By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Pat and Kathie Debenham had a problem we see again and again in our business: not enough gathering space. And just like so many others, their gathering centered around the kitchen. So this week we want to introduce you to the Debenhams and their renovation because we know it’s the kind of remodel many are considering.

Before the Debenhams decided to remodel, they did their homework. They did the “buy or remodel” dance for several months before they made a decision. As they looked at buying another home, they found that every home has benefits and limitations. Ultimately, they decided that the things they loved about their current home weren’t worth trading for a new home, particularly if they could remodel and solve their concerns.

Those concerns were centered around the kitchen and family room. Their old kitchen was poorly laid out and a tight squeeze. They couldn’t open a door or a drawer without stopping all flow of traffic. They also had a small great room off the kitchen that could seat just a couple of people. With their children grown and getting married, family gatherings were getting bigger and the space getting cozier. They needed an expansion.

dnews renovation

With extra-tall cabinets and extra space gained by removing a pantry, this kitchen got a makeover that improved its gathering space while retaining storage.

They came to us with their ideas and goals, and we were able to help them with plans to accomplish their goals for the kitchen and great room. But as with any renovation, there was give and take. In the Debenhams’ case, budget wouldn’t allow them to add on to the house to make their kitchen and great room bigger. But a careful study of the space revealed other ways to expand without building out.

One of the first things to go was a half bath located between the great room and the laundry room. It was a small bath rarely used by the family. Removing it opened up space for the sitting area and kept the budget on track. Removing a bath is much less expensive than adding one!

Another compromise was the pantry. They had a good-size pantry in the original kitchen, and removing it would open up more space for the tightly packed kitchen. It was a tough decision, but they decided to let the pantry go for the promise of more wiggle room. They compromised by choosing taller cabinets in the new kitchen — therefore adding storage space back into the design — and moving some of their long-term storage to the basement.

By losing the pantry and the bath, they opened up the kitchen and great room without adding any square footage to the home or losing any functionality they needed to comfortably live. They also removed a half wall in the kitchen, relocated the door to the garage, added sky lights, put in larger windows, and updated the laundry room with new cabinets and a sink.

The result is a gathering space their family loves. With more sitting space in the great room and better flow in the kitchen, the home is happily accommodating this phase of their lives.

And that’s what homes are for — to be lived in and enjoyed. Sometimes that means finding a different home that works better for your family, and sometimes that means helping the home evolve as your family does. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Remodel to add gathering space