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A new kitchen — and a lot of family togetherness

When this Ballard family wanted a kitchen upgrade, they also got extra time with Grandma and Grandpa (aka Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop).

Three generations helped create the Nichols’ new kitchen.


Their 1928 Ballard Craftsman home was undeniably lovely, except for their kitchen, which was remodeled in 1970. At least that’s what Rachel and Jimmy Nichols found. Kitchen remodels can be costly, time-consuming and wholly inconvenient — but all of those elements can also bring about epic, memory-making visits with grandparents. Rachel’s father, Jim, builds and renovates houses in Maryland. Her mother, Patty, was delighted to spend time with grandchildren Ada, 7, and Archer, 4.

While “Mom-Mom” Patty and the kids played (Archer helped out with his toy tool set) and cleaned the dust from the demo, Jim, Rachel, and Jimmy ripped out cabinets, installed fixtures and laid tile. The previous kitchen contained a tiny sink with a leaky vintage faucet, broken lower cabinets with unusable shelving space, and a pale blue 1970s countertop. After removing the lower cabinets, sink and counter, they installed quartz countertops with a marble design. One of Rachel’s favorite new elements is the large sink with a brand-new faucet that automatically filters drinking water and is easily reachable for the kids. “The new faucet comes up through the countertop right behind the sink, as opposed to out of the wall,” says Rachel, making it much easier for the kids to be self-sufficient.


Archer, left, and Ada help themselves to water from the brand-new faucet.

During the renovation, the kitchen became an unusable demolition zone. “We all cooked and ate in our living room on a griddle,” says Rachel. “The kids said it felt like we were camping!”

The upper cabinets were kept intact to retain the home’s character, and handmade subway tiles were installed up to the ceiling. “With handmade tile, each one can be a little bit different,” says Rachel. “They catch the light, and each tile has variances which resemble bricks.” The lower cabinetry was replaced with flat-front cabinets in a deep-blue slate with brass pulls. Rachel found a ceiling light design and spray-painted the metal to match the brass sink light.

The floors, originally a dented, dark-brown fir, were the only part of the renovation where they hired outside help. “We had a professional lay new oak floors and stain them to match the rest of the house,” says Rachel. Some of the original dining-room floor was pulled out, making a better aesthetic transition to the new kitchen floor.

In just six weeks, the Nichols family had a brand-new kitchen, created together as a family. “The kids loved watching my dad work,” says Rachel. “When they are in the kitchen, they say, ‘Pop-Pop made these walls! Pop-Pop made these cabinets!’ I love how our home has memories tied to our family and the work we did together.”

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