Dramatic makeover blends beauty and function
It’s a true cook’s kitchen: sleek, functional, full of light and lounge-worthy.
Designed by Houston architect Michael Morrow, with active participation by owners Darrell and Susan John, the 55-foot by 18-foot kitchen has a baking center, a beverage center, a separate cooking area and plenty of space for family and friends.
“We both love to cook and entertain and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, even when it’s only the two of us,” said Darrell John, who owns a video production company and is a professional musician.
That was true even before the renovation, which doubled the size of the kitchen, added a mudroom, a vaulted ceiling and French doors to access the backyard.
It was 1990 when the couple bought the two-story house on Denver Drive, a quiet street only blocks from the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston. At the time it was painted Pepto-Bismol pink.
“It’s a wonderful house, built in 1939, with many beautiful architectural details, but it was badly in need of an update,” said Susan John, the chair of the Department of Radiology at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston.
For the two culinarians, the weakest link was the kitchen: It was too small with a low, industrial paneled ceiling and fluorescent lights.
They knew they wanted to change it, but a major renovation seemed like too much of an undertaking. They had busy lives, children at home and active careers. So, they kept putting it off.
After more than 20 years of thinking about it, with their sons grown and on their own, the Johns decided it was time. They knew what they wanted: highly functional, understated but not plain.
“I must have spent 1,000 hours on Houzz.com,” Susan John said.
She created idea books and the couple shopped for appliances they wanted, including a built-in steamer, which they happened to notice at the Wolf Showroom in Houston.
They hired a contractor to sketch out a plan and an interior designer to offer additional insight.
“It had been a long wait and we wanted the kitchen to be exactly right,” Darrell John said.
After considering the ideas before them, they weren’t satisfied with the overall plan. That’s when a friend recommended they talk with Michael Morrow, an architect with his own Houston firm, Kinneymorrow.
It turned out to be just the right pairing.
“Michael got us,” Darrell John said. “He could tell who we were and what we wanted, and he showed us how to get there.”
Last year, after two years of intense planning and construction — yes, walls had to come down — the kitchen was finished.
And what a difference it made.
The new space stretches the length of the house, north to south, with eight windows and five entries, including two archways and French doors. Despite the change in the footprint of the house, it has an easy flow from adjacent rooms.
This is not an accident.
Darrell John was seeking feng shui, a Chinese art of spatial arrangement meant to govern the flow of energy.
He wanted plenty of space around the islands and doors and no jutting cabinets to bump into.
“He was the space tyrant,” Susan John said.
Wilson Construction in Galveston was the contractor.
The baking center anchors the north side of the kitchen with an island topped in Carrara marble and a pop-up shelf for a stand mixer.
The southern end features a lounge area with a vaulted ceiling and windows overlooking the backyard.
In the center, a Wolf cooktop with a grill is built into an island topped with black soapstone and trimmed with an 18-inch slab of live edge pecan wood, which also tops the beverage center.
Paired with the black soapstone counters, the off-white cabinets have a clean, contemporary feel. A backsplash of elegant Carrara marble ties the elements together.
The floor plan is full of quiet touches that make it livable: There’s a nook for their dog’s food and water bowls and a slender pantry that makes it easy to find what you need.
A contemporary painting, “Naturis-Australian Bush,” is by Marion Parker.
The floor is a light oak, which echoes the tone of parquet floors in the adjacent dining room. Neutral paint colors — off-white and gray — help to bridge the transition between the eclectic, contemporary kitchen and the more traditional house.
The lighting fixtures, including an industrial chandelier and rustic pendants, are from Restoration Hardware in Houston.
“Designing and selecting the materials, appliances and colors was really fun, even though the construction was long and difficult,” Susan John said.
The low point was telling their son that his former upstairs bedroom and balcony was radically changing to accommodate the kitchen’s vaulted ceiling.
“Preparing meals without a real kitchen is a struggle — we had a lot of pizza and microwave meals,” she said.
Memories of the time-consuming renovation are slowly fading.
“It’s not only a different kitchen, it’s a different house, a new house, and it’s just right,” Darrell John said.