By Lisa Palmer | Photos by Richard Leo Johnson
Evelyn Williamson had three requirements for her new kitchen: sunlight, sunlight, and sunlight. Punctuating its importance during the design process, she asked Terry Pylant, of Historical Concepts in Peachtree City, Georgia, the lead architect on the project, to create a kitchen that allows the sun to shine in and offers an unbroken view of the natural, wooded surroundings.
The result is three walls of windows, no overhead cabinets, and “a kitchen that’s truly filled with sunlight,” says Pylant. The Williamsons new old house is a Low Country vernacular-style home located in a Spring Island, South Carolina, planned community. The tranquil coastal site is heavily forested with live oak trees, which can also make it a bit shady. The roofline has a long overhang, and the house has a large porch. “A porch plays a huge role in creating an outdoor living space year round, but it also darkens the interior,” Pylant says.
Pylant could understand Evelyn’s demand for sunshine. “The kitchen is the heart of a house. It’s one room of the house you’ll spend time in every single day,” he says. So he oriented the kitchen to the south so that it would catch the most daylight. Then he kept the kitchen bright and airy by using light materials. “We utilized antique heart pine floors, which give a warm base and work well with the Williamsons’ wonderful antiques,” Pylant says. The ceiling is covered in cypress wood and finished with a creamy wash that brightens the wood but also allows the natural grain to stand out.
The expanse of windows, with two lights over one, is grouped in threes. The windows offer vertical details in the kitchen without competing with the woodland views. Because the area is secluded, no window treatments are required. To add to the room’s cheery glow are plentiful recessed and contemporary pendant lights.
“The typical challenge is getting enough light and cabinetry into a kitchen. With so many windows, we had to make the most of the available space for storage,” Pylant says. The under-counter cabinets are all fitted with roll-out storage shelves specially designed to hold dishes and glassware. A large pantry is located off the mudroom to easily drop and disperse groceries.
The cabinetry is painted a cream color. It has relatively simple trim and no heavy detailing and is reminiscent of early 1900s kitchens or old butleries, which were a connecting point between the kitchen and the dining area. “Even if you have a sleek stainless-steel refrigerator or a top-of-the-line commercial range, historically inspired cabinetry gives a kitchen a sense of age. Although the Williamsons kitchen cabinets are painted, Pylant says other homeowners also incorporate warm heart pine into the cabinets and countertops to give them a “tablelike look.”
Pylant says that the dark granite countertop adds some depth to an otherwise washed-out kitchen. He notes that his firm often suggests honed granite or honed marble countertops for a truly historic look. “They have a matte finish. Think old soda fountains. Someone was always wiping them down. The surface was never high gloss. It keeps with the context of an older home,” Pylant says. Since the Williamsons entertain frequently and often have their grown children and grandchildren visit, Pylant fulfilled another of Evelyn’s requests: to make the kitchen function well for entertaining. Despite all of today’s newest kitchen amenities, a functional work triangle remains the architect’s most frequently requested design component.
People have given up on the notion that the guests shouldn’t gather in the kitchen. So Pylant says he often designs a kitchen that can be used by more than one cook and still have room for others to congregate in. “People now want to do the task of cooking and invite everyone in,” he says.
Evelyn is a perfect example. She specifically requested that the stove cooktop be placed next to the window rather than on the center island. “Evelyn likes to be a part of the action. She realized that 75 percent or more of the time is spent at the sink. Very little time is spent at the stove, so she wanted to make sure she was facing the activity,” says Pylant, adding that the range has a downdraft exhaust feature rather than a hood.
An 8′-long central island holds a double sink and has storage cabinets on both sides. At each of the four corners, wood column trimmings give the piece the look of furniture. The installed appliances are concealed with cabinetry also painted a cream color. A series of hinged shutters separates the kitchen from the adjacent living room and dining room area. “From an internal standpoint, the kitchen has an axial relationship to the rest of the house and faces the living room, dining room fireplace, and entertainment areas,” says Pylant. An open counter serves as a pass-through area from the kitchen to these areas. However, when hosting parties or catered events, shutters can be closed easily to make the dining and living room areas entirely private from the kitchen.
Even though the Williamsons’ kitchen is often filled with food, friends, and family, it’s also beaming with sunlight for a clean, uncluttered look in the heart of the home.
Lisa Palmer is a freelance writer living in Rhode Island.Published in: New Old House Fall 2006