This contemporary kitchen makes entertaining friends and family or even just cooking for the kids fun and easy. It was designed to allow the homeowners to prepare meals or socialize while keeping an eye on their children. The youngsters can play in the backyard just beyond the large sliding glass doors while mom and dad get dinner ready, hang out with friends, or do the dishes—all the while within sight of each other.

The plan, a remodel of a 1920s bungalow in Raleigh, N.C.’s walkable Cameron Park neighborhood, was driven by the owners’ desire for a connection to the outdoors. Architect Katherine Hogan, of local firm Tonic Design/Tonic Construction, carved out the light-filled kitchen and dining area by removing a crawlspace under the original house. This allowed her to lower the floor 4 feet while keeping to the existing footprint. The result is an open, 14-foot-tall space that flows seamlessly to the outdoor dining and garden area. 

“We did not tear the house down, but used the existing conditions as the foundation and inspiration for the new form,” says Hogan. “We knew the house would function so much better if the clients could be in the kitchen or dining room and see the children outside and everything just felt connected.”

An open steel-and-wood staircase connects all three levels of the home, so if the weather keeps the kids indoors, they are able to hang out in their bedrooms and still be within earshot of their parents downstairs.

The kitchen boasts several sustainable features, including Bosch Energy Star-rated appliances and operable windows that allow for daylight and natural ventilation, greatly reducing the reliance on artificial lighting during the day. 

The well-insulated house is kept warm by a geothermal ground source heat pump, resulting in a HERS rating of 51, making the home 50% more energy efficient than a standard new home and 80% more efficient than the average resale house.

With an eye on the budget of about $175 per square foot, Hogan helped the homeowners prioritize their product selections. For example, they splurged on stainless steel shelving and economized with 14-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling Ikea cabinets. Accessed by a ladder, the cabinetry provides an inexpensive but striking focal point to the kitchen and adjoining dining room—and an amazing amount of storage space.

“We went back and forth on those because we felt having cabinets that tall was a really important part of the overall space and how it was going to look,” Hogan says. “In the end we found that they really make the whole space.”

In addition, the large central island and clever mini bar nook with Whynter wine fridge upped the entertaining quotient without breaking the bank.

“For us, it’s about maximizing the design value—not everything has to be expensive, but it’s the way you make choices about putting things together and how you compose the elements of a room,” Hogan adds.