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Your Home: Kitchens & Baths

Finding the sweet spot

A Lexington family’s dream kitchen comes to life with a move to a sunnier part of the house.

Chandeliers provide a subtle clue to the kitchen’s original purpose: dining room. Now the sunny space sees constant use.

Greg Premru

Chandeliers provide a subtle clue to the kitchen’s original purpose: dining room. Now the sunny space sees constant use.

Sometimes a name is just a name. That’s the philosophy of Waltham-based designer Jess Goble, who doesn’t hesitate to reassign rooms depending on clients’ needs. “You have to look at a space without getting caught up in what it’s called,” she says. “There’s no reason to confine yourself.”

It was this out-of-the-box thinking that led Tina and Bart Graf to hire Goble to re-imagine the back section of their Lexington Colonial. That they would redo their kitchen was a given when they purchased the house in 2010. Built in 1922, the home was expansive, save for the dark, low-ceilinged galley kitchen plopped dead center.

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With three young children, the Grafs’ life centered on the kitchen, so a more family-friendly environment was important. Goble quickly saw what the kitchen needed — a new location. She advised the couple to turn the dining room into the kitchen. It made perfect sense, given that Tina loved the sunlight there and, as Goble had pointed out, there were two other rooms that could be converted to a dining space (in the end, the old formal living room became the dining room). “Once we started thinking that way, we knew she was our designer,” says Tina.

Keeping the existing breakfast room, the Grafs also opted to preserve its French doors that open onto a patio. But they swapped a dated skylight for a gorgeous conservatory-style one, and underneath it added a semicircular banquette. A wall was removed to open up the breakfast room to the new kitchen. The original kitchen, which sat behind the new one, was gutted to become what Tina calls “the command center,” with desks for the kids, an office area for herself, and a walk-in pantry. The entire 820-square-foot space — kitchen, command center, and breakfast room — has everything the Grafs wished for, including perfect flow and plenty of sun.

Goble designed the kitchen around an existing bay window, to which she added a window seat, where the couple’s daughters eat their morning cereal. An eight-burner Wolf range is tucked into the corner on one side, along with a prep sink and new windows. “Jess insisted we not order the cabinetry until the place was gutted,” says Tina. “Thank goodness, because when I stood there, I realized we needed more windows.”

On the other end of the window seat, two full-size refrigerators stand side by side. Built with integrated cabinet doors, the setup resembles an armoire more than an appliance. Two cherry islands topped with calacatta gold marble dominate the center of the room, providing ample counter space and allowing for easy access to another set of French doors. The island by the range, which has a fireclay farmhouse sink, is where the food prep gets done. The other island accommodates seating for five. Tina loves being able to work at one island while kids or guests hang out at the other.

The finishing touch is a pair of glamorous crystal chandeliers, one of which had hung in the space when it was a dining room. Tina admits her husband was skeptical about how they would look in a kitchen, but he ultimately had faith. “Oh, my gosh,” she says of the renovation, “we get tons of compliments. Every morning when I come down, I still can’t believe I get to drink my coffee here.”

5 SMART IDEAS

Designer Jess Goble offers this advice for a room that really works.

1 | “Everyone wants a white kitchen,” says Goble. “But islands take a beating.” Finish the wood in a darker color for durability and contrast.

2 | If budget and space allow, install a fridge drawer dedicated to snacks. Tina Graf put one in the pantry so the kids could help themselves.

3 | Rerouting gas and water lines can be pricey, but weigh the cost against the results. For the Grafs, the move transformed the way they lived. Plus, their basement was unfinished, so relocating the lines wasn’t a huge issue.

4 | Think about reusing distinctive features. Goble incorporated a leaded-glass window that came out in construction into the new sliding barn door on the pantry.

5 | Locate dishes in drawers instead of upper cabinets so kids can reach them. That way, they can set the table and unload the dishwasher unassisted.

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