04/10/2012 08:56 EDT | Updated 06/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Joyce and Andrew's Kitchen

Candice Olson

Every old house has a history, and in the case of my clients' home, that history was not at all grand. For years the property had been a rented out to university frat boys, whom, according to the weary neighbours, had attained legendary status for their spirited keg parties. Not that they needed an excuse, but the sight of this kitchen was enough to drive anyone to drink! Dated ceramic floor and backsplash tiles, faux-marble laminate counters and battered cabinets were just some of the features the hapless new homeowners inherited.

Aesthetics aside, the kitchen just wasn't functional and didn't fit Joyce and Andrew's lifestyle. They were social people who loved to cook and entertain, but when they were brave enough to invite people over for dinner, they ended up isolated and cut off from their guests as they finished preparing the meal. My solution was to create a five-foot-wide "window" into the dining room. This opening started above counter height and was designed to screen guests from seeing the typical kitchen chaos that always accompanies delicious gourmet dinners. This opening is a simple idea that I often use because the effect is dramatic. Light floods into inner rooms and there is an instant feeling of spaciousness and flow.

Next, the old ceramic floor and wall tiles had to go. For the floor, I decided to go with an attractive, low-maintenance, wood laminate floor. For the backsplash, I decided to go with a stained, beaded wood paneling that immediately gave the room a charming country air. Some of the cabinets were in good condition while others were unsalvageable. I flanked the sink with open-shelf cabinets to break up the mass of solid doors. The rest of the cabinets were primed, painted and given a striated finish to look like faded blue jeans. Extra trim was added above to the old bulkhead. When these are painted the same colour as the cabinets, it gives the impression of full-height custom cabinets -- another of my favorite tricks!

The countertop was replaced with a speckled black laminate chosen to blend into the black sides of the new stainless steel appliances. One of the smartest purchases was the combination microwave/range hood that floats the microwave over the range to free up limited counter space.

A new wood and stainless steel island conceals the new dishwasher and provides additional counter space and extra storage. Stainless steel counters are handy for setting hot pots and dishes on, but can be an expensive detail. My budget-conscious option was to finish the island counter with a piece of thin gauge steel and trim with wood, resulting in the same look but for a fraction of the cost. The stainless steel look was picked up by the rest of the appliances, as well as the cabinet handles and accessories. All these sparkle and glimmer under the new pendant and under-cabinet lighting. Together these elements offer a modern, contemporary edge to this casual, country-inspired kitchen.

Keggers and toga parties have given way to family gatherings and delicious dinner parties. However, Joyce and Andrew do admit to the occasional raising of a pint or two in tribute to their house -- both to its colourful past and its bright, new future.

Watch Candice Tells All on W Network Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT