Adding light to a dark kitchen turns it into a friendly space

Lorraine and Kurt have experienced a lot of firsts lately, including buying their first house and having their first baby. They’ve been absorbed in the joys of parenthood, and Lorraine has even started a weekly playgroup in their new digs for neighborhood moms and tots. The problem was the kitchen, in which the get- togethers were held — a dark, dated room that had yet to be renovated. While big on space, the kitchen was definitely small on style and functionality.

So I gathered up my crew and got set to design a fabulous country-style kitchen with big city amenities and make it a practical space for Kurt, Lorraine and all manner of mamas and babes.

I decided to gut the entire kitchen, so everything was removed — cabinetry, furniture, countertops and floors. Then, spying my trusty sledgehammer, I decided to knock down a few walls to properly "connect" the kitchen to the rest of the house. On one side of the kitchen was a small mudroom, which I blew wide open. I added a door that leads out to the backyard, in addition to a wall of low-heat windows, flanked with tea-stained floral roman blinds.

On the other side of the kitchen was the living room, so I tore down part of the wall connecting the adjoining rooms to create a chic pass-through area. All of these renovations helped to open the main floor and allow natural light to flood through the entire space.

Once the sledgehammer was worn out, I started on the rest of the space.

I painted the walls in two delicious shades: butter cream and warm taupe.

I used the same color scheme for the floor tiles and for the traditional cabinetry used around the room.

I then got serious about organizing the place. I divided the kitchen into three separate areas: a sunlit breakfast nook with banquette seating, a peninsula island with a sink, and a small office area.

In the new nook area, I installed a banquette done up in a bright aqua faux suede for easy cleaning, with red and floral pillows for color. I added a few new chairs and a small table, and the area is now perfect for cups of tea and weary mothers.

I then created a kitchen island in the middle of the space, complete with somewhat unusual — but hip — poured concrete countertops. I also installed a new sink and put in three stools for extra seating. On the walls around the island, I arranged the most gorgeous, state-of-the-art appliances, including a stainless-steel fridge, microwave and dishwasher. I also installed a cook top with a tin backsplash, which has a rustic edge to help balance out the urban countertops.

Lastly, I created a small office area with a desk to control Lorraine and Kurt’s work clutter and chaos.

While the kitchen now had lots of natural light from the new wall of windows, it still needed some brightening, so I put up some recessed lighting and antique-style light fixtures.

After a few added dashes of accents and flavors, this kitchen was mouthwatering. It took a lot of ripping out, renovating and replacing, but the space is now ready for baking cookies, family dinners — and a few dozen moms and tots. Now that’s divine!

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s "Divine Design." For more ideas, information and show times, visit or