Plane Change

Country Kitchen Ideas, Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications Fall/Winter 2001 | Story by Amber Dawn Barz | Photography by Laurie Dickson

A plane crash landed Easterner Michael McQuinn in a Durango, Colorado, hospital. He had no idea that the accident would change his life forever—right down to where he and his family would live.

Easterner Michael McQuinn was just visiting Durango, Colorado, when a crash of a small sight-seeing plane on which he was riding, landed him in the hospital there. Although his injuries were not life-threatening, a friend (and fellow victim) generously offered his home in the Durango suburb of Falls Creek as a haven where Michael could recuperate for several weeks.

Michael accepted the offer and, on the first morning of his stay, awoke to see a herd of elk passing on the lawn. Michael loved the view and the comfort he found in the warm and woodsy timber-frame home, and he decided then and there it was time to make a lifestyle change. When his healing was complete, he began to try to convince wife Ceci to pack her bags, permanently.


“At first I wasn’t sure about making the move,” Ceci says. “I’ve lived near the water all of my life, and I love sailing,” she says.

“But when I visited the Durango area with Michael, I knew it would be a great place to raise a family, so we packed up and moved.” Together, they built an attractive, hardworking kitchen that served as its gathering spot.

Both Ceci and Michael loved the coziness of a timber-frame home and knew that kind of house would fit beautifully in the Colorado landscape. They had also heard of a contractor who used salvaged wood to frame a home, and they loved the idea of recycling such a valuable resource.

The couple drew their own home plan and went to see timber-frame contractor Mike McDowell. McDowell did all of the framing and handed off the kitchen plan to cabinetmaker Frank Weis.

“To cut down on costs, we had originally planned to use stock cabinets in the kitchen,” Michael says. “But I met with Frank and he convinced me to let him at least price out the kitchen using the same recycled Douglas-fir that was used for our home’s timbers.”

Michael says that although the custom cabinets did cost a little more, he and Ceci got exactly what they wanted—and then some. “Our kitchen plan was fairly simple,” Ceci says. “My only requirements were a nice stove and oven, a roomy island for the family to gather around, and lots and lots of windows.

She and Michael also wanted a brick wood-burning oven. During college, the couple had lived in an old farmhouse that had such an oven. “We’d cook pizza and bread in there, and they were delicious,” Michael says. “We decided it would be nice to re-create that part of our old kitchen here.”

Weis took the couple’s simple plan, made a few modifications, and then went to work, starting with the cabinets. Everything on Ceci’s wish list—including a professional range nestled in a hearth made of salvaged brick, as well as the wood-burning oven—is included.

The 6 x 3.5-foot, maple-top island houses a second sink, storage drawers for utensils, and open shelves for cookbooks and collectibles.

Windows line two walls of the work core. In fact, there are so many windows there was very little room for wall-hung cabinets. The kitchen only houses one upper cabinet, and it hangs between the refrigerator and a window.

The kitchen’s dining table and hutch were made by Weis. He had designed the Douglas-fir hutch to be sold for retail but thought Ceci and Michael might like it. He brought the piece to them and, Michael says “it immediately found a new home.” To continue the wood recycling, the McQuinns’ new dining table is made of salvaged walnut.

Since the McQuinns came to Colorado, they have changed their focus from creating a home to raising their son, George, who was born a little more then a year after the couple moved in.

“Five years ago, if you’d asked me where I’d be today, I couldn’t have imagined Ceci and I would be living in a timber-frame home in Durango, Colorado,” Michael says. “It just goes to show you never know where life’s twists and turns will take you.”

How This Kitchen Works

  • Ceci and Michael McQuinn’s combination kitchen and dining area runs the full width of the house, and exterior walls make up three sides of the kitchen. “We get to see the views and feel the sunshine from three different angles,” Michael says.
  • Instead of being set up in a typical work triangle, the McQuinns’ kitchen is divided into work center: The island serves as the food preparation area; the range and brick hearth area serve as the cooking center; and the sink area serves as the cleanup center.
  • The casual layout is ideal for entertaining family and friends. Guests either gather at the island or at the nearby dining table

Home Details

  • Timber-frame contractor: Mike McDowell
  • Cabinetmaker: Frank Weis

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