Kitchen Ideas Pantry >This Birmingham family has the ultimate dream kitchen Updated April 16, 2018 at 1:45 PM; Posted April 16, 2018 at 1:44 PM Ultimate Dream Kitchen 9 Gallery: Ultimate Dream Kitchen By Birmingham magazine To say Courtney Pate enjoys cooking would be an understatement. She has a collection of cookbooks that numbers well over 100, though her husband Russell says it's probably more like 300. While he unwinds at the end of the day with The Wall Street Journal and a glass of wine, Courtney reaches for one of her prized cookbooks. "That's her thing," Russell says. "She loves to cook and play in the kitchen." When the couple purchased their Mountain Brook home in 2011, the kitchen was far from their favorite spot. It was closed off and unbearably hot during the daytime when the afternoon sun shined its brightest right into the space. Russell likes to joke that food wasn't the only thing cooking in that kitchen. After dealing with the inconvenience for a few years, the couple started to reconsider their home. They began casually looking at homes on the market and quickly came to the conclusion that though their home wasn't exactly what they wanted (at the moment), they had a gem that could be improved upon. Located on 2.8 acres, the home was private yet centrally located in a family-friendly neighborhood. The Pates quickly realized that they weren't going to find a better location for them and their 9-year-old daughter. The lot offered plenty of land to create outdoors spaces for the three to enjoy along with family and friends. The kitchen, they discovered, was the main part of the house that wasn't working for them. Courtney and daughter Stella are avid HGTV network fans, so they knew exactly what they wanted in a renovation project. Courtney also knew just who she wanted to do the job. The Pates hired Christopher Architecture & Interiors, and began work on the project in 2016. "My wife loves their work," Russell says. "And, of course, I do, too." Joanna Goodman, Christopher vice president and designer, says the project originally started as a kitchen renovation and pool addition, but evolved into much more. The Pates ended up expanding the living room; adding a bedroom and bathroom to the third level; and adding a porch, outdoor kitchen, pool, and new Alaskan cypress roof to the home. Though it took more than a year to complete--and the family lived in the house during the entire process--Russell says it was worth the wait to customize the space for their family's needs. "Now that we've been in the house, I can say that," he laughs. As part of the renovation, each member of the family got a little something they'd always wanted. For Courtney it was the kitchen, of course. Joanna says initially, she had a hard time letting go of the existing design. "It was a beautiful kitchen," she recalls. "I was thinking, 'Why would you want to renovate this? This is beautiful,' but I had to step outside and get past that." After spending some time thinking over the kitchen in the hot afternoon sun, Joanna says she changed her tune. Her first goal was to create a space that offered spectacular views without being a hot box. Courtney wanted the kitchen to be a place people wanted to gather. To do so, they opened up the space and added a large pantry, complete with ovens and freezer drawers. Joanna says this blocked some of the harsh sunlight, while also leaving more room for entertaining in the kitchen where an oversized island became the definite centerpiece. The pecky cypress cabinets, topped with white marble, give the room a clean, modern aesthetic. Since Courtney loves her cookbooks, a floor to ceiling bookshelf, complete with a rolling ladder, was designed to house all 300 of them. There's also a built-in desk for Stella to work on her homework, while her mother cooks. Joanna says now the space truly is the hub of the home--just as the family always wanted. "Before it was small right before a massive window," Joanna says of the former kitchen. "It kind of isolated her. No one wanted to come in there. Now, it's the axis." The kitchen is now open to the dining and family rooms, as well as the new back porch and pool. There, Courtney also had some ideas that Christopher brought to fruition. The pool is a relaxing getaway, complete with an in-water tanning lounge. The landscaping around it is comprised of synthetic turf with pavers to give a sophisticated look that's also easy to maintain. The pool addition was something for the whole family to enjoy, but when it came to Russell's special space, it was all about an outdoor kitchen and basement, complete with a wine cellar renovation. "That's the only thing I think I really wanted," he says. "It's really great, and we've really enjoyed it." As for Stella, she got her space, in the small third floor that was added to the house as her domain. The focal point of the third-floor space, Russell says, is the chimney that's flanked by built-in bookshelves, creating the perfect cozy reading nook where Stella can enjoy her books. Russell admits that it wasn't easy living in their house as it was being transformed around them, but he's quick to add that it's now a home that the whole family adores. "If you asked me during...I'm not sure what I'd say," Russell laughs. "But now that I'm living in it and enjoying it, it was worth it. Not sure I'd do it again as for living in it, but I'd definitely use Christopher Architects and Joanna again." Resources Architecture & Design: Christopher Architecture & Interiors --By Laura McAlister | Photos by Jean Allsopp This story appears in Birmingham magazine's April 2018 issue as part of the Beautiful Birmingham Homes & Gardens section. Subscribe today!