Kitchen renovation for Wit & Delight founder Kate Arends

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In the face of uncertainty, some people watch for a sign and wait. Kate Arends moves. Seeing markets falter at the start of the pandemic, she and her husband quickly closed the event office space they were renting for their St. Paul, Minnesota-based lifestyle brand. Spirit & Delight, and bought a new home for their family that could be used as a workspace. “It was on the market a long time,” Arends says of the 1956 hiker. “It was weird, weird, colorful… But they looked like our oddities, you know? Something we could live in. opened something in me.”

The kitchen, in particular, has charmed its new owners. Horizontal paneling done in beautiful 3/4 inch white oak and a large picture window were in good condition and had architectural significance, drawing inspiration from the previous owners’ travels. “It was almost Japanese when you were in there, with the low ceilings, clean lines and wood finish,” says Arends. Despite the dreary appliances of the ’90s (“I couldn’t cook a salmon all the way,” she recalls with a laugh), the family insisted on renovating this room for a full year, says Arends, “just to understand what this house needed or what we needed from this house.”

Kate Arends

“It got me through the pandemic and showed me a new side of what excited me as a creative.”

In the end, the couple decided to keep the original L-shaped floor plan with just one significant structural change: a bulky central island that extended to the ceiling was removed to improve circulation and allow for larger dining table around the corner. The relegated Arends kitchen has been relegated to one end of the space, overlooking the garden, and has invested in quality new appliances and all new cabinetry and countertops. The woodwork, however, remained in place.

“It brings so much warmth, especially in a Minnesota winter!” she says. “That was really the big design element we started with, this golden white oak.”

Before

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Kate Arends

interior

Kate Arends

While the rest of the house definitely has formality – think crown molding on high ceilings and more than one crystal chandelier – Arends has deliberately kept the kitchen casual. “I leaned into materials and colors that brought in this very clean, modern wood, which felt like a deliberate juxtaposition in a more traditional home,” she explains. A tumbled marble floor hides the scuff marks and seemed appropriate for a mid-century room, but the marble backsplash and countertop was a bigger decision. “I picked up the marble before I finished designing the kitchen,” laughs Arends, “and built the budget around that.”

interior
Located just around the corner from the kitchen, the dining area features a deep cabinet with pull-out drawers that functions as a pantry.

Kate Arends

Originally, Arends hoped to transform the space with a budget of $75,000. She was able to get discounts on various appliances in exchange for coverage with Wit & Delight, and opted for a brand new line of ready-made cabinets, Boxi by Semihandmade – in Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink – instead of custom millwork that would have cost a small fortune. “I was thinking about the story we were going to tell [on the blog,] and most people my age can’t afford custom cabinetry,” she says. “Sometimes on the internet you think, how the hell do people do that?

wooden kitchen with blue cabinets

Kate Arends

Ready-to-use cabinetry made room in the budget for a splurge or two: “For me, it was the touchable, tangible elements that I could feel every day, and that meant a big slab that was going to be a design element, and a stunning light fixture that was really the crown jewel of the space,” says Arends. She chose a sculptural, oversized felt pendant to hover above the dining table (which is actually built into the height of the cabinet, so that it can serve as an extended preparation space).

Everything went as planned…until they discovered the ground wasn’t level. “We made the decision to rip out more flooring, and then we had to create a new subfloor and pour it all in,” Arends recalls, bumping up their total costs by $20,000. “We were able to make it work, thanks to the leeway with the affordable tile and Boxi, which was maybe a third of what custom would have been.”

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Kate Arends

With two small children, aged four and five, as well as two yellow labs, the kitchen is always buzzing. But that year of painstaking plotting was worth it for a kitchen that will last a lifetime: “For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m running an efficient kitchen for someone who loves to cook,” says Arends. “You have to be ready to take the time to plan.”

Credits:

Cabinet hardware: D. Lawless Material. Faucet: One™ Deck Mount Kitchen Faucet, Lever Handles by Kallista. Counters: Calacatta Viola marble from Artistic Tile. Cabinets: Paintable cabinet fronts from BOXI by Semihandmade. Cabinet Paint Colors: Sulking Room Pink and Hague Blue, Farrow & Ball. Sink: Kohler Whitehaven® Undermount Single Bowl Farmhouse Kitchen Sink. Brass shelving: DIY project using BOXI by Semihandmade shelves and IKEA brass panels. Wall lights next to the cooker: Regina Andrew Fishbone wall lamp by Lulu and Georgia. Applied above the bar: Pogo Wall Lamp in Brass and Cane by CB2.


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