Dated 1980s San Antonio kitchen renovated into a modern French Country masterpiece

The mid-1980s home just outside Castle Hills was perfect for the family of four: four bedrooms, a pool for the kids and their friends and it was closer to the husband’s work than their old home in Boerne.

But that kitchen.

It was large, but it was dated. The countertops were white tile with plenty of dirt-catching grout. Most of the working area — the stove top, microwave, and refrigerator — was clustered into one corner of the room. And hovering above it all was what they called the “space ship,” an enormous, boxed fluorescent light fixture casting an unflattering glow over the room.

The homeowners, who requested their names not be used, moved in in 2020. First they renovating their two daughters’ bedrooms and the secondary bathrooms. Then they turned their attention to the kitchen, hiring Shea Pumarejo, owner of Younique Designs.

Rather than being open to the rest of the house, the kitchen was its own room with just one doorway in. That actually was a feature the wife liked, giving her a little me-time and privacy to play music while she cooks.

But that’s where the love ended, as the kitchen looked like it hadn’t been updated since the day it was built almost four decades ago. “I’m sure it was really nice when it was built,” Pumarejo said with a wry smile.

The kitchen’s large space gave Pumarejo plenty of room to rearrange the work areas to improve the flow and also update the lighting, work surfaces and cabinets. So after a five-month renovation, Pumarejo transformed a blah, mid-’80s design into a modern take on the French County look, with a color palette of white and neutrals and several rustic accents.

The kitchen’s centerpiece is a swooping, custom-carved limestone vent cover that rises above the six-burner, professional-grade stove. “It was quarried and fabricated in Mexico,” Pumarejo said.

The kitchen had more storage space than any family could ever use, with cabinets lining every wall. Pumarejo removed the ones on the wall where the range was located to keep the vent hood the star of the room. She replaced the rest of the cabinets for a more modern look, incorporating deep drawers on the bottom level.

She decided to keep the base of narrow island running down the middle of the room, replacing its cabinets with drawers for easier access. She also replaced the tile on the island and other countertops with a dark, leathered granite in a matte finish, the better to hide the dirt and fit in with the rest of the kitchen’s aesthetic.

“We didn’t want the countertop to look shiny and new,” Pumarejo said. “We wanted the kitchen to feel like it had been here forever.”

With such a tall ceiling in such a narrow space, Pumarejo said the kitchen threatened to feel like an elevator shaft. So she used several tricks to visually lower the height, including covering two walls with a handmade brick veneer laid in a herringbone pattern and installing four wooden beams running crosswise along the ceiling.

“The color and weight help make the ceiling feel lower,” she said.

The space ship was replaced by several different lighting fixtures, all with rustic appeal. Above the narrow center island now hang two delicate French-style metal chandeliers with swags of thin gold braids and electric candles.

Over the kitchen table, there’s a trio of sparkly, rebuilt and rewired antique crystal pendants from Egypt. And at the sink is a pair of wall sconces with Edison bulbs and faceted mirrors on the underside of the shade that reflect a subtle, ambient light.

The finished room gets plenty of natural light thanks to the large bank of bay windows at one end that overlooks the front yard. While the older windows were replaced more energy-efficient, fixed-pane picture windows, the owners kept the beautiful wood shutters the previous owners had installed.

Another kitchen feature left untouched was the oak parquet flooring, which runs through much of the rest of the house. “I loved the floor and how it plays off the herringbone pattern of the bricks we used on the walls,” Pumarejo said.

The renovation took about two months longer than normal, and was finished in late February. “We had supply chain issues with some of the materials,” she said.

The brick veneer came from California, for example, and when it was ready to be shipped there weren’t enough truck drivers to bring it to Texas. Then several people involved in the project came down with COVID-19, further delaying things.

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini

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