Large family gatherings are the norm for Ginny McFarland of Des Moines, Iowa. The avid cook and baker welcomes 19—count 'em, 19—grandchildren, from toddlers to young adults, at holiday time. And she often includes neighborhood kids in the fun. But multiple surgeries due to arthritis decreased Ginny's mobility and threatened to curtail her entertaining. Plus, her kitchen's awkward L-shape floor plan limited her ability to move comfortably from storage to sink to stove.

Ginny, a recent widow with a straightforward "make it right" attitude, decided to design around the challenges. "It was time to redo the kitchen anyway," she says. "I need easy access to pots, pans, ingredients—everything."

Removing a wall separating the kitchen from the pantry and backstair hall turned the L into an open rectangle and gave her direct access to both areas. Big, durable porcelain floor tiles in an oatmeal color enlarge the space visually.

Everything Within Reach

More floor and counter space allowed Ginny to create a dedicated prep area for baking. Now she has a place for the bright-red KitchenAid stand mixer she loves to show off, canisters for flour and sugar, and an assortment of rolling pins, spoons and spatulas. There's even a collection of mini utensils on hand so that smaller hands can help with some of the holiday baking.

Still, the kitchen floor space is compact, about 55 square feet. A built-in island would have eaten up floor space—but necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. A leggy vintage table painted eyepopping red, fitted with wheels and topped with butcher block, gives Ginny a way to move groceries from the back door to the refrigerator with ease. More important, the table's lower height allows her to sit down to roll out dough and prep everything from salad to stuffing. "I can even move it out to the dining room to help serve," she says.

The refurbished pantry was fitted with rollout shelving to reduce the need to bend over to reach to the back. Doors that close softly help keep things quiet when the kitchen fills up with a playful group of hungry kids searching for snacks. Upper cabinets hold baskets filled with lightweight items such as plastic wrap and food storage supplies. The handle on Ginny's cane helps pull the baskets forward.

Ginny extended the pantry and upper kitchen cabinets to the ceiling to maximize storage for nonessential items. Custom crown molding provides a finished look. The lower cabinets were fitted with full extension drawers to hold everything from spices to pots and pans, so nothing is hidden in the back.

When it came time to buy the appliances, Ginny let practicality and instinct be her guide. "I didn't feel that I needed a complete matching suite," she says. "I chose what worked best for me."

Those choices include an LG French door refrigerator with two lower freezer drawers that can be easily organized and accessed.

"Having two drawers prevents mysterious frozen things from gathering at the bottom," Ginny jokes. A freestanding Whirlpool glass-top range and oven combo has the control panel at the back where younger kids can't reach knobs and buttons. A KitchenAid dishwasher completes the set. All three sport stainless steel finishes.

The handsome cherry cabinetry was extended to surround the refrigerator, giving it a built-in look.

A cinnamon-color stain was applied to cabinets to complement the dark woodwork in the adjacent dining room. Glazing the wood picked up the highlights of the molding and deepened their color. The countertops are granite.

Bright Spots

"I thought I wanted light cabinetry and counters," Ginny says. "But every time I looked at the warmer colors, my heart would sing." Cheery yellow walls and vivid accents of red and orange brighten the room.

The kitchen windows also got the deluxe treatment, with Gothic-motif panes to match the exterior of the house. Rain glass was installed in two for privacy, because the house next door is close, while the third has clear glass and a view of trees.

Ginny was even pragmatic about her utensils. There's a set for baking; a second set lives by the stove, minimizing the need to cross the room. In this kitchen, good design and common sense mean ultimate practicality—and the ability to gather 19 kids for a holiday dinner.





Photo Gallery of Ginny McFarland's Kitchen»