For big families, the dream of a crisp, streamlined home is often waylaid in favor of boisterous gatherings, kid-friendly spaces, and the occasional pair of dirty soccer cleats plunked down on the countertop. But for the McConaghy family in Woodinville, Washington, smart design choices and durable materials mean the end of compromises between their minimalist dreams and a lively family life.

With three kids, a live-in au pair, and frequent visits from friends, family, and neighbors, the McConaghys are no strangers to a full house. So when they bought their 4,700 square foot 1986 home in Woodinville, they knew they wanted to remodel the kitchen and living room to create versatile spaces able to effortlessly work the crowd.

“The kitchen was totally functional, but it was a very compartmentalized layout with a lot of extra walls separating the spaces,” explains homeowner Shirin McConaghy. “It was also very long and narrow instead of open and inviting. We wanted to open up the space and create more of a great room feel by taking down as many walls as possible.”

To help create a space that would serve their entire family, the McConaghys hired designer Heidi Caillier. Together, they planned a more open layout that eliminated unnecessary room divisions while letting in more light and creating spaces the family would actually use. Working within the existing footprint of the home, the team more than doubled the kitchen space. They also removed dividing walls between the kitchen, dining, and family rooms, creating an integrated flow between the zones in the home the family used most.

Describing an aesthetic can be challenging, especially for people who aren’t design professionals. “We used fewer words and more pictures to communicate,” said Shirin. A shared Pinterest board helped built a common design language, which coalesced around a modern farmhouse vibe with industrial accents and contemporary bones. “We settled on a look that feels really fresh yet timeless,” says Shirin. “I didn’t want anything too trendy.”

With interior walls removed, it was time to bring more light into the kitchen. “It was a very tricky space with layout,” says Heidi. “We needed to figure out how to get windows onto the exterior wall.” That meant forgoing upper cabinetry—not a deal breaker given the family’s preference for a clean-lined look—in favor of installing new windows looking out onto the expansive backyard. Storage in the island (including an area specifically designed for cookbook storage) as well as a butler’s pantry makes up for the loss of cabinet space.

To maintain that crisp, streamlined feel, Heidi and the McConaghys selected simple shaker-style cabinet faces for the island and beneath the counter. Perimeter cabinets are painted a bright white color, while the island shows off a dusky black. “I really like the two-tone cabinetry for larger kitchens because it breaks up the appearance a little bit,” says Heidi. “That island is 10 feet long, so to ground that space, we needed something darker. All white would be boring.” Caesarstone quartz is used for the countertops as well as the backsplash to unify the space.

Adjacent to the kitchen, Heidi transformed an old chimney well into a cozy dining nook that’s just right for the younger members of the family. “It’s such a sweet spot,” says Shirin. “We do breakfast there, and we play games with the kids.” Here, durability was the guiding principle. Heidi and the McConaghys opted to skip cushions that could stain or tear, instead sticking with built-in hardwood benches that can be easily wiped down. Jute light fixtures add a rustic, textured touch.

With more space, more light, and a revamped layout designed to keep life moving, Shirin says her family couldn’t be happier with the results. “We still kind of pause every now and then and look around and just admire the kitchen,” says Shirin. “We feel so lucky that we were able to do it, and that it turned out as beautifully as it did.”


Forte Construction Alliance

Heidi Caillier Design

Kitchen Appliances: Monogram, Zephyr