New Moms gets cooking with Kitchen Walk

The heart of the home benefits the heart of the community

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

On Saturday, April 27, the 34th Annual New Moms Kitchen Walk will open up 10 private kitchens in Oak Park and River Forest and give a glimpse into the latest in kitchen trends as well as unique design inspiration for kitchens that run the gamut from traditional to contemporary. 

Whether or not you're in the market for a new kitchen, the New Moms Kitchen Walk is a perennial favorite on the local spring house walk scene with good reason. Local designers and architects show off some of their best works, and kitchen walk participants get the chance to see real life solutions and inspiration for their own homes. 

While the walk has inspired countless kitchen projects and upgrades through the years, its impact goes far beyond home renovations. The kitchen walk is the major fundraiser for New Moms, a local non-profit whose mission of supporting young parents, ties in nicely with the walk.

Laura Zumdahl, president and CEO of New Moms, says the walk depends on the support of the community to offer much needed assistance to many women and children. 

"New Moms walks along young families to provide housing, job training and family support," Zumdahl said. "We are so appreciative of the design professionals, sponsors and volunteers who support this event. And we are especially grateful for the homeowners who open up their beautiful homes for others to visit."

She notes the connection between the event and the mission of the organization. 

"There is something powerful about people using their homes to help others build a home," Zumdahl said. "And, this year, New Moms has a new home of our own in Oak Park. We just opened up New Moms Oak Park Center, which houses our family support programming and Clare Place where 18 families experiencing homelessness will live in permanent supportive housing. For all of us, there is no place like home. "

Each year, the selection committee, comprising professional designers and architects, narrows down the field to 10 kitchens, and Kitchen Walk Chair Madra Guinn-Jones says that they are lucky to have an amazing array of local projects when choosing their 10 kitchens. Each year tends to put its own unique spin on the walk, and she says that this year is no exception. 

"Many of this year's kitchens were really built to fit the lifestyle of the owners in new and exciting ways," Guinn-Jones said. "One was planned to accommodate a home with multiple generations, one was built so that the owners could experience time in the kitchen with grandkids and another was created for a cookbook author to allow her a separate kitchen for testing recipes."

River Forest resident Emily Paster is a cookbook author and food blogger who had strong opinions about what she needed in her family's kitchen remodel. Paster, husband Elliot Regenstein and their two children moved into the house in 2016, and while previous owners had added a sizeable family room addition to the house, the kitchen was not large enough for Paster to spend all day testing recipes and then cook dinner for her family at night. 

She turned to local designer Mark Menna for help in creating the kitchen of her dreams. The original kitchen became her working kitchen. With a desk, storage for all of her cookbooks, an oven, sink, dishwasher and marble counters for rolling pastry dough, the room also handily stores all of her professional cooking gear. 

Menna enlarged an opening to what had been the family room, and created a family-centered kitchen with a large island, Wolf range, and separate refrigerator and freezer columns for plenty of food storage. 

Paster says the new space gives her plenty of room for all of her project, and notes that her husband was happy to get the ultimate composting, garbage and recycling station in the bargain.

Menna says that it working with Paster to create a "two-in-one" residential kitchen was a fun puzzle. 

"It's not every day I get the opportunity to work with a client that is involved in the culinary industry," Menna said. "Working with Emily and meeting her 'test kitchen' needs was really exciting."

Menna has been designing kitchens locally for over 30 years. His work has been featured on the kitchen walk numerous times, and he says that while he can't track a specific number of clients who found him through the walk, being a part of the kitchen walk has been a boon to his career.

"I feel that it validates my design firm's roots in the local community and keeps us at the top of every one's 'go to' list for kitchens," Menna said.

Like Paster and Regenstein, Pam Daley and her husband, Brian Fieser, knew when they purchased their 1890s-era home that they would eventually remodel the kitchen. "The kitchen before was really small," Daley said. "Really, only one person could work in there. It was important to me that the kids could get in there and cook with us."

Working with designer Amanda Miller, the couple designed an addition that encompassed a new kitchen and porch with a new master suite above. Their former kitchen became a sizeable mudroom for their three kids, and their new kitchen blends French style with a bit of Oak Park historic house feel.

Before they even broke ground, they purchased two antique French lights, which set the mood for the room. A La Cornue range is centered on one wall beneath a patterned backsplash, and throughout the room black, unlacquered brass and pale greys add to the ambiance.

Fieser says that connecting the kitchen to the outdoors was another goal, which they reached by creating a rear wall of windows facing the yard and using French doors to connect to the new screened-in porch. Now, their entire family of five can eat around the island, and they report their 13-year-old child loves baking every week.

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