Story by Gail Trowbridge & photos by Jack Rendulich
Rugged terrain. Dramatic cliffs. Sweeping views of Lake Superior. The very features that make the Hunter’s Park neighborhood of Duluth an attractive place to live pose challenges to home builders and the people who live in those homes.
Perched on a ledge of basalt and gabbro rock, many homes in Hunter’s Park overlook the eastern edge of the city. This rock once marked the ancient shoreline of a glacial lake and now serves as a foundation (or as a foundation material known as “bluestone”) for homes in this neighborhood.
The Sande family moved from Rochester, Minnesota, almost nine years ago and immediately took to this woodsy neighborhood.
Jonathan Sande, is an oncologist at the Duluth Clinic Cancer Center, and his wife, Karen, lead an active life while juggling work, school, church, music lessons and sports with their three children, Joshua, 16, Kristin, 14, and Nathan, 8.
The Sande home maintains a low, modern profile from the street; a second story, built below street level is tucked into the hillside.
“We bought the house because of its wonderful wooded lot and the lake view,” Karen recalls. “At the time, the kitchen seemed roomy and had more features than our previous kitchen, so we were happy with it.”
Built in 1960, the four-bedroom home takes advantage of a stunning southeastern lake view. A series of large windows along the back of the main floor flooded the dining room and living room with plenty of light. The home did not have a basement, but storage needs seemed to be provided for in the back hallway, which was lined with cabinets.
As the Sandes settled into their new house, they soon began to notice “jams” in the kitchen – and not of the strawberry variety.
“When the kids tried to join me as I worked in the kitchen, we had real problems being in the same space,” Karen says. “It was difficult to have even one more person in the room at the same time.”
The kitchen walls were paneled with mahogany and the room was cut off from daylight and the lake view by a counter with overhead cabinets. It was a dark and gloomy place.
An indoor barbecue grill behind the living room fireplace took up precious storage space. The sink, inconveniently situated, required a circuitous and narrow walk to the refrigerator and stove. With no other place for pots and pans, the Sandes hung them on a peg board.
So the Sandes asked Rebecca Lindquist, president and co-owner of Lindquist and Company, Kitchens and Baths of Duluth, to help them redesign the space.
“We wanted to open it up,” Karen says. “We knew the space was inconvenient for family use, but we had no idea what to do with it. We didn’t want ‘pie-in-the-sky,’ either. We wanted a real-world kitchen, something easy to maintain.”
The old kitchen was a good example of kitchens found in homes of this era, says Rebecca.
“In the ’60s, kitchens weren’t intended to be anything other than a work space and were often an afterthought.”
Not every kitchen project
she undertakes allows Rebecca unlimited potential.
“I was really limited as to what I could do. I couldn’t change any windows, I couldn’t move any walls. I had to deal with a structural beam that ran right through the kitchen. I had to work around an existing laundry chute.”
Before creating a new space, Rebecca spent time getting to know the family members, their lifestyle, their needs and even their habits. She identified which structures needed to remain, such as that overhead beam that bisected the kitchen and the back of a brick fireplace, and she devised ways to incorporate them into her design.
Because the kitchen space was to open to the dining room, the dining room area became part of the design. Rebecca recommended removing the carpet from the dining room and installing wood floors throughout.
“The kitchen is not an isolated space,” she explains. “The spaces you walk through to get to your kitchen can also have an impact.”
People usually head into their kitchens soon after entering their homes, carrying keys, homework, mail, coats, sporting equipment and other “non-kitchen” items. In her assessment, Rebecca looked at the non-kitchen functions in the space to decide whether they could either be moved naturally or should be incorporated into her design.
To warm up the back hallway and to make the storage space more usable, Rebecca recommended in-floor heating and a new cabinet configuration to get items off the floor and make them easily accessible for every member of the family.
Even Leo, the family’s golden retriever dog, now has a cabinet for his food and supplies.
“My job is to maximize function within the existing space,” Rebecca says. In every client’s kitchen, she studies traffic movement and what she calls the “flow of goods,” which includes groceries, paper products, garbage, recycling and all the items that move in and out of the kitchen space.
“At the heart of kitchen design is behavior modification,” says Rebecca. “A well-designed kitchen can change behaviors. If you create a spice drawer where you can only place spices, only spices will go there.”
It’s an understatement to say that Rebecca pays close attention to every detail of kitchen life. She and Karen Sande went through the painstaking process of categorizing each item in Karen’s kitchen, assigning it a place.
Then, Rebecca drafted drawers and pull-out cabinets for those various items.
The drawers were customized with dividers to fit the Sandes’ kitchen tools and supplies. Rebecca rarely gives a client a drawer without dividing it.
“If you don’t divide the drawer, everything slides to the back as you open and close it.”
Another signature Lindquist and Company element is creation of a place in the kitchen to file and store household paperwork. File drawers at the end of a counter provide a neat and easy access to process the flow of paper coming into a house.
Every day, the Sandes thoroughly appreciate the function and beauty of their new kitchen.
Karen and her daughter, Kristin, enjoyed baking together over the holidays. Karen marvels at how the design is perfectly in sync with their family and how they live.
“I definitely get more help out of the kids because there’s more room,” she says. “And I just love looking up from the sink and
seeing that beautiful lake.”
Jonathan Sande has found that having a kitchen that flows logically and beautifully into the rest of the house has had a major impact on family life. They enjoy more meals together, and now that everybody can pitch in, cleanup goes much more smoothly.
Jonathan sums it up best when he is asked what he likes the best about their new kitchen. He muses and then says, “It’s just so much easier to be a family.”
Gail Trowbridge is a freelance writer in Duluth, Minnesota.