May 16, 2022

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The Interior Breakfast

Builder-grade Helotes kitchen gets a $50K renovation with new quartz-topped island, new black stainless steel appliances and more color


When Penny and Don Wuebben’s builder-grade home in Helotes was under construction back in the early 2000s, they were able to pick only from a limited selection of colors and finishes to customize the kitchen.

“It was nothing spectacular, pretty bare bones,” said Don, who works in cybersecurity and risk management at USAA.

Twenty years later, the kitchen, with its black Formica countertops, nondescript flat panel drawers and cabinets and blah beige floor tiles was showing its age. “We raised three kids and a couple of dogs here, and the time had just taken its toll,” said Penny, who works in the athletic business department at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We needed a change.”

And of course, one small change led to another and another …

“The black countertops had looked good when picked them, but it was time for them to go,” Don said. “We wanted to replace them with granite and we thought, If we’re going to do that, let’s paint the cabinets. And then we thought, But why? Let’s just replace them, too.”

Before they knew it, they were in the middle of a complete, two-month kitchen renovation at a cost of about $50,000.

Don is something of a handyman and had previously tackled several projects around the house, including building a deck and doing some light electrical and plumbing work. But he quickly realized the kitchen job was too complex for his abilities, so they called in Monica Beyer, a designer with New Generation Kitchen & Bath on Loop 1604 near Ingram Road.

The first thing she did was address the elephant in the room: the three-sided, bi-level island at the center of the kitchen.

“It was a very dated look,” Beyer said. “And because the space between the island and the rest of the kitchen was so narrow, it made getting around difficult.”

Initially, Penny balked at getting rid of the bi-level island because it hid dirty dishes when they entertained. “But then Monica explained how a flat center island would open up the kitchen,” Penny said. “She made me really think about what I wanted.”

Beyer replaced the old island with one measuring 5 feet by 8 feet and topped with cream-colored quartz shot through with thick caramel veins and tiny, sparkly flakes. The countertops were replaced by the same quartz.

The island’s inset wood panels on the sides and a pair of decorative legs that support the 12-inch overhang give it the look of fine furniture. “I love that there’s so much leg room under the overhang,” Don said. “It makes sitting so much more comfortable.”

The couple say the new island also makes entertaining family and friends easier.

“I’ll move the chairs off to the side and use the island as a buffet table,” Penny said. “There’s plenty of room, and the electrical plugs on either end make it convenient to use crock pots.”

The builder-grade Helotes kitchen of Penny and Don Wuebben was upgraded to a two-tone room with higher-end appliances, fixtures and surfaces.

The builder-grade Helotes kitchen of Penny and Don Wuebben was upgraded to a two-tone room with higher-end appliances, fixtures and surfaces.

Robin Jerstad /Contributor

The new shape also gave them the opportunity to move the sink from its old spot where it sat at an odd angle to a place across from the refrigerator. “They had to chip out the foundation to install the drain,” Beyer said. “But it was worth it.”

The kitchen is surprisingly colorful, with a teal wall surrounding the pantry door and turquoise accents in the wallpaper of the adjacent breakfast nook, in the glass tile backsplash and in the island’s pendant lights, which resemble handkerchiefs delicately draped over the light. They were made by a glass blower in College Station that Penny found on the e-commerce site Etsy.

“You just had to tell him what colors you wanted and he makes them for you,” she said. “It took six weeks to get them.”

While most of the cabinets are white, they are bookended by taller cabinets stained a slate color. One cabinet houses the refrigerator, the other the oven and microwave, all in matching black stainless steel.

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There are several subtle custom touches throughout the kitchen. The gray outlet covers blend in with the rest of the room, for example, while the cabinet above the stove cleverly hides the exhaust fan and duct.

“We didn’t want to see the exhaust hood, so it was worth it to give up some usable cabinet space,” Don said.

In the end the couple say they’re happy with the new kitchen.

“I could probably have done it myself, but it would have taken me six to nine months,” Don said. “And I knew I probably wouldn’t have been happy with the results.”

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini



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