Who doesn’t dream of going back to visit their childhood home? To walk into that bedroom, that feels so much smaller as an adult, where so many big dreams were conjured. For Emily Henry, she not only got to visit her childhood home: she got the chance to buy it.
“It was never the plan for us to buy this place, but it just worked out this way,” Emily says.
As much as Emily may enjoy the nostalgia of raising her own three daughters with her husband, Scott, in her childhood home in Montgomery; the reality of the space left much to be desired… especially in the kitchen… homeschooling… during a pandemic.
The Henrys had been thinking about renovating their kitchen for a while. “We got into COVID and were really stuck in that space all together,” Emily remembers with a laugh. “Three young girls—nine-year-old twins and a seven-year-old trying to do virtual learning really sped up our plans.”
The Henrys knew they needed to work with someone who could manage their project. “My husband and I both work, we have our kids, and I coach at Orangetheory on the side,” Emily says. “I had a co-worker who had worked with Neal’s Design Remodel. She told me all the ways they went above and beyond every expectation, so I knew they would do the same for us.”
SO LONG SOFFITS
Emily had one inspirational picture of a kitchen when she went to meet Neal’s designer Jodi Smith for the first time. “What I wanted was a massive island,” Emily describes. “I wanted to be able to bake cookies, roll dough, get flour everywhere. I wanted to be able to seat a lot of people around the island with no other table in our kitchen. When we entertain, that is where everyone hangs out.”
The kitchen was small, dark, and the soffits made the space seem smaller than it was. “They were awful,” Emily admits. “I hated them.” Emily knew she wanted to get rid of the soffit and have cabinets go to the ceiling but admits that everything else was Smith and the team at Neal’s.
“What stood out the most when I met them was that they talked a lot about their family,” Smith remembers. “Their existing space was not functional, so we wanted to make sure everything we created had function as the focus.”
The goal of opening the kitchen was achieved by making the wall between the living room and kitchen much smaller. The wall between the kitchen and the formal dining room was removed. The back wall of the kitchen was pushed out and made flush with the existing breakfast nook wall. In the process, an awkward, under-cabinet window was removed. “Gosh, that was so 1990,” Emily says.
It was replaced with three windows creating a visual centerpiece to the feature wall of the kitchen over the farmhouse sink. “The Henrys wanted an apron-front fireclay sink,” Smith says. “Emily made that specific request because her research showed it would be the most durable.”
The homeowners opted for an electric range instead of gas because they admittedly don’t cook enough to make the investment. “We did invest in a Sub-Zero fridge,” Emily says. “And I did want a double oven since I frequently host Thanksgiving. It was always a challenge. We’d be stuffing things in toaster ovens.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
The family set up a little kitchen station in their basement. “I joked that I felt like I was back in college,” Emily recalls. “If you ran the toaster oven and the microwave at the same time, you’d trip the circuit.
“It was a little like living in a construction zone, but it was cool to see progress. The kids loved coming home from school every day and wanted to see what had happened while they were gone.
“It was so worth it to us though to make this investment now, because we know we’ll be in this house for 20-plus years.”
ROOM TO GROW
Scott and Emily are excited to see their girls grow in this new space and watch them hangout with their friends.
“We don’t feel like we’re on top of each other,” Emily says. “Mornings are still nuts, but the kids have more autonomy. And Scott and I spend a lot more time in there, having a glass of wine after the kids go to bed.
“We really enjoyed working with Neal’s. The communication was very clear.
One of the drawings had missed that one of the girl’s bedroom windows would become obstructed by the addition, so they moved her window at their own expense. They did it on their own dime because they missed it. That speaks to the value of what they provide.”
While the Henrys were tackling their kitchen renovation, they decided to get their dream laundry and mud rooms too.
“We run the laundry like four times a day,” Emily says. “So that was the biggest investment for me. I went with the LG front loader. I spent three years on the laundry division of P&G. I probably know more than any normal person should about washing machines.”
Emily has a system for how she likes to do laundry, so she found a basket system on Pinterest she liked. And she didn’t want to do laundry in the formal dining room anymore, so she wanted a place where she could fold and sort all in one.
The mudroom is where the original laundry room was, so the team at Neal’s built the addition to include the laundry room.
“The Henrys wanted a place for the girls to plug in their iPads, hang up their coats…plus, the parents wanted those things too,” Jodi Smith, designer at Neal’s says. “So, when they come in the door, their stuff is left by the door.”
Contractor Neal’s Design Remodel; Kitchen designer Jodi Smith, Neal’s Design Remodel; Custom cabinetry Neal’s Design Remodel; Cabinet hardware Top Knobs; Countertops Mercury Quartzite/Viatera Rococco, KBR; Main backsplash Emotive Coy Grey Glossy, Florida Tile; Cooktop backsplash Stone Impressions Artisan Avery Grande on Cararra, Louisville Tile; Sink Signature Hardware Torun Fireclay Farmhouse, Ferguson; Faucets Moen Nio Black Stainless pull down, Ferguson; Appliances Bosch dishwasher, cooktop and double oven, Sub-Zero French door refrigerator, undercounter refrigerator and microwave, Custom Distributors, Inc.; Flooring Refinished Hardwood, Mansion Hill; Windows Pella Lifestyle Double hung; Patio Brick Form Rough Stone, LK Concrete
By Sarah J. Dills | Photos by Tiffany Schultz
Article originally appeared in September 2022