Cabinet colors: This year's Parenthesis Family Center Kitchen Walk will feature a variety of kitchens that showcase everything from wooden cabinets in the hue of weathered slate to chocolate-stained cherry cabinets.Photos by Michael Scarpelli

A calling card of spring is coming soon, and it will beckon anyone with a ticket into a variety of spectacular, renovated kitchens located in Oak Park and River Forest.

So, on Saturday, April 28, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., rain or shine, groupings of dedicated kitchen design buffs will be shuttling themselves to and from homes to participate in Parenthesis Family Center’s 27th Annual Kitchen Walk.

This year, as in in the past, it is anticipated that more than 800 architectural and design enthusiasts will walk through the 10 newly renovated spaces. Each kitchen, says Julia Harmon-Bell, the returning event chairperson, was selected by a committee of architects and design professionals for its smart, innovative and purposeful design.

Kitchen walk tickets, she says, can be purchased in advance at, and at select local retailers. Cost is $40, or $45 on the day of the event.

Since its inception in 1980, the event has proven to be Parenthesis’s biggest fundraiser. In the last several years, it has raised approximately $50,000 in donations to support the local nonprofit’s wide range of programming, including parenting education, counseling, respite, and case management services focused on building strong families in Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and surrounding communities.

The center’s hope is to hit that mark again, says Harmon-Bell.

“Our kitchen walk started out being very grassroots, with people who were supportive of the agency,” says the former board member of the local nonprofit. “At the time they were saying ‘hey, I did my kitchen recently. Do you think other people would like to see it?’ So, it was very small, but now it has grown and has kind of become a highlight of spring.”

Among the 2012 highlights is the Oak Park kitchen of Lisa and Ray Lewis. It’s in a 100-year-old, Henry Holsman-designed Craftsman home that features historic woodwork that required input from a skilled boat-builder.

The gorgeous architectural transition was drafted by Oak Park architect Ted Nourie. Among the kitchen’s distinctive design elements is an 11-foot island that accentuates the axial nature of the room, he says.

“This is a beautiful old home, and it had a service kitchen to it. The challenge was to design this kitchen that would be in congruence with the rest of the architecture in the house,” says Nourie. “What we did was continue that architecture, while creating this social hub for the house, so now everything revolves around the kitchen.”

A rental unit at Holly Court is another must-see design, asserts Harmon-Bell. It was created for a widower who is transitioning to Holly Court from a large home in the western suburbs.

“In the last couple of years we have had townhouses and some condos on the walk, but we have never had anything on like this before, and Holly Court has been extremely helpful,” Harmon-Bell says. “They will be providing parking on site that day. This unit is not big but the kitchen is lovely and the view from the 12th floor, two-bedroom apartment is really kind of breathtaking, and very cool.”

Kitchen and bath designer Kathy Mahoney masterfully took on the task of easing her father-in-law into his new lifestyle with a feel-good kitchen design that includes masculine accents, creating for him the comfort of his old abode in the new, smaller living quarters.

Aptly installed in the two-bedroom apartment’s kitchen is a deep island with pull-up leather stools and plenty of additional highlights, including wooden cabinets in the hue of weathered slate with bulky pewter pulls. There is also an above-the-sink corner cabinet faced with a concave panel, which captures a curve that Mahoney repeats in other design details, including the stainless steel appliances and a backsplash pieced together with varying-sized circular tiles in pumpkin, sage, cream and grey.

“The transition was really quite amazing,” Mahoney says.

Likewise, last year Francisca Arnold and her family hired out some pros to do a major renovation in an effort to enlarge and update their 1910 American Four Square home on Forest Avenue in Oak Park.

“We were looking for a seamless renovation in an old house with an open concept living space, because we do have three young boys,” she says.

What stands out here, she says, is the transformation of the main floor from being a series of small, isolated rooms, to now offering a more open space. It is anchored by the spacious kitchen, featuring chocolate-stained cherry cabinets, which extend to the ceiling, creamy quartz counters and narrow earth-toned horizontal tiles in the backsplash to add texture and warmth.

The stainless steel stools and long satin nickel pulls add a contemporary feel to the expansive center island. An added touch is the adjacent casual dining area that features long bench seating, plus pull up chairs.

On the walk, adds Harmon-Bell, is a kitchen design inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night, as well as Mary Rose and Charlie Smith’s River Forest kitchen. They eliminated their traditional living room in favor of an expansive gourmet chef’s kitchen and elegant dining hall.

Along the way there will also be two special stops: Flavour Cooking School in Forest Park where Chef Denise Norton will be demonstrating her culinary techniques in her “working kitchen.”

At Oak Park’s Marion Street Cheese Market will be ongoing samplings of specialty cheeses in their featured kitchen.

“Each of these kitchens really succeeds in meeting the challenges of the modern household, while incorporating the historic details that we all love about Oak Park and River Forest,” says Harmon-Bell. “There is a range of people with a variety of budgets this year. Some wanted to make a lot of changes, and others wanted to work within their existing space and were able to really do a lot with a little.”

Join the discussion on social media!

Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....