Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Emily and Chris Eisenbeisz share their south Fargo home with their three daughters, Vera, Anna and Mary. They have been in their current home for about a year and it will be the third home that the couple has remodeled together. By now, they are well-versed in renovation projects. Following a European-influenced farmhouse style with naturally-inspired elements, they have been transforming each corner of their home to reflect their personal tastes. As they remodel their home, the kitchen was the first project they embarked on making their own.
“We bought the house kind of knowing that [the kitchen] was going to be our first project. We started on that pretty much right when we moved in,” said Emily.
Chris wanted the kitchen cabinets to be wood, so that was the first decision that determined the rest of the finishes. Emily said, “Since this is the house we want to stay in for a long time, we wanted something not too trendy. Something just timeless.” With Chris’s decision for the wooden cabinets in place, Emily decided she would get to choose the appliances. She had seen on social media the Café Collection from GE and loved its bronze finishes and matte white body. “Our fixtures and finishes just all went around the wood and those appliances, those were are starting places,” she added. From those initial choices, they opted with a honed-finish quartz countertop from Northern Stone, a bronze Delta faucet, black cabinet hardware and a glossy grey subway tile backsplash, installed by Chris.
Chris is a handyman and the couple has honed their skills through projects in their previous two houses. The only work they hired out for the kitchen remodel were the installation of the cabinets and countertop and a plumber to move the gas line. By doing this, they saved a lot of money and got to put their own sweat equity into the project. Even though this took more time and patience, the result was well worth it in the end.
Before the transformation, the layout wasn’t ideal for the young family. The island in the center had a split-level countertop, lessening the space available for prepping dishes and entertaining. Also, the island housed the stove in a way that lent itself to being dangerous for their three young children. Another downside, the island was finished in tile and grout, which caught food crumbs easily. Now, the quartz-topped island is spacious and perfect for hosting parties. Even though there is a dining room table just to the side, they’ve found that guests gravitate towards hanging around the island setup instead.
Another priority for the renovation was to add more storage. The previous design had a good amount of cabinets, but nothing that was ideal as pantry space. The previous homeowners added on a pantry that jutted into the living room, which the Eisenbeiszes have since torn down since it was not practical for their needs.
Now, two large sets of doors along the kitchen wall serve as their pantry space. Behind both sets of doors are countertop space, shelving and pull-out drawers on the lower half. In the lower drawers, snacks for the children are conveniently stored for easy access. Similarly in the island, drawers with divider pegs make for ideal storage for the children’s plates and cups, so they don’t have to find their way up onto the counters to get their own dishes.
The homeowners did not want their main countertops to be too cluttered with appliances, so within the two pantry cabinets, there are countertops for their small appliances, like the microwave, toaster and coffee maker. Now, the cabinets can be opened and there is easy access to the appliances, but they are just as easily concealed when the doors are shut again.
While there were a lot of cosmetic updates in this kitchen, the homeowners also made some big changes with the layout. The only appliance that remained where it originally was was the refrigerator. Getting a gasline installed for the gas stove was also a big change for the family. “Neither of us grew up with gas and we never had it in our previous houses we were in. But everyone we asked that had gas told us absolutely to do it. […]I am so glad we did it,” said Emily. Since their kitchen was already demoed, they decided they might as well take the extra step and get the gas line installed. Now, they can enjoy their new stovetop and hood with gas benefits like better cooktop control, quicker heating and cost-effectiveness on the utility bill.
“It’s become a fun hobby for us to do together,” said Emily about renovation projects. Chris’s handiness and ability to complete a number of projects on his own and Emily’s eye for style and design make them the perfect pair. They both have been able to practice their skills and enjoy the process of executing their visions in each room. With a duo like this, there will be ongoing projects for years to come, but they will certainly enjoy the process along the way.