By June Naylor
Photos by Brian McWeeney
Chef Molly McCook definitely wanted a “One of a Kind” design. HGTV star Grace Mitchell made that happen with function, flair and a nod to the family’s Southern heritage.
Molly McCook Armstrong left nothing out in her quest to wrangle a spot on the HGTV show One of a Kind. The co-owner/chef of Fort Worth’s Ellerbe Fine Foods included a detailed list of requirements in the online application for a remodel of her 1949 ranch home’s kitchen. When the network moved the project forward, the chef shared her hopes and dreams in a questionnaire for show host Grace Mitchell. “I was extremely specific about what was very important to us,” Molly recalls.
Mitchell, a Fort Worth-based designer, applied her intuition to Molly’s wish list to precisely nail the chef’s look and vibe. “Ever since I was a child, I could read people really well,” she says of her knack for infusing her interiors with a client’s personal story. Getting to know Molly and husband Trey Armstrong, whose Ridglea Hills home in Fort Worth was her season two premiere episode last fall, proved magical for her: “This was one of my favorite projects ever; they’re so special. I have such fond warm fuzzies when I think back on it. It flowed so well.”
Things move fast on television. When they got the green light last May, the Armstrong family, which includes 3- and 5-year-old daughters and family pets, were given three days to move out. The stipulation of the show’s “no peeking” rule during the eight-week renovation meant they had to find someplace quickly, pack up what they needed and vacate the property. Luckily, Molly’s Shreveport-based parents have a second home in Fort Worth.
Eradicating the heavy gray, black and silver 1980s palette the Armstrongs inherited with the house, purchased eight years ago, was crucial to delivering a kitchen filled with cheerful blues. Creating plenty of storage room was also a priority — “I have an absurd amount of platters and china,” Molly admits. Too, Mitchell transformed a tiny dining room into a showroom of a pantry.
New appliances provided more than a little wow. What’s more, Mitchell and the team, co-captained by Fort Worth contractor Craig Goodwin, turned a small living room with ceiling beams into a formal dining room, revamped the home’s foyer and redid the floors with reclaimed vintage Chicago bricks laid in a chevron pattern.
To create a genteel look with historical resonance, Mitchell drew from the couple’s treasured Southern heritage and Molly’s attachment to her Louisiana family heirlooms, particularly her grandmother’s china. The dishes inspired the French blue Mitchell employed throughout the renovation, including choosing the eight-burner Big Chill gas stove and range hood offered in the color. Tile for the stove’s backsplash and adjacent countertops picks up the hue. Brass details, as well as the blue, continue into the pantry.
“On a trip to Florida, I stopped in Natchez to see Trey’s family home, picking up ideas there,” says Mitchell, who was inspired to find vintage-styled brass door, drawer and cabinet pulls in nearby Laurel, Mississippi. Brass details — important to Molly, who tires of restaurant stainless steel — carry through in the pot filler above the stove, the faucet over the farmhouse sink, the pendant lights over the island and the hardware on the two refrigerators and double oven.
Molly says that thoughtful attention to detail is evident everywhere: “Grace really put in the time to research everything that mattered to us, to really do it right.”
The dream-come-true kitchen also features a sizable granite island with a pop-up shelf at one end for a mixer that’s a complementary shade of blue. Counter seating for the chef’s daughters and husband ensures everyone can visit with Molly as she cooks.
Days off from the restaurant afford precious family meal time, and the chef now executes holiday dinners and New Orleans Saints-watching parties with ease.
Gazing over the warm, elegant space, Molly smiles. “I love all of it. I’d absolutely do it all over again.”