By William Thrift
Photography by John Wrightenberry
Nancy Cassity Dunlap’s best-known culinary offerings are the cookies she bakes for friends and family around Christmas every year. Select benefactors get to enjoy seven-ginger and macadamia nut cookies, and the exceptional old reliable – the chocolate chip made with Belgian chocolate. In fact, Brussels, Belgium, factors significantly in Nancy’s and husband Buddy’s lifestyles. Nancy says of her favorite European city, “It has a Parisian flair, but without the pretension. Beer, chocolate, mussels, what’s not to love?” They have visited enough that they are even contemplating purchasing a condo, so they’ll have a permanent place to stay.
But they’re not giving up their beloved Forest Acres terrace home where they’ve lived since 1990. For most of the past two decades, Nancy commuted from Columbia to her job at Clemson University. Hence the kitchen, while bustling at Christmastime, was otherwise seldom used. But it was during those baking seasons that Nancy came to know the shortcomings of her aging kitchen – one oven, negligible counter space, inconvenient for electrical appliances and storage. As the whole baking process spilled out into surrounding rooms during the holidays, she dubbed the area her “manufactory.” So upon retiring from Clemson in 2010, and finally settling back in Columbia, she knew that the kitchen must be updated.
Nancy’s friend Ryan Thompson, who works at Jeffers-McGill, suggested that she call Kathryn Klough at Edisto Kitchens and Bath. Approaching the job in her unique style, Kathryn first learned about Nancy’s lifestyle to determine what she really needed. She noted details like the trash compactor and dishwasher being side-by-side, making it difficult to use them.
The laundry closet overwhelmed the space and would be better suited elsewhere in the home. She also suggested adding a peninsula with a countertop and cabinets, increasing the workspace when cookie time rolled around again. So she drew up plans for the new kitchen.
The first thing to happen was the entire kitchen (including the laundry closet) was gutted down to the studs. However, the medium-stain oak floor remained. The laundry became a stackable unit and was relocated to an unused half bath in another part of the house. Nancy and Buddy ate out a lot during the seven-week-long renovation, but Nancy kept a microwave and hot plate in the dining room along with the refrigerator for times that they did eat at home.
Nancy said of the new design, “Access and efficiency are the main things. Pretty is secondary.” So the revamped kitchen included some updated features that satisfied her request. She wanted an in-counter compost bin that would facilitate using waste materials for her herbs and plants outside, so she chose a Blanco Solon system with a stainless steel pail and cover. She selected a Kitchen Aid electric induction cooktop in part because the innovative heating method would reduce accidents like sleeves catching fire (a more common occurrence with gas stoves). She also didn’t mind exchanging her old cookware for new ferrous metal ones.
Her old sink was stainless steel with a high jewel polish – and she hated having to constantly scrub it to keep it clean. The new under-mounted sink is from Houzer and features a hygienic non-porous surface with a silver ion coating that provides antibacterial protection. Three times harder than granite, it resists heat, scratches, and chips. Nancy now has a GE Mongram double oven and a GE Microwave/Convection oven – so no more long, drawn-out baking sessions where she juggles various cookie batches in one oven. The old dishwasher was replaced with a smaller, more efficient Fisher & Paykel drawer dishwasher with a convenient remote control.
The cherry cabinets were custom-crafted by Bishop in a shaker style. They feature full-extension, self-closing drawers and soft-close doors. Overhead cabinets have bi-fold doors that lift up and out of the way. A closet adjacent to the kitchen was re-tasked to replace the old, slim pantry cabinet, and additional pantry space was added on an existing wall. A “magic corner” unit was added to enable access to storage in the often-underused corner space below the counter. Beside it, a pull-out foil wrap holder was added. An innovative two-tiered cutlery drawer was added so Nancy didn’t have to separate her everyday and fine silverware. Finally, installer Paul Hicks built a faux-window over the sink where Nancy keeps her stemware handy.
The counters were finished with green, silver, and gold Mariposa granite complemented nicely by the Silver Aspen (glass and slate blend) backsplash. Nancy chose soft white Kichler LED light strips that she’d found at Lowe’s for counter lighting. Instead of having wall outlets interrupting the look of the backsplash, Nancy had outlet strips installed along the underside of the cabinets. Her electrician found the whimsical, mercury glass peninsula lights at a market in Little Mountain.
Even though she sometimes forgets where things are, and regrets having to keep her knives in a drawer instead of out on the counter, Nancy couldn’t be happier with the new kitchen. Anyone who has had the pleasure of her “rosemarys” – shortbread cookies with rose petal jam – should be happy too. In the past, her trips to Europe left her longing for the appeal of Italian design and the efficiency of German function in her Columbia kitchen. From now on, perhaps when she’s whipping up a quick meal in her Brussels kitchen before she and Buddy hit the streets of Sablon for an evening stroll, there’s no doubt that she’ll be missing the classic style and smart design of her kitchen back home in Columbia.