French Quarter Kitchen Makeover

Designer Candice Olson designs a French Quarter-style kitchen for a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina.


A family of four was forced to leave New Orleans and a newly renovated kitchen behind after Hurricane Katrina. They would like to recreate the look in their new home.

A family of four was forced to leave New Orleans and a newly renovated kitchen behind after Hurricane Katrina. They would like to recreate the look in their new home.

Before: Small, Cramped Kitchen

Cara and Anthony, their two daughters and two dogs have recently been through their share of upheaval. The family was enjoying life in their adopted home of New Orleans, and had just finished a beautiful renovation on their kitchen. But the day after the contractors left, Hurricane Katrina hit and they had to evacuate their home. Though their house sustained minor damage, they witnessed the devastating effect Katrina had on their friends and on the entire city.

Heartbroken, they made the difficult decision to leave New Orleans in order to restore some normalcy to their children's lives. They moved back to their native city and into a lovely new house, but they still miss the Big Easy: the music, the art, the hospitality — and especially the food!

The couple loves cooking, eating and entertaining in true Southern style, but every time they used the small, cramped kitchen in their new home, their thoughts drifted back to the other kitchen they renovated and never got to use. So when they asked if could design a French Quarter-style kitchen in their new place, I jumped at the chance.

Their small kitchen was not functional for cooking or entertaining. So, I started from square one by ripping up the cabinetry and knocking down the walls. I blocked up the existing access to the backyard and created a new access with gorgeous French doors to allow for one, long continuous wall of traditional cabinetry and modern appliances.

I then smashed down the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent family room and installed a peninsula between the two spaces. This really opens up the area visually, allows the couple some extra counter space, and gives guests a place to lounge.

I closed up one little area beside the kitchen and made it a comfy little nook, complete with a caramel-colored velvet sectional, a gorgeous fireplace with gas insert, and a television — all of which becomes an extension of the space around it.

After: New French Quarter Kitchen



The lighting, appliances and accessories give the new-look kitchen an Old World feel.

The lighting, appliances and accessories give the new-look kitchen an Old World feel.

In the kitchen, I chose a light, neutral color for the walls, soft linen curtains for window treatments and some wide plank maple flooring. This neutral color palette allowed me to play up the room's details, including rich soapstone countertops and backsplash, funky throw pillows in stripes and geometrics, and a variety of antique-inspired accessories.

I then installed the appliances: a state-of-the art stove, microwave, dishwasher, single bowl sink and — the crowning glory — a fridge and freezer that looks like they are built right into the cabinetry.

However, the most unusual and unique feature in this room is definitely the lighting. I commissioned a famous artist in New Orleans to create something very special for Cara and Anthony. He designed a stunning chandelier with an antique feeling to hang over the peninsula, and two gorgeous sconces for over the fireplace, all of which are handmade with burnished metal.

For the finishing touches, I added several eclectic pieces designed to rekindle fond memories of New Orleans: candles, photos of the kids at Mardi Gras — and even a statue, courtesy of the lighting artist, made from the debris of Hurricane Katrina.

By tearing everything down and filling it all back up with fabulous appliances, cabinets and accessories, the family got a brand new kitchen with an old world feel. Soon it will be jambalaya, gumbo and crawdads for all! How divine!

(Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV's Divine Design. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)

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