, and guests in all parts of the home now feel like they’re a part of the same social gathering.
Next, Karen helped the Clemens determine the features that would make entertaining a cinch. She started by asking questions about the types of events they host: Dinner parties, holiday gatherings and family meals with their college-aged sons topped the list. With this in mind, Karen designed a space that makes preparing food easy: The large stovetop gives the kitchen a commercial flair. A sleek wine cooler in the island keeps drinks chilled. And the prep sink makes the island the perfect spot to ready beverages and appetizers.
Karen utilized awkward spaces to creatively respond to the movement of guests and make serving food easier. She reconfigured the staircase to the garage to deemphasize it within the space, which then allowed for a buffet between the kitchen and dining room. This keeps the meal conveniently located between the prep and serving areas while also giving the Clemens additional storage space.
Finally, details make the Clemens’ kitchen truly shine — both literally and figuratively. For one, the Square Deal crew raised a portion of the kitchen’s ceiling and added skylights. Certainly no easy task, but the result is much-need- ed natural light and an expanded sense of spaciousness. And in other areas of the kitchen, Karen left little traces of her fingerprints. “Tile is my specialty,” she says, explaining how the tiled backsplash give a subtle charisma to the space. “I love geeking out on tile. It’s with details like this that a kitchen really comes to life.”
The Clemens’ kitchen transformation shows the impact a great kitchen design can have on the social life of a household, and that’s all thanks to Karen’s vision and Square Deal’s expert design-build crew. “Before, in our old kitchen, we never really liked to have friends over,” Anne says, “but now we do more entertaining than ever since we’re happy with the space. This truly is a kitchen designed for entertaining,”