A sense of belonging
Two kitchens are redesigned to better reflect the houses and areas they are located in while adding functional updates
Staff -- Interior Design, 3/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Creating a sense that the space belongs in the house or its geographical location involves a careful selection of details. Here are two kitchens renovated by designer Lucianna Samu for herself, her husband and their two children. One is located in Saratoga Springs, NY, where the family currently resides. The other is their former residence in Blue Point, Long Island, NY.
Saratoga Springs, NY
"Everything up here in Saratoga is done in a kind of Adirondack style. The house is only 20 years old, but it had a bad kitchen. I wanted a kitchen that had modern conveniences, but that maintained the Adirondack flavor," explains Lucianna Samu.
"The previous space was occupied by a smaller kitchen and a laundry room. We took those spaces and turned it all into a kitchen with a vaulted ceiling," says Samu. "The materials I used, one is accustomed to seeing here in upstate New York, so the room looks like it belongs here," she says. "We took the kitchen down to the studs. Even the fireplace, which had been brick, was refaced with Fieldstone that we found locally. Saratoga is not far from slate and stone quarries in New York."
The flooring is a combination of stone and slate in blue gray and reddish brown color combinations. Slate has even been inset in lieu of cabinetry fronts where the main sink is situated to create the illusion that it is a farmhouse sink. The backsplash above the range is surfaced with glass tile.
"The space was so large—24 feet by 24 feet—that the 8-foot ceiling wasn't high enough for it proportionally. It was a huge expense to create the vaulted ceiling, but worth it in the end. We had to install a whole new heating system because all the heating ducts were up there," says Samu.
"The vaulted ceiling is accented with ceiling beams milled here and made from local logs. One beam is structural and the others aren't. I purposely left out one beam because I felt it was bad Feng Shui, so they are not totally symmetrical. I didn't want to have it over my head when I sat down at the island," Samu explains.
Perhaps the most unusual detail in the kitchen is the enormous 4-foot by 8-foot island on wheels that doesn't really move. "Placing the large island on wheels lightened it emotionally and psychologically. You feel as if you can push it over to one side even though you can't," Samu says. "The wheels also give it a furniture look."
The ventilation hood is disguised simply as a floating shelf with the shaft seeming to rest in its center.
Lighting fixtures lend character to the space. In addition to adjustable track-mounted fixtures, decorative pendants are suspended above the island and a sconce is mounted between two perimeter windows.
The maple custom cabinetry in the island and base cabinetry around the perimeter includes ample storage. There are cubbyholes for spices and small bowls, and larger open niches where baskets for potatoes and other vegetables are kept.
Samu dislikes wall cabinets. "You can only reach the first shelf anyway, so I didn't want them in this kitchen." That's a sign of her love of functionality in any space.
"I'm a cook and a mother, and I don't have enough time in the day. I don't like anyone underneath my feet when I'm cooking," says Samu. "I wanted to be able to prepare a meal with the range, sink and refrigerator all in one area, so my children and husband can do what they want in the rest of the space." To that end, Samu has situated the island sink opposite the range. Only a base cabinet and landing space stand between the range and the refrigerator.
The cleanup takes place on the other side of the kitchen, which includes the main sink, the dishwasher and storage in the island for dishes.
Samu even tucked a microwave into the island. "I wanted it low for convenience when I use it to heat up coffee or soup," she says.
Blue Point, Long Island
"The kitchen is in a 120-year-old carriage house. It had previously belonged to an elderly woman who lived there for a long time. I wanted to create the sense that the redesigned kitchen could have been in the original space, but with an updated feeling," says designer Lucianna Samu.
Many of the design and material choices Samu made were because they reflected the character of the house. The white base cabinetry is stock that has been "dressed up" with vintage-look beadboard panels and classically styled hardware.
"I enjoy taking regular objects—never over-the-top expensive things—and pulling them together," says Samu. "We found the metal sink in the basement of the Salvation Army. It was covered with rust, so it was a big leap of faith. We sandblasted the sink, had metal legs made and had it all porcelainized." The result is a sink that resembles an antique farmhouse model, updated with a towel holder and faucet neatly mounted on a customized backsplash.
The second sink used for food prep at the opposite side of the kitchen that nearer the mud room and laundry area has been custom made as well. The cabinetry floats horizontally overhead. Touches of rich mahogany incorporated into the kitchen include the custom support leg.
"It's a big kitchen for an older home—about 42 square feet. The perimeters are so long and it's narrow, about 9 1/2 feet wide, with no island. I didn't want to just line up the cabinets," says Samu. So she opted not to install wall cabinets, but rather to add a large window above the range.
"I had the window put in behind the range so I could look out at the garden. Everybody fought me on that," Samu says, "but in the end it was a successful decision." Looking into the house through the window, the observer sees finished edges and surfaces on the backs of the range backsplash, the cabinetry and the countertops.
The countertops have been finished off with a double ogee edge all the way around the perimeter of the base cabines, which are not attached to the walls, to add to the look of freestanding furniture.
The countertops are Palladium granite. "The granite is called 'God's junkyard' because every color is in it and it is actually a mix of marble and granite," Samu explains.
Creating a sense that the space "belongs" is all in the details.