Just Add Water
Joe Carter -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
As renovations often do, this one started with a small idea: better windows for a kitchen previously stingy with both daylight and potentially exquisite views of Long Island Sound. Furthermore, the windows that did exist were difficult to open and close. Luckily, the owners, an investment banker and his stay-at-home wife, knew where to start. They reconnected with Walzworkinc's Kevin Walz, who—almost a decade before—had remodeled, refurbished, or redecorated every other room of the couple's sprawling Victorian in Larchmont, New York.
As the window discussion quickly spread to more issues and possibilities, a new question emerged. "They asked me, 'If you had a free hand, what would you do?'" Walz recalls. He ultimately responded not only by overcoming the lack of light and views but also by creating an imaginative, elegant space that beautifully amplifies those very themes.
One of the kitchen's inherent pluses was its generous dimensions: 33 by 35 feet in a 1950's addition. A previous remodel—by a designer hired before Walz—had resulted in new cabinets and appliances, which initially led him to voice caution about making big changes. Gradually, however, he realized that the space could be better integrated into the house as a whole. After no less than a year of revisions and refinements, his plan opened up what had been closed off and gave the kitchen a style faithful to the house's 1890's origins.
A butler's pantry gained a water view by losing a solid wall. In its place, Walz installed lower and upper cabinets with a pass-through in between. And the see-through effect is enhanced by the double-sided upper cabinets' glass doors.
The 8-foot-square space now houses Walz's fresh idea for a home office. Its two interior walls are built like a cabinet, with stiles and rails framing painted panels at the bottom and glass ones above, recalling the old corner offices from which bosses surveyed a roomful of deskbound workers. This kitchen-based office is officially the wife's command center, although the couple's two daughters spend so much time there that their father put in a second computer.
Above the main sink, which faces Long Island Sound, Walz enlarged the window opening and put in user-friendly casements on both sides of the fixed glass. The sink itself, a trough all of 41 inches wide, is integral to a limestone counter machined to act like a drain board. (The stone, mined and fabricated in Puglia, was handpicked by Walz, who lives in Rome.)
Two wall ovens sit under a 43-inch-high counter, a height that makes loading and unloading easier on the back. A big range could have gone where the ovens are, but the lady of the house told Walz she'd rather not turn her back on people while she's cooking. Instead, a cooktop island doubles as a breakfast bar where both husband and kids can sit and talk. Since an overhead hood would have been a visual interruption, Walz specified a downdraft exhaust that rises from the counter.
The spaciousness is enhanced by a creamy yellow color scheme and by simple cabinets that take the familiar flat-panel Shaker style one step further, with bevels on the stiles and rails. But the most dramatic change is the light. Indeed, on a sunny day, there's nary a dim corner to be found.
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