Natural Home Kitchen of the Year 2009: Shiny, Happy Green

With a few simple fixes and smart materials, a cramped, ugly 1970s kitchen blossoms and wins Natural Home's Kitchen of the Year award.

| September/October 2009

  • A kitchen door installed during the renovation offers a new, informal entrance and brings in more natural light.
    Photo By Anne Gummerson
  • The formerly cramped kitchen's cherry cabinets dated back to the 1960s. The outdated sheet linoleum and pink laminate countertops were installed in the 70s.
    Photo Courtesy Kathy Kirmayer
  • Formerly closed off from the rest of the house, the kitchen now connects with the living room, where natural light streams through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the wooded backyard. The kitchen's natural tones mirror the backyard's colors, connecting the indoors to the home's natural environment.
    Photo By Anne Gummerson
  • Knocking out two walls allowed the kitchen, breakfast nook and living room to flow together, giving the home an open, unified floor plan. Now Kathy can socialize while cooking.
    Photo By Anne Gummerson

Kathy Kirmayer’s Silver Spring, Maryland, kitchen hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. It had pink laminate countertops, vinyl flooring and cherry cabinets that hadn’t been replaced since the home was built in the 1960s. The cramped kitchen needed more light and a link to the home’s sunny living room, which is lit by floor-to-ceiling windows.

Carri A. Beer-Harlan of Brennan + Company Architects helped Kathy create her dream kitchen with a few simple fixes. She removed a wall between the kitchen and the living room and another wall separating the kitchen from the breakfast nook, alleviating the awkward layout and making more room for the kitchen table. Removing the second wall also opened up the kitchen to backyard views, while glass-paneled French doors leading to the living room let diners see through to the backyard.

With a nudge from Beer-Harlan, Kathy chose healthy, green materials for her renovation, including recycled-paper countertops; cork and rubber composite tiles; zero-VOC paint; PVC-free, nontoxic wall coverings; and recycled-glass backsplash tiles. Energy- and water-saving appliances and recessed fluorescent lighting now reduce her energy and water bills.

Green wasn’t Kathy’s priority, but she definitely understands the appeal. “That hadn’t been a driver for me, but it was something I found interesting, and the more I learned about it, the more attractive it was for me,” she says. “Once you’re aware of the products that are out there, it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

The good stuff

■ APPLIANCES: Energy Star
■ TILE: Sandhill 100 percent recycled glass
■ FLOOR: Capri cork and recycled rubber tiles
■ LIGHTING: Fluorescent recessed lighting
■ PAINT: Zero-VOC Sherwin-Williams Harmony
■ WALL COVERING: Innovations Innvironments
■ CABINETS: Crystal Cabinets 100 percent recycled material, certified an Environmentally Preferable Product by the Composite Panel Association

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