Kitchen Remodel for Function, Family & Entertaining

When Wanda Chenier decided the time had come to remodel her home, she looked at what it would take to make it safe and accessible.

More than anything, she knew the remodel would have to fit her needs. Chenier,  51, is a quadriplegic as the result of a 1997 accident involving a logging truck in Oregon while she was on vacation with her then-husband and two kids, eight and five. Now, a wheelchair is a constant in her life.

When she decided she would remodel, she took stock: She knew her Poway house had good bones, which was one of the reasons she chose to move there 15 years ago to raise her children, Tara,  now 24, and Thomas,  21. She liked the bright, open floor plan and the look of tile and wood throughout the house. But, eventually she tired of the cramped, tiny kitchen that made navigating it in a wheelchair a chore. And, she wanted access to every area in and outside the house.

The main work was in the kitchen. It bears little resemblance to the original, which was the size and footprint of what is now her pantry. The new kitchen is three times the size of the original.

What even the most casual visitor to the home notices is the well-lit spacious kitchen with all the touches to make it work for Chenier and anyone who uses it. It is a kitchen made for entertaining and  Chenier loves to entertain. Is it any surprise that this dream of hers that cost about $150,000 took a big chunk out of her total  remodel budget? Her goal was to make her kitchen stress free, and by all indications, she succeeded.

The kitchen itself includes a 17-foot island with a dining area for six. It also has four work stations. The counters are 32 inches high to accommodate Chenier but the height is also much appreciated by her mother who is under five feet tall. Because Chenier is so in tune with the needs of wheelchair users, toe-kicks–the recess between the cabinets and the floor–are nine inches, providing clearance for the wheels of her chair.

In addition to a stove and oven, there is an induction cook top in the island with a pop-up downdraft.

A cutting board below the chair-height microwave doubles as a shelf  for hot dishes when they come out of the oven.

Chenier has thought of everything. There’s a warming oven, ovens that are set lower, utensil drawer, a pot filler faucet placed near the stove so heavy pots of water need not be carried from the sink, numerous outlets, a desk area, a television,  and pegboard dividers for dishes. The windows are double-paned glass.

A dining room off the kitchen includes a 72-inch round granite table with a lazy Susan designed by Chenier. Eight chairs fit around the table that is free of obstruction and easily accommodates wheelchairs.

The type of flooring was very important to Chenier. The dining area has the original porcelain tiles. To accent this tile, the new kitchen floor looks like wood, but it is really porcelain tile as well. Not only is it wheelchair and dog-friendly, but it is easy to clean and care for.


Cramped, tiny kitchen made navigating the space in a wheelchair a chore:

  • Accessibility was minimal
  • Space was small and compact
  • Counter space was too high
  • Cabinets were difficult to use; unable to reach inside
  • Lighting was minimal


Kitchen area was expanded to three times its original size:

  • Added a 17-foot island with four workstations for cooking, food prep, and dining for six
  • Installed accessible drawer cabinets and appliances at a comfortable height so everyone in the home may use them
  • Added multiple layers of lighting to accommodate the high ceiling and large space: natural light and beautiful views from new windows, task lighting, mood lighting and a solar tube in the walk-in pantry
  • Replaced flooring with material that could withstand heavy motorized wheel chair use
  • Converted old kitchen into a walk-in pantry for storage and easy access to large and less frequently used items


  • Granite counter top
  • Porcelain tile flooring that looks like wood
  • LG French-door refrigerator
  • Double Viking oven, microwave, cook stove top and induction cook top stove 
  • Farmers sink
  • Bosch dishwasher
  • Kitchen Aid beverage center
  • Pendant lights and halogen track lighting
  • Under cabinet lights
  • Tubular Daylighting Device for the pantry
  • Ice dispenser


  • Nine-inch (normally 6-inch) toe kick and kick-space drawer allows wheelchair to pass under cabinets without obstruction
  • Island height at 34 inches provides a comfortable work area for all family members
  • Cabinet pulls make it possible to open drawers
  • Drawer organizers make finding and retrieving items easier
  • Integrated cabinetry design includes desk and with handy computer tablet holder
  • Pull-out spice drawers on both sides of the cooktop are convenient for cooking
  • Pot filler makes adding water to heave containers easier and minimizes heavy lifting

To learn more

For more about Wanda Chenier’s home renovation see: universal design home makeover, accessibility, safety; bathroom and bedroom.