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Home-improvement pro Kassy Shimotsu remodels her own kitchen

The Shimotsus’ new kitchen was designed to maximise space and natural sunlight, and fitted with classic fixtures. Photo: TNS

Home-improvement pro Kassy Shimotsu has overseen a lot of kitchen makeovers as project manager for KJB Homes and as owner of K. Shimotsu Renovations.

“We’ve used ourselves as guinea pigs, ” she said.

She and her husband, Scott, have bought three fixer-upper homes, renovated them, lived in them for two or three years, then moved on to the next project.

Two years ago, she found their third project and current home – a small 1950 rambler in southwest Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States, that happened to be across the street from the home of her best friend and business partner at KJB.

Even though it was in rough shape, she and Scott considered it “a house where we could experiment with one-level living, ” she said.

They bought the house and went straight into a remodelling project that included an addition to expand the 728sq ft (68sq m) house and create space for a new kitchen.

“We bumped out the back and doubled the footprint, ” she said. “From the street, it blends in with the neighbourhood.”

To help her with the design, she hired Bria Hammel Interiors.

“We’re good at building homes and designing them, but I wanted her (expertise) on the details, ” said Shimotsu. “I saw her on Instagram. I was drawn to her design aesthetic.” Space planning was an important part of the project. Even with the addition, the kitchen isn’t large – about 14 x 14½ft (4.3 x 4.4m) plus a small eating area with a built-in bench.

“We had to make sure it’s really functional, ” said Hammel. “The work triangle is really important. “We utilised every inch, while allowing flow around the island.”

With space at a premium, storage was also critical. “We had to be smart about how to organise stuff, ” said Hammel.

A built-in cabinet next to the sink provides pantry-like storage for small appliances, including the toaster, microwave, coffee maker and coffee grinder, in addition to food staples.

“It’s the workhorse for the kitchen, ” Hammel said.

The Loto room divider by Paola Lenti has a more decorative character.

Interior designer Eileen Gray always tried out her designs in her own house. Her Brick Screen, reedited by ClassiCon, consists of a stainless steel frame and lacquered panels. Gray’s home, built in the 1920s, had the open floor plan that’s considered so modern today. Her room divider was both practical and a sculptural object. – dpa

A ‘collected’ look

The Shimotsus were seeking a classic, timeless aesthetic for their new kitchen.

“They had a desire to make it feel like it had been around for a while – not ‘new construction’ feel, ” said Hammel.

With that in mind, they chose mixed metals – bronze and brass hardware, a polished chrome faucet and stainless steel appliances. “It’s a more layered look, so it’s more collected and vintage and not so perfect, ” said Hammel.

The cabinets are a combination of white oak with a light natural finish and painted cabinets in deep charcoal. Some have glass fronts “to display fun items, ” said Hammel. There’s also an open shelf above the range.

The couple knew they wanted marble for their countertops and backsplash.

“We’re suckers for marble, ” said Shimotsu. “Bria found this amazing marble (Calacatta Lincoln marble with a honed finish). It picks up on all the tones perfectly.”

To stay within the couple’s “strict budget, ” they practised what Hammel calls “value engineering, ” carefully considering “where to invest and where to save. They invested in custom cabinets and marble, while saving on cabinet hardware and light fixtures.”

Shimotsu wanted a lot of natural daylight flooding into her kitchen. “We love light!” she said. A huge window above the sink delivers and also offers a view of the backyard.

The light fixture above the centre island, which Shimotsu calls a “statement piece, ” is clear glass so it doesn’t block light or the view.

Unlike the previous homes they’ve flipped, Shimotsu said they’d be staying put.

Its location, across the street from her best friend, is one reason. “Now we’re neighbours, which is pretty great!”

The new kitchen is another.

“It really is our dream kitchen, ” she said. “We love to cook, and it’s a joy to cook in there. We’re planning on staying. We say it’s our ‘forever for now house’.” – Star Tribune (Minneapolis)/Tribune News Service

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