February 6, 2017
The views on the Chicago skyline are notorious for stunning architecture and the expansive lake. On the 34th floor of one of these high-rises, the sight of Lake Michigan was hidden behind too many walls. Designer Liz Reifschneider of Hinsdale, Ill.-based Normandy Remodeling stepped in to introduce this formerly cavernous kitchen to the outside.
“The goal was to open up the space to capture the amazing lake views and have that combined living/kitchen space that is so sought after today,” she said.
The only way to have that lake in view was to remove three walls in the kitchen. One of these walls originally blocked off the kitchen from the living space, so its removal produced a sought-after great room setting. While this accomplished the main goal of the redesign – an open space – the lack of walls created a new problem.
“Taking out a wall to open up the space means losing a wall on which to put appliances and/or cabinets,” said the designer. “This meant we had to put all of the tall storage on one remaining wall.”
Using AutoCAD technology to draw the layout to scale, the team redid the floor plan to take in the views and still include enough storage space. On the remaining wall in the kitchen, Reifschneider installed a 30-in. refrigerator and built a pantry next to it. All of the cabinetry there extends to the ceiling for optimum storage. To conserve space, freezer drawers and an undercounter wine refrigerator were placed in the island.
The design team also had to reroute some major mechanicals that were running through the kitchen. Since the outside panel on the integrated refrigerator extends higher than the appliance itself, there is room left for the water shut-off above. In the island, part of the original wall was kept partly to contain some of the switches and outlets and also as a client preference.
“The only place to put the cooktop was the island, but the client did not want to see all the ‘cooking mess,’” said Reifschneider. “So we left the original wall from the kitchen on two sides, a few inches higher than the countertop.”
Contrasting Light and Dark
Although the island was partially blocked off from the great room with the partial wall, the hood above has a unique glass canopy that opens up to the view of the lake. There is also a light fixture resembling a star burst over the dining table. With its transparent edges, the chandelier – which the client chose – reinforces the kitchen’s airiness.
The cabinetry is dark walnut with a smoke gray wash that complements the gray/blue lake below. Since the design team wanted to contrast the dark walnut, they chose white quartz countertops for their ease of maintenance and white subway tile for the backsplash.
The engineered floors were replaced with wide-plank walnut floors to echo the cabinetry. The team rented machinery to score the glued-down floors before scraping it up. These new floors were installed over plywood and cork and sanded on site with a custom gray/blue stain that sets the tone for the majority of finishes in this apartment.
“The impact that the open kitchen has on the space is impressive,” said the designer. “It unifies the whole living area and makes for wonderful casual entertaining and everyday family life.”
Making a Difference
Another space that originally did not suit the homeowners or the surroundings was the master bathroom. Not only was the shower too small, but the bathtub was also deemed unnecessary for these clients.
“Getting rid of the tub to allow for more storage and counter space made a tremendous difference,” said Reifschneider. “By building in more cabinetry space, we were able to maintain the storage at the vanity while adding a laundry hamper and towel storage. With no linen closet in the apartment, this was a smart addition.”
The cabinetry doors have a simple design and a modern appeal, and one large, walnut-framed mirror reflects the surrounding bath and makes it appear bigger. The vanity itself has the same warm tones as the walnut to contrast the crème walls and the white tile in the shower.
Covered in large-scale porcelain wall tiles and quartz for the bench and curb, the shower’s white palette continues the light look the designers wanted. The large wall tiles also have less grout, and the quartz requires no maintenance.
“There’s a lot of function packed into a small space,” said Reifschneider. “The challenge of coordinating all of these materials together is something I love to do, and making everything new is a designer’s dream.”
Designer: Liz Reifschneider, Normandy Remodeling
Photographer: Normandy Remodeling
Faucet: Newport Brass
Refrigerator Column: Sub-Zero
Cabinetry: Normandy Collection
Thermostatic Valve: Kallista
Wall Tile: Porcelanosa