Room to Gather

Maureen and Terry DeBruyn overhaul their kitchen, bringing it up to date to suit their lifestyle and festive gatherings.

Holidays are a loud, hectic affair at the home of Terry and Maureen DeBruyn. Before scattering with plates of turkey and stuffing served up buffet-style, tradition is that their four kids and eight grandkids stop what they’re doing, hold hands around the kitchen island and say a blessing.

With such a big, active family, those precious, peaceful moments of connection are one of Maureen’s favorite things—and they’re what inspired a full overhaul of the kitchen earlier this year. A retired florist, avid cook, artist and die-hard entertainer, she spent last year’s post-holiday-season months dreaming of a space that would bring her functional but dated kitchen into the current decade aesthetically, while accommodating a growing family with ease. It would be clean and airy, bright and energetic, with a color palette subdued enough to showcase her seasonal, artsy color and décor whims. It would say “traditional farmhouse” without coming across antiquey.

“We’re constantly entertaining!” Maureen says. It’s the very reason the couple had previously steered away from nice finishes. “We didn’t have wood floors—too many kids, dogs and buckets of water going through our kitchen for that.”

Now the goal would still be durable finishes, but a touch more modern and high-quality than the 25-year-old vinyl and worn-out appliances that filled the space before. With a country-classy dream kitchen in mind, Maureen called in Troy and Jim Dahlheimer to demo the space, fill a dumpster and take care of general site maintenance and labor. She sourced 8-inch-wide hickory plank wood flooring from New Hampshire-based Carlisle Hardwood. Just days after perusing their website and inquiring, 12 color samples arrived by mail. The chosen thick, engineered product is pure wood and rustic-looking, but can withstand the drastic temperature and humidity swings that tend to come with Minnesota seasons.
Because of the thick size of the planks, warping is a concern, so “acclimating the boards to the temperature and humidity is key,” says installer Perry Siltala of Cokato-based Innovative Hardwood. “It has to be very carefully watched until it goes in place.” These days, his work often goes beyond sourcing and acclimating the perfect varieties of wood to airbrushing, hand-scraping or wire-brushing them to give patina or a wind-blown, beachy look. But seeing the end result of a happy homeowner? That’s what it’s all about, says Siltala, who’s not fazed by the sometimes-putzy process that brings great floors to life.

“I love getting up in the morning and walking on it. It’s just so cool on my feet, and it has a great textural experience to it,” Maureen says. From there, the specifically-chosen whites of the sink, tile, counter, cabinets and paints work together and capitalize on the eastern exposure of the room. The morning sun bounces off like-colored surfaces and fills the space with energy and light. A massive center island—painted Benjamin Moore’s “Spanish Green”—is topped with warmly stained, hand-picked, 2-inch quarter-sawn, oak boards from Youngblood lumber. Huge amounts of storage space are incorporated into the island, giving Maureen ample space for the 11 sets of dishes, accessories and serving pieces she’s accumulated over time.

“My job was really quite easy,” insists Dave Reding of Dave Reding Custom Woodworking. “Maureen is an artist and had detailed concepts in her mind. She knew exactly the shades she wanted … and it all worked really well together.”

Reding installed soft-close cabinets with undermount drawer slides and dovetailed connection points. “I don’t put anything into a kitchen that I wouldn’t put in my own,” he says.

The counter is Cambria, a solid-surface quartz product that looks like Carrara marble. Horus Art Tile in “Crystalli Bianca,” purchased at and installed by local master tiler Doug Larson, replaced a fruit motif. The sink is a Kohler undermount Whitehaven farm sink in “Seasalt.” Hardware, by comparison, looks distressed and aged, with a hint of brass. Twin City Hardware sourced the antique-looking bridge faucet by Brizo.

Jim Berger, an appliance specialist at Warners’ Stellian, worked with the DeBruyns to select appliances that fit the space in terms of looks and functionality. A panel-ready fridge blends in with woodwork, and an extra oven and Steam Ready microwave give extra cooking capacity for family gatherings.

“We start with what’s most important to the clients. Do they like to cook? Entertain? For the DeBruyns, that was key,” Berger says. “And then we talk about finding a brand with a good reputation that fits their price range.” The DeBruyns chose KitchenAid.

The hood was essential to boosting the kitchen’s cooking capabilities while also providing an architectural accent against the clean lines and woods. The kitchen’s old down-draft range hood “sucked so much heat you couldn’t cook your food,” Maureen says. “And if you turned it off, the smoke detector would go off.”

An air duct was moved to accommodate a new hood that moves heat “up and out.” A bulky built-in desk—a staple of early-’90s homes Maureen says just served to accumulate junk—and counter seating replaced with under-cabinet lighting, dimmers and hidden speakers give more flexibility to the space’s flow and moods. “It all really helps us create an atmosphere for entertaining,” Maureen says.

On top of the solid basics, copper accents and schoolhouse pendants give a jewelry-like affect. And when Maureen, an artist, couldn’t find the perfect piece of artwork, she simply picked up a brush and painted her own, based on a favorite floral arrangement. Corals and greens pop against the mostly-neutral background, and the effect is mesmerizing.

“It’s so happy and relaxed, warm and inviting,” Maureen says. “It was just six inches here and three inches there, but there’s just so much more room to move.”