The Crescent Park couple knew from day one in 2005 that the house they had bought had shoddy cabinets in the kitchen.
But it took 10 years before they finally had the time to do something about it.
"It was a spec house built in 2000. The cabinets were falling apart. It was just pathetic," said their contractor John Hammerschmidt, head of design/build firm Hammerschmidt Construction in Los Altos.
But there was no need to break down walls to make a huge difference in both looks and function, he said.
"It was a new enough house that it had a modern floor plan. It just needed a little extra help. We didn't change the layout, but we made it fit better," he added, noting that the new island is narrower and allows for better traffic flow. At the end of the island is a raised bar, with stool seating for two.
Two windows that faced the garage were removed, allowing for more upper cabinets. Because the new cabinets (from Capstone, San Jose) are white, rather than the previous dark oak, the room appears lighter and brighter, even without the little windows. And the bay windows remained near the eating area.
The husband made a few requests: He wanted the Wolf range with red knobs and a big-screen TV in the adjoining family room. Other new appliances include a Sub-Zero refrigerator, GE microwave and U-Line beverage refrigerator. They kept the existing wine refrigerator and dishwasher.
When designing a kitchen, many people choose the granite first, Hammerschmidt said, but this owner knew the key to her issues was getting the cabinetry right. The wife was most interested in the custom-designed Capstone cabinets with ample storage, including a pull-out pantry. Then came choosing the Black Beauty granite for the countertops and 3-D wavy white backsplash tile by Heath Ceramics, Sausalito -- a sharp contrast to the earlier dark and monochromatic kitchen.
Light fixtures were replaced with more contemporary versions, including hand-forged lighting from Hubbardton Forge, Vermont, and European Deso lighting. The hardwood floors were refinished in a lighter tone.
A new "drop zone" was created between the family room and the kitchen, which consists of a custom cabinet with a drawer for each family member.
"When the kids come home, they can drop their backpacks (in a drawer). There's a charging station for phones," Hammerschmidt said, noting that it's "well-used." Clutter is kept to a minimum by building in chargers into the wall. The cabinetry and pulls match the new kitchen cabinets.
In the adjoining family room, a wall of cabinetry became an entertainment center, with room for a big-screen TV, bookshelves and storage drawers. To create a cleaner look in the family room, no metal grates were used for the heating vents; instead, slots were cut into toe kicks in the cabinets, he said.
The old fireplace in the family room had a raised step hearth, which was "always in the way," Hammerschmidt said.
The new fireplace boasts a granite surround and wood finish that matches the entertainment wall.
"Now it's a cleaner look, and it's easier to arrange furniture," he said.
After weatherproofing the fireplace, the interior was replaced with a HeatNGlo gas unit.
Over the existing French doors that lead outside, they added remote-controlled UV roller blinds (to reduce glare on the TV), housed in a custom-made wooden valance to match the cabinetry.
No project is completely glitch-proof. The owner said she really wanted an appliance garage, which would house her small appliances inside a cabinet, but "once she started to use it, she saw what a hassle it was," Hammerschmidt said. So it came out.
And the original Grohe faucets were eventually replaced by high-arc bridge kitchen faucets by Rohl.
After working through some design decisions, the whole project took just four months, Hammerschmidt said, and cost more than $100,000. It won a gold NARI (National Association for the Remodeling Industry) Meta Award for residential interiors last year.
"It's a really nice kitchen now. Most wouldn't fix it until it was old," he added, but this family lived with what they didn't like for 10 years. "She wanted to do it two years earlier, but she was too busy.
"I tell people everything you have in the house is in the kitchen: appliances, plumbing, electrical fixtures, paint. ... People get frozen with the volume of selection that needs to be done," Hammerschmidt said. "You have to be able to cook, eat, entertain; there's a lot more going on in a kitchen, and it has to be durable, especially if you have kids."