This Designer Transformed an Awkward Family Room into a Massive KitchenBy: Anna Kocharian
In Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, a budding family of four purchased a 60-year-old house with the intention of making it their “forever home.” The couple enlisted the help of designer Ali Budd to transform the 3,500-square foot-space into a style-focused home that would complement their lifestyle. The couple’s decorative wishlist entailed a bold yet sophisticated integration of colour, floral elements, soft pastel shades, plus a little touch of edge. We caught up with Budd to get the lowdown on how she managed to transform an awkward family room into a sprawling kitchen complete with a bar and pantry.
What was the driving force behind the redesign?
The original layout of the home was disjointed–there were a lot of rooms which were small and dark, a commonality in older homes. Although the house had a large footprint, the space wasn’t being utilized in the best way. The kitchen was in the middle of the home with almost no windows or an eating space. We decided to move the kitchen to the back of the home, where the family room was once located. Our clients love to host dinner parties, so not having an eat-in kitchen was not an option.
In our revamp, we filled the entire wall with doors and windows. Not only did this bring an abundance of light into the house, but it really allowed us to open up the space to the large deck with an indoor/outdoor living aesthetic in mind. Relocating the kitchen so that it stood near the deck also made sense from a functional and entertaining perspective.
The space was originally built as an addition with no structure above it, so we decided to raise the roof and add transom windows to make the area feel larger, brighter, and all the more special.
Adjacent to the old family room, there was a closed-off office, which we decided to turn into a large breakfast room, effectively giving them two large dining spaces. Another item on the wish list was a large pantry and a designated bar area. Typically, pantries are their own rooms off the kitchen, but when we laid out the house, it made sense to design it as a walkway into the kitchen.
What was the thought process behind the design of the kitchen?
Having an exclusively white kitchen was a non-negotiable for the couple. One of the main challenges from a design perspective was thinking of a way to make a classic white kitchen feel unique, beautiful, and interesting. Designing the oversized hood, accented with the gold detailing, truly made the kitchen. The large grey and white porcelain floors played up the scale of the space, while offering a fresh take on a classic diamond pattern. We didn’t stick to one metal, but rather mixed matte black and brass to add interest.
One of my favourite details is the front of the island. Using simple subway tiles and black grout we created a fun and fresh feature with the herringbone pattern. I love how the herringbone detail feels next to the large floor tiles – it’s all about scale and proportion and mixing materials. When it comes to interior design, I’m a big believer that bigger is better.
Were there any other challenges involved in the redesign?
Convincing the clients to relocate the kitchen to the back of the house was a big “trust us” moment. Once we did that, we also had to convince them that extending the roof line and adding the transom windows would be worth the cost. Building a house from scratch is straightforward—renovating hardly ever is.
The kitchen is such a bright and special space. Everyday tasks like prepping and cooking are elevated when you have a beautiful and functional place to do them in. The view from the kitchen to the backyard, breakfast room and pantry is amazing. It’s truly the hub and heart of the house.
The bar’s wallpaper is incredible. What’s the story behind it?
It’s Designer’s Guild (they are really killing it in the wallpaper department). It’s beyond amazing and literally looks like a piece of art. We knew we wanted to do something really special with the walls in this room—the space is right next to the white kitchen and we wanted it to stand out.
At the onset of the project, the client had shown us an abstract painting she absolutely loved, which incorporated all these beautiful pastel colours. Our clients love blue and floral prints, driving the inspiration for this particular palette. When I saw this print at a showroom, I knew immediately she would fall in love. It completely negates the need for any artwork and allowed us to keep everything else monochromatic. This was a massive splurge for the house, but it was worth every penny.
What are some of the more defining elements of the kitchen area?
The home’s foyer leads right into the pantry—you can actually see it almost as soon as you walk in—it’s a straight shot to the back windows. The pantry and bar is flanked by original panelling in the hallway, so we thought it was the perfect spot to add a real hit of colour and pattern.
We did one side as floor-to-ceiling storage, and the other as a bar/feature wall. The pantry leads into the kitchen. Floor plans need to flow and feel somewhat open, but I am a big fan of defined spaces in a home. Every square inch and its purpose should be accounted for when you’re designing.
I think people have started to rethink the way they use their homes and are designing accordingly—there are no more rules and ways things “need” to be done or laid out. Why not put a walkthrough pantry and bar smack in the middle of the home? There was a large formal living room at the front of the house which we turned into the family room in order to allow for the kitchen to have a large breakfast room. Formal living spaces that go largely unused are a waste of space and money. Why not use your square footage and budget towards spaces you will actually live in and enjoy every day?