Urban cherry harvested in Washtenaw County gives new kitchen a feeling of warmth and welcome
Photo courtesy of JDG Creations
The interior was, well, ugly, Eric Paul said, with Pepto-Bismol pink walls and faded and dated wallpaper.
But the worst offender, he said, was the kitchen, with mint green walls and black and white wallpaper made to look like brick. The counter tops were a cheap laminate, a yellowish-grey-white color and there was little workspace.
“We wanted a functional kitchen where we could work and cook that was aesthetically pleasing and environmentally non-aggressive,” Paul said.
At the end of the kitchen was a dilapidated utility porch -- used to store garden tools, cleaning equipment and castoff.
“We couldn’t use it much,” Paul said. “It was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. It was nasty.”
Photo courtesy of JDG Creations
The house’s sore spot became a highlight when the kitchen was expanded and remodeled into a space warmed by locally harvested urban cherry cabinets and trim, a natural non-glossy countertop and earthy slate tile floors and walls.
Contractor Jake Grimes of Ypsilanti-based JDG Creations used the porch space to extend the kitchen and open the view to the yard with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and banks of windows. A ceiling beam, encased in the urban cherry wood, visually separates the two spaces, but there’s a clear line of vision into the yard from any point in the kitchen.
Because the cabinets were custom-made, awkward spaces that would have gone to waste with stock cabinetry were put to good use.
The lumber came from reclaimed urban cherry trees harvested in Washtenaw County that otherwise would have ended up as mulch.
While custom cabinets and local lumber is more expensive, they yield a unique look, Grimes said, with the grains of imperfections in the wood adding to the warmth. Stock cabinets have a more flawless and uniform look.
The bank of cherry cabinets in the pantry comes from a single piece of wood, Grimes said. “You just can’t buy that. It has to be hand-made.”
The cherry wood surrounds and fills the kitchen. Even the dishwasher, refrigerator and stove hood are covered in cherry.
There was one thing Paul did not want: Granite or quartz countertops. They are too glossy and too ordinary, he said. He wanted something different. And eco-friendly.
The espresso-colored PaperStone countertops with a matte finish fit the bill, with none of the gloss of granite, an earth-friendly manufacturing process and a soft and rich patina.
While the PaperStone material is more expensive than most granite, it is less expensive to install because it can be cut with woodworking tools, eliminating the need to bring in a stonecutter, Grimes said.
Another green feature of the project was the heating system.
Because the kitchen now extended over the concrete slab of the utility porch, there was no space to install heating vents. Instead, a radiant floor heat system was installed and foam insulation added.
“It’s amazing, even with all of the glass and windows, it’s the warmest room in the house,” Paul said.
And they chose slate tile over ceramic tile also because they didn’t want the uniformity that comes from ceramic. The slate has color variations that make it unique, and it offers a sturdy surface for their dogs, Paul said. “Every tile is different.”
It wasn’t the first time the house -- built sometime between 1910 and 1920 -- has been given new life. It started out as a much smaller frame house built near what became the city’s water treatment plant a few blocks away. When the city bought the land in 1925, the house was moved, expanded and the brick facade added.