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Four women, four kitchens

See how they have tailored the hearts of their homes to suit their lifestyles and life stages
By Alex Laws; Photographs by Michael Graydon and Janis Nicolay
Four women, four kitchens

20s

Name: Julia Black

Age: 28

Profession: Stylist and host of the CTV web series Get Fresh.

Lives: In a ground-floor apartment of a 1920s semi-detached home with her husband, Andrew, a contractor, and her dog, Parker.

Favourite part: “I love how we managed to marry our styles-the industrial look reflects Andrew, and the design elements and feminine pieces are more me.”

Julia and her husband, Andrew, are first-time homeowners who took a hands-on approach. They were keen to lose the original gloomy woodwork, but also to save money by salvaging as much as they could. The cupboards got a coat of grey paint, the wood-laminate floor was covered with a trendy bouclé rug, and simple open shelving added a modern industrial feel. To make the galley kitchen seem larger, they stashed away their appliances-even their prized wedding-present toaster. It gives more space for prep and keeps the room from feeling crowded.


Four women, four kitchens

20s

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TIPS

High chairs
This prep/breakfast bar was created from leftover countertop.
Bonus: It was inexpensive and the height makes a small space feel bigger.

Paint everything
Transform an entire room by replacing hardware and painting cabinetry. Update existing fixtures so you can add a splurge, like this striking jade marble backsplash.

Four women, four kitchens
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30s

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Name: Virginie Martocq

Age: 37

Profession: Chatelaine home editor.

Lives: In a semi-detached Georgian home with her husband, Mark, and two children, Oliver, 5, and Penelope, 1.

Favourite part: “I love how bright it is. We put in a skylight and reconfigured the room to let in as much natural light as possible-and it worked!”

Virginie Isn’t a fan of Open-plan living. When she and her family moved into her home, she wanted to keep the galley kitchen purely for cooking and use the dining-room for their meals. “I think eating together is really important. We sit down at our dining room table every day, even for breakfast!” She admits it can feel quite grand, but it also gives her an excuse to use her fine-china collection on a daily basis. The small kitchen is highly functional: Everything is within easy reach and she can keep an eye on her kids, who often sit on the counter while she prepares food. With two young children to feed, she made room for a double-doored fridge and is grateful to be able to hide plastic sippy cups and plates in her roll-out drawers. And when dinner’s ready, she can close the door and leave the mess behind. By prioritizing family meals in her dining room, she makes every day feel a little like a special occasion.

Four women, four kitchens

30s

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TIPS

Mix and match big-box cabinets.

Store-bought cupboards help keep costs down-and choosing two different shades of the same unit (like Virginie’s dark wood and blue) is a foolproof way of creating a modern, custom feel. A wall of pantry-style cupboards creates masses of storage and also lets you forgo upper cabinets, making a small room feel more spacious.

Balance lights and darks.

If you’re worried about overwhelming your kitchen, keep the walls white and the backsplash plain. Virginie chose a darker colour for her cabinets to echo the mosaic and tie the room together.

Four women, four kitchens

40s

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Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Name: Cobi Ladner

Age: 48

Profession: Creator of cobistyle.com and a home-products line launching in early 2011.

Lives: In a renovated 1940s suburban home with her husband, Bob Brehl, her two kids, Aidan, 14, and Charlotte, 11, plus their dog, Hito, and Frank the hamster.

Favourite part: “It’s a feeling rather than a function: I love the hominess. It’s inviting and it works.”

Cobi’s kitchen is filled with a relaxed vibe. “I think rooms look best when they’re lived in,” she says. Chintz curtains, framed prints and a wall of open dishes all add to the welcoming feel. “Everything happens in here. This kitchen has changed the way we use our house. It’s where our family is,” she says. Cobi fell in love with an antique sewing cupboard in France and cut a sink into it, turning it into an island. “Not the most practical idea!” she says, laughing. She admits there is a lot of stuff in her kitchen, but it all has its place?-which is necessary, since the room is used so much. The children do their homework at the banquette table and use the corkboard to put up their drawings and favourite photos. With a family to feed, food storage is tight. Cobi bought a bar fridge, where she keeps the kids’ lunches, freeing up valuable space in the main fridge. It also has two wine racks, so people can easily help themselves to drinks when she’s entertaining. “It was a great addition,” she says.

Four women, four kitchens
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40s

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TIPS

Create a cozy eating nook.

In a tight space, a banquette can provide extra storage, and fits next to a table that’s large enough for the entire family to eat at. Cobi had filing-cabinet drawers fitted to run the length of the benches-a great place to store takeout menus and phone books. She also removed the original tabletop and had it shaped into an oval to make it easier to walk by.

Use open shelves.

Put items you use all the time, such as coffee mugs, plates and glasses, on open shelves. “I think it has saved us a ton of wear and tear, and chipped paint, on cupboard doors,” says Cobi. It also makes emptying the dishwasher a whole lot quicker.

Four women, four kitchens

50s

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Name: Gabriel Toplak

Age: 55

Profession: Homemaker.

Lives: With her husband in a custom-built, two-year-old house in Burnaby, B.C.

Favourite part: “I look out over a lake, mountains and woodland deer-I love the view and the light. The ceiling above the kitchen has a five-by-five-foot skylight, two stories up. I never turn the lights on during the day, even in cloudy Vancouver!”

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Gabriel and her husband began planning the house with the help of their designer, Rebecca Lapres. Their sights were set on a very traditional style. By the time they got to the inside, Gabriel found she was craving a more modern feel. The result is a traditional exterior with an open-concept interior. It turns out the open structure of the house works perfectly with their lifestyle: It’s cozy when Gabriel and her husband are alone, but feels spacious when the 12-person extended family congregates for Sunday dinner. “My whole family lives in the kitchen,” which often includes a grandchild (like Nicko, above) or three. The floor-to-ceiling windows look out into nature, leading her to keep the walls mostly empty. “It’s hard for me to choose artwork because the view steals the show,” she says. “Your eye is drawn outside.”

Four women, four kitchens

50s

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TIPS

Put a mini-kitchen in a closet.

With open-plan living, it’s especially important to be able to camouflage the messy everyday parts of a kitchen. Gabriel created a breakfast station in a large wooden armoire, which instantly tidied up an integral part of their morning routine. A coffee machine, toaster and jams are laid out and easily hidden behind sliding pocket doors. When they’re entertaining in the family room, the kitchen looks elegant and clutter-free.

Rethink the kitchen boundaries.

In addition to the fridge in her kitchen, Gabriel also installed a small beverage fridge outside the dining room, so people can help themselves without getting underfoot. She has also saved on space and cut down traffic by keeping the microwave in a pantry corridor outside the dining area.

Go for finishes that age well.

Gabriel notes that when she was younger, she made decisions based on appearances, but now she tries to keep the practical in mind. She originally wanted dark floors throughout the house, but knowing that darker shades show scratches, she opted for a lighter honey colour, thinking that dings would add to the character. “When you have children, you’re always telling them, ‘Don’t do that,’ but when you have grandchildren, you let them do whatever they want!”

Four women, four kitchens

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