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A Happy Ending
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A West Des Moines remodel with a surprising beginning.

According to children’s literature, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk to go with it. Before you know it, he’ll be all over the house and into everything.

Or you could just tear out the cupboards and make sure he can’t get back in.

That’s more or less the approach taken by Dawn Kelley and Sheldon Levin of West Des Moines.

“My husband’s been in this house more than 20 years,” Dawn explains. “And he’d done some work on the house over the years. Since we’ve been married, I’ve always wanted a dishwasher. But we just weren’t ready to redo the kitchen.”

This past fall, the story changed.

Mice entered the kitchen through an opening in the back of one cupboard but were unable to get back out. The homeowners knew that in order to repair the problem and prevent future entry, they’d have to do more than just cover the hole.

“We decided if we were going to be ripping out cupboards anyway, we were going to just do the kitchen now, the way we wanted,” Dawn says.

Enter Dan Doherty of Home Pride Remodeling.

“I’ve worked with Dawn several times over the past probably 20 years,” Doherty says. “We did a few projects at her previous home, and then after she and Sheldon got married, we did some work here, too.”

One of those projects, a man cave and bathroom in the lower level, happened to be directly below the kitchen. Because Doherty knew they were eventually going to want a dishwasher, he took the opportunity to stub for the future appliance while he was working on that earlier project.

That and some wise planning and creative use of standard cabinetry in Sunderland Brothers’ design enabled the remodel to be completed in less than six weeks.

“I’d been thinking about it for a while, obviously,” Dawn says, “so I had paint colors and cabinetry picked out. But Dan and Doug Year at Sunderland took it from there and gave us a great plan.”

Besides adding a dishwasher, the couple wanted to make the small space more user-friendly and, if possible, gain a little more storage without changing the room’s basic structure. Doherty gave Sunderland the desired configuration, and Year came up with the perfect solution.

“We got rid of the kitchen table, which allowed us to add storage on that wall and a small breakfast bar, too,” he says.

Anchoring that section of cabinetry, which is visible from the main living space, is a decorative wine rack that has become a fun feature.

“One of my poker buddies bottles his own wine,” Sheldon says. “Shortly after we finished the kitchen, he was over for a game, and the next morning, we found several of his bottles of wine tucked into the wine rack.”

Dawn’s favorite feature (besides the dishwasher) is the heated ceramic tile floor.

“Even on really cold mornings, you can come in here barefoot and it feels wonderful,” she says.

Sheldon agrees. “When we get around to doing the bathroom, we’re definitely doing the same thing in there,” he says.

The couple praised Year and Doherty for their clever use of materials throughout the room, making the same square footage seem larger than the original space. Features like a pull-out pantry cupboard, undercabinet lighting, and extra storage above the breakfast bar have given the homeowners significantly more cupboard space than they had before.

“We wanted to get as much storage as possible,” Doherty explains, “and using 18-inch- deep cabinets where the table used to be allowed us to add storage without losing dining space.”

Stacking two standard wall cabinets perpendicular to the refrigerator wall was another creative touch. The result looks like a built-in china cabinet but at a fraction of the cost.

The room’s soft earth tones with white accents and stainless appliances and hardware give a sense of warmth and freshness, and the simple lines of the cabinetry with its crown molding and decorative accents seem perfectly in tune with the home’s original architecture.

The moral of the story?

If you give a mouse an opening, he’ll find a way to make himself at home. If he does, you might have to rip out the cabinets to get rid of him for good. But if you rip out the cabinets, you could get that dishwasher you’ve always wanted. That’s the story for Dawn Kelley and Sheldon Levin.

Don’t you love a happy ending?


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