Small space, big results

Homes: Small space, big results


Small space, big results

An addition provides beauty and efficiency in new kitchen, bathrooms.

Story: Jodi Heckel

Photos: Robin Scholz

Lois Steinberg’s dream kitchen was a long time coming.

Steinberg has lived in her Urbana home for nearly 30 years and has made numerous improvements to it during that time, including a previous kitchen renovation.
But a few years ago, she decided to build an addition to the back portion of her home that would include a kitchen that was exactly what she wanted, one that she would be able to live with for a very long time.

The original portion of her Urbana home dates to the Civil War. An addition with a flat roof was made in the early 1970s. Steinberg began renting the home in 1984 and bought it in 1986.

Since then, she has removed the home’s vinyl siding and the damaged cedar shake shingles underneath and replaced them with new cedar siding. She put a gabled roof onto the 1970s addition, and she added a 200-square-foot addition for a study at the back of the house, with high ceilings and large windows looking out onto the backyard. With the addition, the house was about 1,000 square feet.

Steinberg also renovated the kitchen, which had very little counter space and only enough room for a small “apartment” stove. She moved a bathroom door to allow for more counters and a standard-sized stove, put in new cabinets and tiled the floor.

The Preservation and Conservation Association gave Steinberg a Residential Heritage Award in 2003 for the work.

Even with the improvements, though, the home still had many inconveniences. Steinberg called it a “hardship house.”

There was no room for a washer and dryer, so the washer was in the cellar, which could only be reached from narrow stairs outside the home. The washer was on a pedestal because the cellar sometimes flooded, and Steinberg would often hit her head while doing laundry.

The one bathroom was directly off the kitchen and very small, with the sink hanging over the edge of the tub. The kitchen still had limited counter space. And Steinberg said the flow from room to room was poor.
She enjoys cooking and wanted a home that made things easier for her, from a better kitchen to space inside for a washer and dryer to a second bathroom.

Steinberg – who is a yoga instructor, author and owner of Yoga Institute of Champaign-Urbana – travels extensively and picked up many ideas about home design while staying in the homes of friends abroad.

“You see all the smart things other countries have,” she said.

She also read home magazines and researched various fixtures online.

“I knew what I wanted. And I knew what I didn’t want,” Steinberg said. “I didn’t want the typical cookie-cutter kitchen, with a microwave and all the cabinets crammed in there.
“I didn’t want anything that would be dark and heavy. I wanted a lightness,” she continued. “I wanted beauty and energy efficiency and smart things to make it functional.”

She designed the way the addition would look, and an architect friend put her ideas into a blueprint. Steinberg had contractors Spencer Vonderheide and Lee Stoops, both of Urbana, move the bathroom to improve the traffic flow through the house and add a second bathroom, a closet space for a stackable washer and dryer, and a vestibule inside the back door where Steinberg could leave shoes and coats when she entered the house.

For the floor in the kitchen and a hallway, Steinberg used quarter-sawn, old-growth pine boards that were salvaged from a house that was torn down. The windows are triple-pane, energy-efficient, tilt-and-turn windows that can be opened either in from the side or tilted down.

Steinberg knew she didn’t want granite in her kitchen. She fell in love with Calacatta marble. Because it was expensive, she looked at other options, but kept coming back to the Calacatta.
“It’s classic, it’s timeless, it’s beautiful. I had to have it,” she said.

She bought the marble through Levantina in Chicago, and Classic Granite and Marble of Champaign cut and installed it for her.

Steinberg mixed and matched several different styles so her maple cabinets – from Ely Furniture & Cabinets in Homer – don’t all have the same look. The upper cabinets are stained a light color and the lower cabinets have varnish with a touch of celery green. They have soft-close drawers and framing inside that doesn’t use a lot of wood. A corner cabinet has wire storage racks that pull out.

The cabinet door hiding the trash can has a touch opening that Steinberg can access with a tap, and a recycling chute in the kitchen leads to a container in the vestibule by the back door. Steinberg also included a small stepladder, stored in the kick plate underneath her lower cabinets, which she uses to reach upper shelves.

An opening for a compost pail is built into the kitchen counter, and the countertops jut out a few inches from the edge of the lower cabinets so Steinberg can put a bowl underneath the counter edge and scrape food scraps into it.

She chose a stove with a wok burner, and the stove has pullout pantry drawers on either side.

Steinberg was conscious of the small space in her home and chose options that would not create obstacles to move around. The narrow refrigerator is flush with the cabinets. The cabinets on one side of the kitchen have doors that raise up rather than pull out. She chose a low-profile knob for her hallway linen closet that wouldn’t jut out beyond her bedroom door frame. And her bathrooms have pocket doors, rather than those that would swing in and take up space in the bathrooms.

She put in hydronic radiant heat, which supplies heat directly to the floor via pipes carrying heated water and plates in the subfloor. Steinberg said she wanted something other than a standard furnace, which made the air too dry for her.

“I don’t live well in forced hot air,” she said.

In addition to heating her home, the hydronic system also heats a towel bar in her shower.

The master bathroom features marble tiles that appear to be a different color, ranging from brown to green, depending on the light coming through the skylight above the shower. Doug Carlton of Champaign installed the tiles.

“The way he cut those pieces, they are just beautiful and subtle and quiet and calm. I really like it,” she said.

The guest bathroom features crema marfil tile from Spain.

Steinberg acquired the bathroom mirrors, framed in mosaic glass, in Ravenna, Italy, a city famous for its Byzantine mosaics.

She wanted glass walls rather than shower curtains in her bathrooms. They are similar to those she sees in Europe and they cover just a portion of the shower opening, but water doesn’t splash out, she said.

Steinberg included a pullout drawer at the end of the tub for storage, and one of her contractors, Spencer Vonderheide, convinced her to put cantilevered shelves underneath the bathroom sinks. They add storage space and allow her to easily sweep underneath them.

Steinberg took care to select fixtures that helped give the illusion of more space in her small bathrooms.

“Scale was really key,” she said.