One day, 10 kitchens

And 32 years of supporting young mothers

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

For over 30 years, Parenthesis has been raising funds to support young mothers through its annual Kitchen Walk. A favorite of homeowners, architects, designers and curious neighbors, the walk draws crowds of the kitchen-curious on the last Saturday of April every year. 

In the fall of 2016, Parenthesis became a part of Austin-based New Moms, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and changing the future for young moms who are experiencing poverty and homelessness in Chicago and the neighboring area.

Laure Zumdahl, New Moms CEO and president, is excited to have Parenthesis complement New Moms in Oak Park and River Forest, and welcomes joining the Kitchen Walk tradition. 

"I'm so excited to be part of it," she said. "It's an easy way for folks to get together for a good cause."

Zumdahl said she's seen great success with New Moms' wrap-around model of support, which provides homes, job-training and tools for support to build strong families. 

"We've really seen a way to break the generational cycle of poverty by providing those supports," she explained. "It's fitting that we are helping young parents form strong homes with a fundraiser that welcomes people into homes."

Kitchen diversity

River Forest resident and interior designer Judi Mills Grossman, who heads the selection committee for the Kitchen Walk, noted that her team of four includes representatives of various sides of the industry with a mix of architects, interior designers and contractors.

The process begins with applications the fall prior to the walk, and Mills Grossman said the selection committee balances a number of factors in choosing homes. 

"It's really important to show a variety in both styles and price points," she said. "We like to highlight different appliances, different trends, and different budgets in kitchens. It's good to show a palette of options for everyone attending."

Zumdahl said over 60 percent of attendees are from Oak Park and over 40 percent of those surveyed have plans to remodel a kitchen in the near future, so she sees the walk as a way for locals try to visual what they might be able to do in their own homes.

The selection committee tries to consider the needs of the community through their blind selection process, which means they think about what locals might be interested in seeing.

"This year, they are all such great kitchens," Mills Grossman said. "Each one represents something people may be looking for, whether it's an all-white kitchen or a Victorian-style kitchen."

The number of applicants varies year to year, Mills Grossman said, so the committee first sets a deadline for receiving applications with photos and then narrows down the list with home visits. 

"We have such wonderful homes in Oak Park and River Forest," she said, "that it's hard to choose. We try to rotate people off the selection committee every few years for variety and because we're all community members, and when you're on the committee, you forgo putting one of your own projects up for consideration."

 

Intriguing projects

Kitchen Walk Chair Madra Guinn-Jones said this year's walk highlights designs by Kitchen Walk veterans as well as exciting new designers.

"We're fortunate in both Oak Park and River Forest to have wonderful architecture," Guinn-Jones said. "As usual, the designers, architects and contractors have done a wonderful job accentuating that architecture. This year's designs are beautiful and they're also about functionality. They might include a beautiful island that was planned with seats for all four children or a mud room with lockers for each family member, including the dog."

Darius Povilaitis and his family are sharing the Pamela Polvere-designed kitchen in their historic home on Kenilworth Avenue. Guinn-Jones said the Povilaitis kitchen combines old-world charm alongside modern conveniences for a family with four young children.

The William Douglass Home was designed in 1893 by architects Patton & Fisher — for one of the original members of Dun & Bradstreet — and has been meticulously maintained. The renovation opened up the kitchen to the family room (originally a billiards room), which was an addition by the Douglass family in 1903 or 1906. The remodeling added modern features such as radiant-heated floors, a professional range and an island that spans over 10 feet in length and over 5 feet in width. 

Other features were included to complement the home's original historic character. Wooden ceiling beams in the kitchen were modelled after the beams originally found in the family room. An original built-in china cabinet in the adjacent dining room was updated with electricity to become a fully functioning bar.

On Erie Street, the Stroiman family enlarged their Victorian home's kitchen as part of a three-story renovation. Working with architect Chris Wollmuth and designer Lee Ann Anderson, they created a kitchen that suits their young family — with a large island, fireplace and circular banquette.

Jen Stroiman said she relied on the Houzz app during the process. She and her husband wanted their house to be a good place for friends and family to gather.

"We wanted a good, fun space to entertain," she said. "I love the unfinished barn wood beams. They make the space homey and warm."

The architect not only worked to keep the kitchen and mud-room addition consistent with the home's Victorian roots by matching trim and finishes throughout, but he also thought about the way the Stroimans are likely to live in the house with their three children. Cutouts provide good sightlines as well as better hearing capabilities for Jen as she monitors her kids.

A River Forest kitchen was inspired by a French l'orangerie, in which the kitchen and adjoining family room include elements of an authentic French café, said Guinn-Jones, echoing Mills Grossman's comments about the wide range of styles covered by this year's walk.

"We try to highlight lots of diversity in the kitchens," Guinn-Jones said. "From large-scale additions to small-scale remodels that stay within the original footprint, all of the designers really created a seamless project."

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