Today I have a fun project reveal with before and after photos and floor plans to share with you. I was brought in on this first floor remodel in early 2018 by Des Moines remodeling contractor and home builder Dave Adickes of MCC Focused Building. The clients had moved into the home several years earlier and spent their initial efforts on updating the exterior. For their next major project, they wanted to remodel their very cramped and outdated kitchen and give their fireplace wall a makeover.
I start every project by getting to know my clients and understanding how they live so we can determine the priorities for the project together. This house is located on a stunning rural property in Grimes, Iowa, which is a northwest suburb of Des Moines. The clients are avid animal lovers and have dogs, horses, a saucy cat, and even a miniature donkey. I am a huge pushover for clients with pets, so I knew that this was going to be a great project right from the start. They love to cook, bake, and are members of a gourmet supper club that they host on a rotating basis. Aesthetically, the husband preferred a more rustic look while the wife likes clean lines and more transitional or even contemporary pieces. They have a wonderful original art collection.
Priority #1 – Create a well-organized cook’s kitchen with ample countertop space for prep and baking and incporate a beverage fridge for wine storage.
Priority #2 – Open up the first floor as much as possible to maximize natural light and views to the exterior.
Priority #3 – Create dining space for up to twelve.
Priority #4 – Incorporate rustic elements without going overboard on the farmhouse trend.
Priority #5 – Repurpose the unused formal living room.
Priority #6 – Redesign the laundry room and mudroom to create more hanging storage and a bench.
Priority #7 – Update the outdated powder bath.
So you can see we had a lot to accomplish in this one project. In addition, we decided to take on the stairway to the second floor while we had everything torn up.
Before Plan & Photos
This plan shows our starting point for the remodel, and the before photos will help make more sense of how dark and cramped the kitchen and dining area felt. When you enter the house from the front door, you walk right into the stairway and can see through the hall to the family room and kitchen.
A formal living room is on the left, and the dining room is on the right. The powder room and laundry room are accessible through the kitchen (or the garage) at the back of the house.
The shot above is looking into the kitchen from the family room. There was definitely a lot of wasted space on that wall with the refrigerator.
I’m standing in the same spot here but looking back towards the powder room and laundry room. On the floor plan, you can see how congested that area is with three doors all in the same spot with the pantry, powder room, and door from the garage.
This photo is looking into the kitchen towards the dining room at the front of the house. On the right, you can see the door under the stairway that leads to the basement. The wall cabinets were much too short for the almost 9′ ceilings, and the layout was completely dysfunctional.
Dining Room Before
The photo above is looking into the dining room from the kitchen, and in the photo below, I’m standing in the entryway looking at the kitchen. You can see the funny angled tray ceiling in both photos.
Family Room Fireplace Before
I would say that the fireplace in the family room was the design element most out of sync with how the clients wanted their home to feel. They wanted to keep the built-in cabinets along with the angled TV (really no other place to put it) but inject more rustic character into the design.
Formal Living Room & Entry Before
The finishes throughout the house, like the white tile in the entry and kitchen and the honey oak stairs, were dated and needed updating.
Here I was standing just inside the dining room looking through the entryway into the formal living room, and below, I was standing in the family room and looking into the formal living room. My clients rarely used their formal living room, and it was a gathering spot for furniture they had no other place to put. It felt cramped, dark, and purposeless.
Another view looking towards the family room…
Powder Bath Before
The powder bath presented a challenge because it serves as a passthrough from the mudroom, but it was lower on our priority list. We planned to give it a small facelift.
Floor Plan Ideas
When clients hire me for major remodels like this one, or even for bathroom remodels, I explain that I’ll generate as many options for the floor plan as possible. Sometimes I can come up with four, and sometimes there’s only one good option. For this project, I presented two options to the client that I felt addressed the majority of their priorities in the best way possible.
In both versions of the proposed floor plan, I removed the wall between the family room and kitchen and opened up the wall between the entryway and dining room to improve the circulation, sight lines, and light throughout the right (North) side of the house.
I also assumed we would need some sort of beam for structural support where we removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, but at this point, I had no idea how large it would need to be.
In both plans, I turned the formal living room into an entertaining space by adding a built-in dry bar along the shared wall with the stairway rather than force the desired beverage fridge into the kitchen.
Option 1 shows a small dining nook with a bistro table at the end of the long peninsula/island and turned the dining table. The other end of the island incorporated storage for dog food and the dog food and water bowls. I also removed the drywall pantry in favor of built-in cabinetry.
In Option 2, I created a built-in bench for the dining table with the idea that more people could squeeze in along the continuous seating surface if necessary. I adjusted the end of the island to accommodate a fourth stool and kept the fridge in its original location.
The powder room stayed pretty much the same, and I designed a set of lockers with a bench in the laundry room, closed the existing door on the North side, and added a new door to the garage at the clients’ request.
Construction Issues and Final Floor Plan
I presented those two plans to my clients over Skype since I was still on maternity leave and incorporated their feedback into the final working version. I say it’s a working version at this point because there were a lot of variables we didn’t yet understand like the beam and locations of plumbing and ducts in the walls we were planning to remove.
We met with Dave on site to discuss logistics and structural issues of which there were several. First, we couldn’t remove the short wall to the left of the refrigerator, which affected the cabinet layout. Second, we discovered a pipe in the North wall very close to the wall we removed to open up the dining room to the kitchen. These were frustrating but not insurmountable obstacles, and I was pretty confident we’d find a good solution that didn’t compromise the design.
After demo, we had a long meeting on site with Dave, the electricians, HVAC guys, and Waukee CabinetWorks to figure out how to solve these layout issues. Together we brainstormed several possible solutions and ended up with this final plan. I love this kind of teamwork during the construction process because the end result is so much better than if one person rams through his/her own vision.
This final floor plan…
Here’s the kitchen all opened up during demo…
Once we worked through all of the mechanical and structural issues on site, we were able to finalize the cabinetry plan. Again, this was a team effort with myself and Waukee Cabinetworks. Because of the pipe in our range wall, we had to create a soffit on the range wall, which is never ideal. We also had to figure out a creative way to hide the pipe in the cabinets. Definitely a huge challenge!
The moral of this story is that there are almost always issues that pop up during construction no one can foresee, but a combination of creativity, time, and money can usually win the day.
Enlarged Kitchen Plans
We had so many restraints on our space plan, and we were still able to create a 9’6″ long island with seating for four and tons of storage. My favorite part of the design is actually the pantry cabinet shown in yellow. There are actually two tall cabinets, one is only 12″ deep and faces out towards the room. The other is 24″ deep and faces the garage. The deeper cabinet has a shelf that hides the microwave and pull-out drawers. Waukee CabinetWorks trimmed out these cabinets so they look like one piece.
This elevation of the range wall shows how we ended up accommodating the pipe with a soffit trimmed out with crown molding to look like part of the cabinetry.
Kitchen Before & After
Now for the fun part – before and after photos! Looking towards the powder room before…
Here’s a closer view of the corner with the new pantry cabinet. It takes up less room than the old pantry and is so much more efficient!
The refrigerator is in the same spot but everything else has moved. This photo clearly shows how we used the soffit to unify the cabinetry on this elevation while hiding the plumbing. The wall cabinet on the right is actually shallow to conceal the plumbing stack as is the drawer bank below it.
The whole house feels so much more open, light, bright and welcoming once we removed the walls between the dining room and kitchen and kitchen and living room.
Dining Before & After
The dining room before…
And after (looking in from the entryway)…
We added a trestle style table and long dining bench so they could squeeze as many people in as possible. The bench is also now a favorite spot for the homeowner to work from home.
Entry Before & After
Looking into the entry from the dining room before…
Installing one type of flooring throughout most of the first level played a huge role in improving the visual flow. This hand-scraped dark hickory is just stunning.
Here’s a detail shot of the stairs. We stained the new handrail, treads, and risers to match the floor.
Formal Living Room Before and After
The formal living room before…
The new wine bar is perfect for storing liquor, wine, and all of their glassware. When they’re hosting, they can easily put everything out on the soapstone counters and guests can help themselves.
Fireplace Before & After
This was the fireplace before…
We completely transformed the fireplace with stacked stone, a new gas insert, limestone hearth, and a reclaimed wood-look mantel accented with iron straps. The painter finished the beam in the kitchen to match the mantel, which helps to tie the two rooms together.
Powder Room Before & After
We gave the powder room a little face lift that made a huge impact. Here’s what it looked like before…
This was a simple update in that everything stayed in the same spot. We installed a new vanity to match the kitchen with coordinating soapstone countertops, new ceramic tile, lighting, and accessories.
So that wraps up this little tour of my recent Grimes remodel. I hope you enjoyed it. Which area do you think underwent the most dramatic transformation?