A professional photo stylist and designer focuses her keen eye on her own home.By Lenore Cullen Barnes | Photography by John Bessler
ARCHITECT: Sam Streibert
BUILDER: Jim Gronski
KITCHEN DESIGN: Rebecca Reynolds of New Canaan Kitchens
APPLIANCES: KAM Appliances
SINK & FAUCET SUPPLIER: Snow & Jones Kitchen and Bath Solutions
MARBLE SUPPLIER: Granite World Countertops, Inc.
Karin Lidbeck had been preparing for this project for a quarter of a century. Having styled homes for shelter magazines for 25 years, Lidbeck was brimming with ideas when it was time to renovate her own home. “I’ve seen so many beautiful interiors, it was fun for me to finally design my own kitchen,” she says. “I knew what I wanted.”
A fresh start for a new chapter
The renovation was the result of Lidbeck’s and her husband Michael Brent’s decision to move into her mother’s home in Chatham. The entire clan, including Lidbeck’s two sisters and their families, had been gathering at their parents’ home for decades. Together they decided that their mother, now 89, would remain in her home and Karin and Mike would live with her.
“Mom’s Cape Cod-style home had a very traditional layout,” says Lidbeck. “Other than the living room, all the rooms were small. The bathrooms and kitchen had outdated fixtures and everything was tired looking. We needed a new kitchen and to open up small cramped areas to create an improved traffic flow.”
The couple hired Chatham architect Sam Streibert to create a design based on their wish list. Serendipity then brought them their builder, Jim Gronski, whom they met when he came to their tag sale. “He was great,” Lidbeck says. “He works on one project at a time, so he was there every day and very focused.” Rounding out this dream team was kitchen design expert Rebecca Reynolds of New Canaan Kitchens.
The biggest conceptual shift during the renovation was the decision to move the kitchen to what was formerly a sunroom. The biggest structural change was eliminating the wall between that sunroom and the former dining room. “Taking down the interior wall between the sunroom and what’s now the living room gave us a spacious open-plan kitchen and great room design, perfect for our casual family-driven lifestyle,” says Lidbeck. “The sunroom was originally a deck that had been enclosed,” Gronski says. “We hired an engineer to determine if the footings were strong enough. A kitchen weighs a lot more than a sunroom. We used helical piles, steel poles that screw into the ground, instead of concrete piers. We also installed a 20-foot laminated beam to support the trusses and ceiling between the sunroom and the main house.”
Once the kitchen was gutted, they laid out the cabinetry with painter’s tape. Overnight, Brent came up with the idea to shift the island 90 degrees so that it faces the wall of cabinetry instead of the rear wall as initially planned. “This gave us much more space around the island and connects better with the living room,” says Lidbeck.
While Lidbeck had a strong vision, she trusted Reynolds, with whom she had worked on previous projects, to guide her decision-making. “I was thrilled when Rebecca agreed to work with us,” says Lidbeck. “We needed a professional with whom we could discuss our ideas and who could get us past the obstacles and intricacies of creating a properly functional kitchen. Rebecca kept us organized, on time and made sure everything happened in the right order.”
Selecting the cabinets was the first order of business. Lidbeck wanted a color palette of soft blues, greens, sand and yellow, a scheme that reflects the Cape’s natural elements of water, sand and sun. They chose Benjamin Moore’s “Driftwood” for the cabinet paint and quartzite with streaks of blue and green to top the island.
Another major decision was the choice of tile for the rear wall surrounding the windows. After a long search yielded no solution, Reynolds suggested leaving it until the rest of the renovation was complete. Months later, Reynolds found a tile in New Haven that she was confident Lidbeck would love. Her instincts were right. Lidbeck made Xerox copies of the sample board, taped them to the wall to get the full effect, and knew they’d found the answer.
“The tile added a beautiful element without dominating,” says Reynolds. “That wall is a focal point because you see it from the living room. From a distance it doesn’t read busy but up close it’s textured and interesting. It’s very complementary to the living room.”
Open and clear
Uncluttered counters were important to Lidbeck because of the open floor plan. While most appliances are tucked out of sight in deep, wide drawers, the Kitchen Aide mixer remains an exception because Lidbeck loves to bake. Open shelves facilitate access to everyday items like coffee mugs, and a built-in china cabinet with glass doors displays Lidbeck’s pottery and serving ware collections. Brent recommended the built-in dog dishes for their “third child,” Kongo, a 90-pound Boxer.
“Karin didn’t do a lot of wall cabinets because the room has such a beautiful view and great light,” notes Reynolds.
Making the two-car garage a one-car garage provided space for the new high-functioning mudroom/laundry/sewing room. Lidbeck is an enthusiastic seamstress and loves having dedicated space for her projects, including a built-in ironing board and utility sink.
Lidbeck and Brent are grateful every day for the collaborative effort that brought their parents’ home up to date for their contemporary multi-generational lifestyle.