Julia Kirkendall remembers when kitchens were hidden in the back of a house.

“There was usually a swinging door into the dining room and food just seemed to appear,” she says.

As an interior designer, Kirkendall is pleased that kitchens have become a vital part of today’s family lifestyle.

“Kitchens are taking center stage in our homes,” she says. “Now they are totally exposed to the living areas, making these spaces more livable and functional, whether the kitchen is designed for a large family that loves to cook or empty-nesters who enjoy entertaining.

“Everything flows from one space to another. We’ve seen this trend coming for a long time. With two people working full time and raising a family, cooking has become a culinary event where everyone participates together.”

That’s what happened to a 3,500-square-foot, rambling, 1980s ranch-style home in south Tulsa. It was much more than a cosmetic remodeling project for the Kirkendall Design firm, established in 1992 and specializing in modern, classic and transitional projects.

“I would call it a renovation,” Kirkendall says. “The kitchen had dark woods [and] was situated away from other rooms, and there was a free-standing bar in the family room. The before and after is dramatic.”

Changes had many technological advancements, such as USB outlets installed in the island for smart phones, laptops and tablets.

The 13-month project, contracted by Terra Nova Properties, involved gutting the house, including a sunken living room typical of 1980s trends. There were also steps up or down to other rooms. Those were eliminated. Large stone columns throughout the home were also removed.

“We made the main living area, including the kitchen, all one level,” Kirkendall says. “We also brought in more natural light by enlarging many windows.”

To lighten up the interiors, shades of pure white and gray neutrals were used, and a custom floor stain set the grounding tones throughout the home. 

“It was fun to add splashes of color in accessories and art,” Kirkendall says. “The wife is of Cuban descent and gravitates toward a bright, tropical color palette. Among the hues are orange, red, green, bright blue – shades that are especially evident in the art and rugs chosen for accents.

“Our design plan meant cutting through the original foundation to take out walls and relocate plumbing to achieve the renovation. We also minimized the use of the Tulsa native stone that made a huge visual impact on the original interior.”

The master and guest bathrooms were dramatically updated. Similar to the kitchen transformation, Kirkendall says people see a bathroom as a spa.

“Whether it’s the master bath, a children’s or guest bath, they want a clean, open experience that renews and energizes them,” she says. “And the more natural light the better.”

The owners bought the house after their children were grown, with the anticipation they would live there 10-20 years. They intended this to be their last home. They also wanted it to be a good investment for any future owners to add their own style.

Kirkendall desired to give this home another generation of life by making changes that match today’s lifestyle while adding the clients’ signature touches. Kirkendall’s design features are classic, open, modern and ideal for a couple who love to entertain in the updated kitchen and relax in the luxurious bathroom.

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