When this year’s New Moms Kitchen Walk takes place on Saturday, April 28, visitors will be treated to 10 spectacular local kitchens, including an Oak Park home that has been featured in commercial shoots and the River Forest kitchen of Top Chef Junior Addison Osta-Smith, who may just leave some cookies on the counter.
This year, the walk comes full circle to its beginnings at an Oak Park kitchen table on East Avenue. In 1985, when Catherine Deam was redoing her kitchen, she shared the trials and tribulations of the five-month process with her friend and neighbor, Pat Staszak.
As one of the founding members of Parenthesis (acquired by New Moms in 2016) in 1980, Pat was looking for a fundraising idea for the fledgling organization, and she and Catherine hit upon the idea of opening up kitchens for a housewalk.
At the time, housewalks were not commonplace, but the friends realized that everyone they knew was redoing their kitchen or thinking about redoing their kitchen, and the walk a big hit among local homeowners.
Where it all began
As the Homes reporter for Wednesday Journal, I’ve covered the Kitchen Walk for years, but didn’t know the history behind the housewalk until I literally moved into it in 2014.
When my husband and I purchased Catherine Deam’s house after she passed away, we heard countless stories from neighbors and friends about what a lovely person she was. Someone mentioned that our new-to-us home was the inspiration for the original Kitchen Walk, and the light bulb went off.
The Deam remodel in the 1980s enlarged the footprint of the original 1920s-era kitchen by encompassing a porch, but 30 years had rendered some of the 1980s finishes – not to mention the appliances — in need of an update.
Tuscan-themed tiles, sponge-painted walls, a peninsula and a sloped ceiling with skylights were the height of chic kitchen trends when the room originally was remodeled, but we were ready for something different for our family of four.
One of the advantages of working the Kitchen Walk beat is the connections to the homeowners, designers and architects whose kitchens had been featured on the walk.
While I had plenty of ideas about the design details of our new kitchen, I knew I would need a professional to help make my plans a reality. I turned to local architect Rosanne McGrath, whose kitchens have appeared on many Kitchen Walks.
With her expertise in working with historic homes, I was confident that she was the perfect person to help us create a kitchen that complemented the original details of our Charles White-designed house while also creating the space to get four “chefs” in the kitchen to cook pizza every week.
Working within the existing space and inspired by the details of the home’s original butler’s pantry, Rosanne created a plan that balanced the kitchen and opened up sight lines.
A part of the room cut off by a peninsula became an eat-in breakfast room, complete with banquette seating and windows that match the original windows at the front of the house. The cooking space was realigned to allow for a professional range, and Rosanne designed a hood surround that became a focal point of the room.
Throughout the room, we used materials that seemed to match the rest of the house. Elongated Fireclay subway tiles formed the backdrop of the kitchen. A hutch-like cabinet for with diamond-paned glass panels stores our dishes. Antiqued brass hardware –both vintage and new- matches the home’s original hardware.
New refrigerator and freezer columns, refrigerator drawers in the island and the dishwasher are far more utilitarian than the 1980s appliances they replaced. Concealed behind cabinet panels, the new appliances fade into the background of the space. A marble-topped island gives us plenty of room to roll out pizza dough or for my kids to do their homework after school.
As I read back over the history of Catherine Deam’s kitchen makeover, I am reminded that there is nothing new under the sun. Much as she chatted with friends about the trials and tribulations of a five month kitchen makeover in the 1980s, I complained and celebrated with my friends as my family went through a similar five-month process to remake the space.
It only seems right to open it up to a new generation of kitchen voyeurs to benefit a cause that was near and dear to Catherine’s heart.
Housewalk with a purpose
When New Moms acquired Parenthesis in the fall of 2016, it pledged to continue the major annual fundraiser that Parenthesis began back in 1985. Laura Zumdahl, New Moms president and CEO, notes that the 33-year history of the Kitchen Walk parallels nicely with New Moms’ 35 years of helping young mothers interrupt generational poverty and build strong families.
“The Kitchen Walk is an inspirational thing,” Zumdahl said. “There’s something really cool about using people’s homes to help others build the idea of home. It’s a really powerful tie-in with our mission. It’s a real gift to be able to have fun seeing homes while helping others build strong homes.”
Zumdahl notes that New Moms focuses on three key areas providing housing for families experiencing homelessness, job training and a range of support programs from pre-natal services and home visits to morning drop in programs and parent educational programs that help create strong families.
She says that this year, the organization will serve over 700 new mothers through their programs and facility on the West Side of Chicago. This spring, New Moms is breaking ground on a new facility in Oak Park that will have housing for more families as well as programming and office space.
The Kitchen Walk is a major fundraiser for New Moms, which makes it possible to provide these vital services, and Zumdahl says the funds are much needed.
“There is always more need than we can meet,” Zumdahl. “This fundraiser helps us to continue to do what we do and grow our reach.”