Tour My Kitchen with Cheri and Lon Potratz

A whole-house overhaul gives this family a chance to retool the kitchen for their evolving needs.

Tour My Kitchen with Cheri and Lon Potratz

Tour My Kitchen with Cheri and Lon Potratz

For Cheri and Lon Potratz, two decades of raising a family had taken a toll—on their house, that is. The Omro, Wisconsin, ranch bore the scuffs and scratches of life with four active kids, increasingly obvious as the nest began to empty.

"After the oldest two kids moved out, we decided it was time for a change," Cheri says. The Potratzes embarked on a comprehensive remodel that reconfigured the home's main floor, and Cheri, a passionate cook, pounced on the opportunity to create her dream kitchen.

She and Lon spent six months designing the layout of the new space, sketching and resketching detailed plans on graph paper. Non-negotiables on their wish list included a professionalgrade range, custom cabinetry and generous counter space. Next came the challenging part: setting up camp in the finished basement while construction progressed.

"My kitchen consisted of an electric fry pan, slow cooker, pizza oven and a microwave," Cheri says. "I have to admit we ate out a lot."

Elegant and ultrafunctional, the revamped room turned out to be well worth the temporary hassle.

"Everything's within easy reach," Cheri says. Pullout spice racks and a Viking microwave flank the range, while twin recycling chutes (Lon's idea) next to the range make waste disposal a snap—discards slide into bins in the garage.

Cheri also loves being able to supervise the front yard as she works at the sink area. "I can watch (tween son) Max play with friends and see all the comings and goings," she says.

Daughter Amy, who has an artistic bent, helped choose the kitchen's colors and surfaces. Walnut flooring and maple cabinetry, including panels that conceal the dishwasher, fridge and freezer, warm the room. Quartz countertops lend the look of natural stone but require far less maintenance.

Although Cheri has had to adjust to cooking for three instead of six, the kitchen remains a family hot spot. "It's common for one of the kids to stop home for supper or breakfast," Cheri says. And during the holidays, the room works overtime, from cookie baking and casual parties to feasts during Green Bay Packers games.

"The holidays and Packer football go hand in hand at our house," Cheri says, adding that Max, Amy and their brothers, Adam and Jake, are there for every kickoff. "And of course I'm in the kitchen watching pregame coverage and cooking."

Surviving a Remodel

There's no getting around it: Making do without a full kitchen is a pain. Minimize frustrations with a little strategic planning.

Here are a few tips for getting meals on the table in the midst of remodeling chaos.

Pare Down to Essentials You won't be able to use every pot and pan you own, much less all of your gadgets, so keep the basics available and store the rest.

Keep Meals Simple Prepackaged convenience foods, purchased rotisserie chickens, quick-fix salads or sandwiches and occasional takeout will save your sanity. And consider using recyclable or biodegradable plates, cups, napkins and utensils for simple cleanup.

Think Portable Borrow or buy a mini-fridge, if you can, and rely on small appliances such as a slow cooker, toaster oven, coffeepot and electric skillet.

Remember the Grill Use it like a stove to boil water, saute veggies and pan-fry meats, or try foil-packet cooking. You can even heat rolls or bake pizza.

Keep It in Perspective The project won't last forever, and you will get through it. And the payoff—a fresh-faced kitchen that functions just as you want it to—will more than make up for the bumps along the way.

Photo Gallery of Cheri and Lon Potratzes' Kitchen»