When Staci Williams and her husband, Tyler, began house hunting in Pleasant Grove, Utah, two years ago, she knew exactly what she wanted in a kitchen. The only hitch was finding it.

"We have a very minimal aesthetic," says Staci. "We had a difficult time finding something that fit our sense of style. We wanted our entire home to be a place that inspires creativity. And each of us requires a very clean, clutter-free space in which to think and be inspired."

They eventually fell in love with the open floor plan and copious natural light of their current home. "I remember thinking, I have a view of the entire house while standing at the stovetop," she says. "And I loved that."

But the kitchen held a few surprises. The layout was, in a word, inefficient. There was no pantry for storage, the appliances were outdated and the crude, flimsy cabinets were made from plywood and painted what Staci calls a "gross" shade of green. The couple decided the kitchen needed a little love and a lot of stainless steel.

Opening Up

The Williamses gutted the space, leaving only the picture window and five-burner stovetop, and designed with openness in mind. They chose below-the-counter cabinets, except for one upper one tucked away in a corner. "It was interesting to figure out the best way to work," says Staci, who was accustomed to ample cabinets extending to the ceilings.

Yet she realized that much of her old storage space was difficult to reach. "I thought I was really going to miss having storage space above," says Staci.

"I've learned a lot about how I can be more efficient."

The couple also converted the wasted space next to the double oven into a walk-in pantry, which offsets the reduction in cabinets. And they cleverly installed a wraparound shelf at counter height in the pantry, complete with outlets for the toaster, blender and other small appliances that would otherwise clutter the kitchen counters. "We worked very hard to make it very functional," says Staci.

Natural Beauty

Today, the kitchen mirrors the rest of the house with its contemporary art gallery aesthetic, emphasizing clean lines and a discerning use of color. Light oak floors extend throughout the kitchen and adjoining areas, creating a sense of continuity and openness. Pale cork countertops clean up easily and complement both the light flooring and the sleek black cabinetry. A stainless steel backsplash and switch plates echo the look of the appliances. And the windows are fit with hideaway shades, rather than blinds or curtains, so as not to obscure the kitchen's natural light—or the couple's minimalist mojo.

That openness enables Staci to keep an eye on her son, Rocco, now almost 2, and allows her to be a part of the conversation during the frequent dinner parties they host. Cool, contemporary bar stools at the counter encourage guests to congregate near the kitchen. "That's the first place people go," says Staci. "They just gravitate toward the stools."

But the kitchen's most efficient element is the one thing Staci and Tyler didn't design: the five-burner stovetop. "I'm able to cook more things at the same time," explains Staci. "I no longer have to read through the recipes and think, OK, I need to time this so I can cook that ahead of time and then heat it up again later."

The kitchen redo reflects the couple's style as well as their sensibility. "I wanted someplace where I was going to work comfortably and not feel overwhelmed," says Staci. "The minimal design allows me to create in the kitchen without hindrance. Which means the mess I make while cooking is the only clutter around!"

Your True Colors

Here's a cheat sheet on how to make even a modern kitchen feel like home.

Enjoy art every day. Even something as practical as a clock, such as the bold Arti & Mestieri version seen at left, adds visual interest and drama to a small space.

Personalize with photos. Pictures capture not just the people you love, but the emotion of a moment. Surround yourself with colorful memories framed simply.

Play up the practical. Make kitchen essentials multitask as splashes of color. Think vibrant orange water bottles. Spatulas and spoons in neon hues. Plant holders in every shade imaginable besides terra-cotta. Clocks as conversation starters.

Don't overthink things. It's OK to let go of a strict palette and embrace pleasingly mismatched moments of color—and whimsy





Photo Gallery of Staci Williams' Kitchen»