Barbara Norby was tired of her dining area and kitchen — tired of its 1980s-era color palette (oatmeal, white and blue), its dated flooring (dark ceramic tiles) and its limited space (the cupboards hovered overhead and the laundry closet barely left enough room to pass into the adjacent guest suite).

Barbara Norby was tired of her dining area and kitchen — tired of its 1980s-era color palette (oatmeal, white and blue), its dated flooring (dark ceramic tiles) and its limited space (the cupboards hovered overhead and the laundry closet barely left enough room to pass into the adjacent guest suite).

She was tired of its 1980s-era color palette (oatmeal, white and blue), its dated flooring (dark ceramic tiles) and its limited space (the cupboards hovered overhead and the laundry closet barely left enough room to pass into the adjacent guest suite).

"It was great for what it was, but I was ready for something more updated and sophisticated," says Barbara of the 30-year-old house she shares with her husband, Doug.

Built in 1977, the Grants Pass house has grown by 1,000 square feet over three remodels, making the 2,600-square-foot, three bedroom, three bath home a super spread for the Norbys and their visiting friends and family. This year it was finally time for the kitchen to catch up.

Not wanting to change its "rather moderate" footprint, Barbara and interior designer Cheryl von Tress chose instead to completely revamp its style and feel.

"The main goal for the Norbys' kitchen was to create a functionally beautiful and calm space and to increase the sense of space," says von Tress, owner of Cheryl von Tress Design in Jacksonville.

To accomplish that, the team conjured a style von Tress coined "Asian Chic." The sleek, minimalist approach enhances the home's built-in elegance, making it kitchen-friendly by incorporating visual tricks and hardy materials.

First on the list was straightening out a narrow passage along one side of the room. Once a wall of varying, but limited, widths that housed a tiny pantry and laundry closet, the corridor now stretches unperturbed to the guest room door. A walk-in pantry was built into the former closet space, adding loads of storage.

A bold Asian aesthetic comes from a custom hutch poised against the stretch of wall that gains drama from its linearity and darkness.

"Cheryl designed it and our cabinetmaker, Tom Rose, constructed it and it's a work of art," says Barbara of the piece that started as a store-bought, stand-alone sideboard. Rose added a handcrafted topper and stained both a deep espresso.

Next, von Tress reworked the height of several existing design elements. The main countertop was raised 2 inches for a more contemporary look and was covered in black granite.

Vertical space was added by removing a wraparound soffit and taking new, maple-stained cupboards up to the lower-than-standard (91-inch) ceilings.

The soffit removal had a profound effect on the size-challenged kitchen. "A lot of times they're [soffits] put in for something to abut the cabinets into," says the Norbys' contractor Paul Burch, of Paul Burch Construction in Grants Pass. "But what we found is that this kitchen looked a lot better by building the cabinets all the way up to the ceiling — it added space."

Lumicor panels were then inset into some of the cupboards. Their reedy "Beach Grass" pattern lets the newly-installed interior light shine through while creating a horizontal line of focus that furthers the room's sense of space.

More custom lighting was added with Forecast Lighting "Oasis" sconces along the pantry wall and a matching pendant over the dining room table. Rope lighting was installed along the floorboards and uplighting illuminates nearby screens, furniture and art.

"I love the lighting," Barbara says. "Almost all of it is on rheostat so it can be dimmed to set a soft, soothing mood. At night it's kind of like a stage set and sometimes Doug and I turn the lights on and just sit in the dark living room admiring our kitchen."

Maintaining the same wall and ceiling color "keeps the ceiling from lowering into the room visually," explains Von Tress, who chose the neutral shade for its warmth.

Dark espresso-stained trim at the ceiling and around the Lumicor panels unifies the kitchen and pantry cabinetry. "And 1/4-inch round moulding in the same stain was used instead of standard baseboards to leave the maximum amount of painted wall space vertically," says Von Tress.

To create unity between the kitchen and dining room, the dining furniture was stained the same espresso shade as the kitchen hutch, and bamboo flooring was laid throughout.

"The vertical carbonized bamboo flooring opened the space visually by using a flooring tone similar to the cabinetry," says Von Tress. "This is a great technique in a small space."

The overall effect is stunning — a grown-up, thoroughly contemporary and inviting kitchen and dining space that perfectly reflects the timeless style and good taste of its owners.