It's not often that one has the opportunity to design and build a kitchen from scratch. When I moved to Cantitoe Corners, my farm in Bedford, New York, I was lucky to be able to do just that. I was especially fortunate in that I had a large, raw space to work with (about 750 square feet), nine-foot ceilings, lots of wall space despite more than 10 window and door openings, and no real restrictions as to electrical and plumbing locations. My new kitchen occupies the area where six small rooms and hallways were in the original house. The process, from start to finish, has been complicated, exciting, and even a bit nerve-racking -- there are vast numbers of choices available to the modern homeowner and cook, from styles and colors of flooring, appliances, and work surfaces to those for woodwork, cabinetry, and lighting.
I really wanted an airy and open kitchen, with professional cooking equipment, seating, a built-in home office and media center, and a spot for each of the luxuries I coveted, such as a large espresso machine and a panini iron for making pressed Italian sandwiches, plus a spacious glass-doored refrigerator and a stainless-steel-doored freezer. I also needed ample pantry storage for staples, plenty of shelves and drawers for kitchenware, and an abundance of places to stow everyday linens, flatware, dishes, and glassware.
It took a team of experts to accomplish all of this. Because I wanted to maximize the utility of the space, and fit in as much as I could without it seeming crowded, I enlisted the help of Beth Weinstein, a New York City architect with modern and practical sensibilities. We worked very well together; I hope the results inspire you if you make changes to your existing kitchen or create a new one. My kitchen layout, with two large islands at the center, took shape quickly. The farm has a primary color, Bedford Grey, and I wanted everything wooden to be in complementary shades of this pleasing and soothing tone. Bruce Bjork, a fine woodworker and cabinetmaker based in Brooklyn, was contracted to build cabinetry in this palette. I also desired plenty of light (natural and electric) and chose materials that would be reflective and luminous: honed white marble surfaces and flooring, stainless steel, large panes of restoration glass, and translucent shades on the windows. For bright, clean, workable lights, I chose domed offset mercury-glass fixtures -- 14 in all, each with a dimmer. I'd been carrying around an extraordinary piece of veneer, something called harewood, dyed the perfect gray, and we decided to face many of the cabinet exteriors with this satiny, tiger-striped wood. To soften what could be considered a rather contemporary design, decorative wooden brackets, inspired by similar ones found here and there on the farm, were used as shelf and cabinet supports.
Among all the major elements, my choice of flooring might be the most unusual. Several years before buying Cantitoe Corners, I purchased a house on Long Island. By the garden, there had been a white marble stepping-stone path; I removed the big, thick slabs and left them stacked, untouched, for several years. Both the tops and bottoms of all the pavers were nicely aged, stained green in places by grass and brown from earth and wood, and almost looked like an old cathedral floor. I had the top and bottom inch of each paver cut off, and the "dirty," worn sides were used as flooring stones. There were just enough for the kitchen.
The counters and sinks were constructed of a similar gray-veined marble. The sinks were screwed and epoxied together, invisibly, and drain boards were carefully routed. One sink, used for washing glasses, china, and silver, is 68 inches long, 20 inches wide, and six inches deep. There are two more, one 31 inches long, the other 43; both are 23 inches wide and ten inches deep. The goosenecked faucets are ideal for filling pots and vases.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss how I go about designing a kitchen. I do not necessarily use the three-point plan -- a triangle with the washing (sink), the cooking (stove), and the cooling/storing (refrigerator/freezer) placed two or three paces from one another to make work efficient. Instead, I try to decide what I want to do and how much space each activity will need. For example, cooking and baking for me require at least six burners, a griddle, a salamander (a tool much like a broiler), and three to four ovens with convection. And the professional ovens and range I wanted have specific requirements for placement, so I worked with the manufacturer and an engineer to install everything correctly. I am thrilled with the results.
The main stationary island and the pot rack are 39 inches from the stoves. This allows me to easily cook, walk to the sink, and reach my tools and the pantry. The refrigerator, farther away, is for storage; staples such as butter and milk are kept in two under-the-counter refrigerated drawers next to the dish sink. A "pot filler" faucet above the burners makes it very convenient to add water to giant steamers and pasta cookers. The espresso machine and the panini iron are monsters, but because there's a spot that I had designed especially for them, they don't feel like they are infringing on valuable counter space.
The marble surface next to the wash sink is great for rolling pastry. On the other side of the sink, I can use my small appliances such as mixers, food processors, blenders, and grinders. There are electrical outlets under the island counter so several appliances can be used at once.
My desk is command central, and because the kitchen is so large, there is another phone near the cooking area. Sometimes, during a big dinner, we could actually use yet another phone in the "servery," between the kitchen and the small dining room, but enough is enough.
The dogs have beds on the floor in front of the refrigerator. They love to lie in the way, watching all the activity, and they really love the stone floors and air-conditioning ducts under the cabinets at foot level.
I hope you enjoy looking at my kitchen, and that what I did might be helpful in your home. Before starting, make a list of the things you really want, then think long and hard about those items to make sure you have room to fit what you need in the space. And don't succumb to standard, short cupboards; look to a local woodworker, and utilize all the space as efficiently as possible to create your dream world. You will be cooking many, many meals in your kitchen, so it should be as close to what you want as possible.
And I will let you in on a little secret. I made some mistakes. I actually need more pantry than I have, for example, and I need more storage for baking needs. I also wish I had indoor access from the kitchen to my basement, where I keep many useful tools for cooking and entertaining as well as overflow frozen foods and cold beverages. If I had made a small room next to the kitchen for those items, I would have saved a lot of time. One more thing: I put in a deep fryer but have not used it once. I am thinking of changing it and installing two more burners instead!