Meeting client expectations within a modest budget can be a challenge, and the cost of kitchen remodels often adds up quickly. To double a kitchen’s size while achieving an enthusiastic wish list with only $52,000 available for the project, West Chicago, Ill., firm Synergy Builders Inc. carefully sourced materials and completed the tasks in tandem with the homeowners’ own efforts.

One of the owners researched her preferences at big box retailers in advance and brought certain design elements to the table, but she relied on the design-build expertise of Synergy Builders to balance aesthetics and functionality. The owners wanted a larger kitchen with a more open feel, so the team remodeled the 1980s Geneva, Ill., home by switching things up a bit. They turned the original dining room into a family room and expanded the 19 1/2- by 12-ft. kitchen into the former family room. The newly combined space creates a 540-sq.-ft. great room with both kitchen and dining space. 

Prominent display

“The owner wanted a new island that would make the biggest statement in the kitchen, and she was clear that the overall space should really pop,” recalls Synergy Builder’s project developer Brian O’Neil. The interior concept centers on transitional design, which blends traditional and contemporary styles with neutral tones overall and uses dark colors for contrast and visual impact.

The island centerpiece’s cherry wood top provides a focal point in the kitchen. Stained in black walnut, the top’s lighter tone complements the owners’ dining table and offers an accent to the kitchen cabinets. Stepped-down sections on each side of the island match the kitchen’s quartz countertops specified in the color Cambria Darlington.  

The island includes frosted glass-front cabinetry where the owner displays her extensive cookie jar collection. The stepped-down sides contain open shelving for her copper-pot cookware. Synergy Builders electrically wired the island, which houses a drawer microwave and a dishwasher separated by a 3-in. pullout spice rack. Because the owners entertain frequently, the island’s dishwasher serves as a supplement to the kitchen’s main dishwasher for streamlined clean-up.  With all of the components visible throughout the great room, the owners wanted to be sure that the new range, cooktop, hood and refrigerator were high-end appliances. 

Kitchen cabinetry is divided into upper and lower sections by material and hue. Upper maple cabinets are washed in a neutral colored opaque stain while the lower cabinets are cherry-stained chestnut. On either side of the refrigerator, the upper cabinets present glass fronts to showcase select serveware pieces. 

“When it came to flooring, the owners loved the overall character of mahogany,” says O’Neil. “We were able to find some quality, prefinished Brazilian mahogany at a very good price and the owners opted for 5-in. planks. They selected wood with a chestnut stain to complement the lower cabinets and then we installed the new flooring throughout the home’s entire ground floor.”

Assembly space

The kitchen and former family room were connected by a small doorway in a bearing wall that anchored the refrigerator and hid some mechanical equipment running from the basement to the second floor. Once the bearing wall was removed to create the great room, Synergy Builders installed a support beam and relocated the mechanical equipment alongside it, covering both with a soffit. They found a new spot for the refrigerator and blended it into the design with wooden sides that match the lower cabinetry.

In one corner of the kitchen where the cabinets now run on a diagonal, an existing soffit had housed the main sewer line from the basement to all three upstairs bathrooms. “We had to make custom modifications on inside of the cabinet and reroute the plumbing fittings, turns and bends where the wall and ceiling meet in that corner,” says O’Neil. “Once we had everything tied in, we turned it to get back behind the wall and run the plumbing to the basement.”

Synergy Builders completed the space with ceiling finishes, recessed lighting and pendant lights.

Tag team

To keep costs down, the homeowner provided a bit of sweat equity on the project by providing the basic demolition of the bearing wall and adding the new drywall. He also installed all of the kitchen’s glass and stainless steel mosaic tile backsplash. 

In the dining portion, Synergy Builders added a solid slab of granite at the base of an existing fireplace to create a new hearth and the owner created a new surround in a natural slate mosaic that he framed in solid Oak with a walnut stain. Synergy Builders constructed cabinets on either side of the fireplace to exactly match the style and materials of the island, including quartz countertops . 

“We wanted to pull the two spaces together but accomplish something different in each area,” says O’Neil. “The owner’s work on the remodel helped adhere to the established budget and gave us the flexibility to provide some of the nicer elements in the project.”

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