French Country

Cleaning up the clutter was the key to renovating kitchen in Victoria, B.C.

Written By Betty Campbell
Photos by John Yanyshyn

Ten years ago, when Linda Price stepped through the front door of a house in urban North Saanich, north of Victoria B.C., she could see beyond the living room windows to the waters of the Straight of Georgia. “It was a wonderful sight – the ocean and the island. It was perfect,” she says.

Price and husband Wally bought the home. “It had a nice country feeling, but I kept thinking I should do something with the kitchen,” she says. “It was dark and uncomfortable to work in and had these two itty-bitty islands sticking out from the counter. I finally got fed up with it and everything being brown. Even though we splurged on a new refrigerator, I still wasn’t keen to be in the kitchen.”

Then, late in 2004, Price was leafing thought some magazines, and came across “this beautiful picture of a kitchen which had a French country look to it,” she says. She called interior designer Ines Hanl to come up with plans for a new kitchen.

“The house itself was lacking in atmosphere and especially a decent working layout in the kitchen, with its typical 80s cabinetry,” says Hanl. “I had to go with the footprint, because the Prices didn’t want to change anything from an architectural point.”

“When Ines came,” Price says, “I could see her ideas clicking away – and the first one was to get rid of the clutter that we were in the habit of throwing on top of the countertops.”

“If a client of mine has a tendency to clutter up their space, I try to take precautions up front,” Hanl says. “In this case I predetermined the amount and the positioning of the display area in strategic places.

“Within a week, I was ready to present the design. I’m not usually that fast, but that week some boiling water dropped on me, so all I could do was sit at my desk” she says. “Once the design was approved by the Price family, I worked on the shop drawings for the cabinetry because that needed two months to complete, then I got the trades organized. A designer is only as good as the trades who will transform the ideas.”

Work started in early 2005 and was completed four months later.

The concept was based on Price’s love of French country style. Thanks to updated lighting and the elimination of the twin islands, it appears larger than the old kitchen. Elegant green and black tinted granite countertops now span both sides of the kitchen. The sink side of the kitchen offers wonderful ocean views.

“As a designer I finally got to make use of those fabulous relief mouldings so readily available in the local building supply stores,” says Hanl. “Zee Design (of Comox, B.C.) created the cabinetry throughout in a French shaker style, and then everything was treated with a glazed wash onto a base of off-white lacquer to emphasize the beauty of these mouldings. Cut-out details on the furniture style kick, bead boards and wainscoting, along with a mixture of rustic oak and elegant granite countertops, add to the French country feel.”

Hanl hand-painted the topiary trees on the pantry doors because there was no room on the walls for artwork. It features the homeowners’ initials ‘L’ and ‘W’, golf balls disguised as fruit (Wally loves to golf), and two love birds in the trees. Linda has a passion for panda bears, so bamboo strips decorate the cabinets. “I thought that, because of the panda’s natural habitat, bamboo flooring would be great for the kitchen,” says Price. “But Ines talked me out of that one and convinced me that oak was better – and now it flows from the rest of the house into the kitchen.”

Price says she used to avoid the former laundry room at all costs. In this room, Hanl says, “We used run-of-the-mill big box cabinetry with off-white Shaker-style doors, and spruced them up with custom crown moulding, lacquered to match the cabinetry. The high wainscoting, together with some prefab brackets, pegs and shelves, round up the picture of a country-style mudroom/laundry.”

To make it workable, the hallway from the kitchen to the laundry room was enlarged by cutting back part of an old brick furnace chimney, and a door was added to give the area more definition. The powder room in the hall came in for updating too.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the renovations, according to Price, was shopping with Hanl. “It was such fun helping to choose mouldings, hardware, paint colours and such. We had a budget to watch so we nickel-and-dimed a few things – like finding cabinet handles shaped like starfish. We got those from a bin at a do-it-yourself store. Now, thanks to Ines, I have a lovely kitchen laundry where I still have all of my stuff – but now it’s hidden behind doors and cabinets and out of sight.”

German-born Hanl worked in costume design for theatres and operas throughout that country, where she also studied faux painting and interior architecture. She immigrated to Canada in 2000. “I enjoy getting ideas from clients, then matching them with their personalities in order to produce the best result – whether it’s working on a kitchen, bathroom, or the whole house,” she says.

In the Price home, French doors now lead from the kitchen to a large deck, great for entertaining and glimpses of ferries, sailboats and whales. “Now we live in the kitchen… and I don’t mind doing the laundry,” says Price. “Everything is so bright and cheerful after all that depressing brown stuff!”