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January 2009


FEATURES

Setting The Stage
by Sarah Firshein

The late architectural historian Spiro Kostof once said, "Architecture is a social act and the material theater of human activity." Well, there seems to be no room that sets a better stage for human drama than a kitchen, whose function is clear but whose architectural value is all too often overlooked. "Kitchen designers can have ideas about how a kitchen is used, literally, from a cooking and baking point of view," says Joeb Moore, principal of Joeb + Partners, Architects, in Greenwich. "As architects, we're part of the larger vision of the building and the adjacent rooms, and we connect the larger themes, ideas and experiences of the overall project to the scale of kitchen." For a glimpse of chic, functional and innovative kitchens designed by area architects, read on.

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When conceiving the kitchen of this Rowayton property located on Long Island Sound, the architects at New Canaan-based Brooks & Falotico Associates, Inc. deferred to the owners' love of entertaining. "The parents were looking to downsize from their previous house, but still maintain the size of the kitchen, as they have visiting family and love to entertain," says Louise Brooks, principal of Brooks & Falotico.

The result is an open, airy conjoined kitchen/sitting area with ample workspace, accommodating seating and a comfy feel the owners' three grown kids sink into when they come home on breaks from college.

Cool tones of whites and baby blues served as the palette upon which the architects and homeowners crafted their vision. Custom-painted white cabinetry designed by Brooks offers ample storage space and suspends above white statuary marble countertops and a gleaming tiled backsplash from Waterworks. The flooring, a neutral-toned French limestone from Paris Ceramics, offers a rustic counterpoint to the crisp whites. And the room's real pièce de résistance, a floor-to-ceiling custom-designed plate rack, serves as both a decorative and functional cabinet and a great space-saving solution.

Brooks points to the expansive, stately island, which she deems perfect for both meal preparation and eating, with edging details designed to mimic furniture, as well as the conversation grouping centered around the fireplace in the adjacent sitting area. "It's a warm, inviting space for family and friends to hang out and relax," she says.

Brooks & Falotico Aassociates, Inc. photograph by Nancy Hill

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This brick-and-limestone country estate, built in 1929 and designed by William B. Tubby (best known for Waveny House in New Canaan and Dunnellen Hall in Greenwich), exudes architecture in the grandest manner. The current owners enlisted Wadia Associates to help remedy what they felt was one of the property's shortcomings: the lack of sufficient living space for the family to gather comfortably together. Their request for an addition (where the kitchen, great room, playroom and outdoor courtyard are now situated) posed the unique design challenge of expanding the square footage of the house without making it seem larger than its already-sizeable dimensions.

The new kitchen overlooks the courtyard and is outfitted with a skylight and ample windows. Natural sunlight floods the space, offering a welcoming setting for entertaining family and friends, but still remains true to the scale and composition of the estate's original interiors.

Custom oak cabinets with a Gothic design element reflect the architectural style of the house, as well as pieces of individual furniture throughout. They nicely complement the kitchen's other features, such as neutral French limestone flooring, a Carrara marble-topped island and a black enamel La Cornue oven. Above, a dramatic white-oak coffer ceiling nods to the woodwork below, sweeping high enough to allow for vertically stacked cabinets that offer more storage in an aesthetically interesting way.

Wadia Associates photographs by Jonathan Wallen

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The name of the sleek wood used in this kitchen—bird's eye maple—pokes some fun at the client's desire for privacy when preparing food for guests. A nearly open kitchen overlooking a sitting area posed the problem of "shutting" the cook space off during parties or charity events, so Bartels-Pagliaro Architects, LLC, installed a mechanical shade system that would screen the kitchen on the few occasions the client wanted to entertain.

The wood, which features naturally busy graining, gave the architects an excuse to "back off" everywhere else, and the final design yields the clean, simple result the client desired. The countertops, a combination of non-directional stainless steel and man-made quartz, add a silvery sheen. A full-height etched-glass tower holds oft-used appliances, all the while keeping the counterspace uncluttered, offering a geometric structure that filters light, and affording a cool, subtle glimpse of whatever's stored within.

In deference to the position of the home—three sides overlook water—the architects situated the kitchen so it doesn't obstruct the views and positioned the taller appliances against the solid wall. A wine system and full freezer are tucked into a pantry, further keeping the waterfront panorama unfettered. Even in this "room with a view" though, a full range, microwave, Sub-Zero fridge, warming drawer and two dishwashers all find their suitable home.

Bartels-Pagliaro Architects, LLC photographs by John & Cassidy Olson/Olson Photographic, LLC

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A family with two young children consider the kitchen "the nucleus" of their new waterfront home in lower Fairfield County. So the architects at Shope Reno Wharton set out to create a sturdy, practical space that would maximize the water views, transition seamlessly to the adjacent family and breakfast rooms and connect to the open porches beyond.

The owners had specific functions in mind when conceiving the design for a space poised to assume a few different personas. The kitchen was to accommodate food preparation for large family gatherings, and it needed to offer a quiet space for the kids to complete their homework.

The architects aimed to create an environment that was likewise consistent with the rest of this shingle-style home. Recessed panels in the traditional cabinetry, unusually carved leg and base details of the island and a thickened overhead arch contribute to what the owners believe is the kitchen's calm, resolved feeling.

The island, with a cherry base and a two-inch-thick Carrara marble countertop, offsets the warm white-oak flooring and provides ample space for the kids to hang out, watch the owners cook, or complete their schoolwork. Oil-rubbed-bronze exposed hardware offers a vintage feel but does not downplay other modern elements, such as the stainless Sub-Zero refrigerator, Viking range and hood and GE microwave.

Shope Reno Wharton photographs by David R. Sloane

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This long, spacious kitchen designed by Joeb + Partners, Architects, LLC, incorporates several of the clients' needs into one light-suffused space. The family (with four children and a nanny) uses the room, bookended with a study area, set behind the metal-and-glass sliding doors, and a breakfast/sitting area (complete with tremendous views of Long Island Sound), as a gathering point, homework area and general stage for hosting get-togethers and enjoying daily meals.

Combining details characteristic of the home's 1930s French Tudor architecture with modern shapes and materials, the kitchen allows the owners to take full advantage of the views and natural light. Some adjacent rooms were either renovations or additions, so the architects aimed to soften the contrasts among many stylistic periods—ranging from traditional to contemporary—with unifying elements such as white paint, which conjoins the kitchen with a gallery hall (a renovation) and mudroom (an addition). The effect is a breezy, flexible space, part entirely new construction and part varying degrees of renovation, that nestles comfortably beside other rooms.

In terms of materials, the architects employed certain repeating themes. Stainless steel is rendered in the countertops, hood design, niche of range area, backsplash and on the center island, which is topped with 2.5-inch Carrara marble. Stainless steels mesh appears as cabinet faces in the mudroom and office, as well.

Running the length of the kitchen is ebonized six-inch oak flooring, which mirrors the wood lattice ceiling set above the breakfast bay area. Traditional wood cabinetry, painted white, hangs above Carrara countertops, and Bendheim paralytic glass spruces up the cabinetry faces and introduces another refractive detail. Suspending around the perimeter is a custom LED light strip. A blackened-steel sliding metal-glass door system partitions off the office nook without obscuring it from view.

And when the owners sought a way to bridge the distance from this new, sleek kitchen to their existing, more traditional dining room, the architects devised a solution. The family now uses the butler's pantry as both a display and a serving transitional space—but also as a small kitchen in itself.

Joeb + Partners, Architects, LLC photographs by David Sundberg/Esto

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The architects at Austin Patterson Disston searched for a way to conjoin the kitchen of an Old Greenwich home with the nearby family room and breakfast room, while still maintaining the integrity of the three distinct spaces, along with their waterfront views. Now, two sections of overhanging cabinets visually divide the rooms, and a large center island provides both informal seating and a barrier quartering the everyday function of the kitchen's stovetop, ovens and sink.

The kitchen itself is large enough to accommodate this family with teens, boasting plenty of storage space and ceiling cabinets used to hold larger specialty items. But what truly sets this kitchen apart is the use of stainless steel mesh faces on the cabinets and refrigerator. The material is fabricated in Southport in the same 1930s brick building that also houses the architect's offices. When principal McKee Patterson saw the stainless steel on rolls, he knew it would add an unusual flare and style to this project and really make the room stand out.

Other details render this room sleek but comfortable. Ebonized ash flooring provides a stark contrast to the painted alabaster cabinets and the black honed-marble countertops. The pine center island features more storage and tuck-away stools and connects, color-wise, to the warm tones of the upholstery in the adjacent family room and the painted ceiling.

Chic kitchen appliances include Elkay sinks (including one carved into the island), Viking ovens, cooktop, ovens and microwave, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Miele dishwasher.

Austin Patterson Disston Architects photographs by Durston Saylor

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