Modern Craftsman Kitchen

To replace nondescript space in an old house, an architect designs a hard-working “modern Craftsman” kitchen for a friend who has strong ideas about design and function.

The new space is a functional blend of old and new, where soapstone and subway tile, a battened ceiling and vintage Stickley chairs coexist with open shelves and modern lighting.

Steve Gross & Susan Daley

What’s not to love about Arts & Crafts?” asks the homeowner. She’s enthusiastic about this modern Craftsman-influenced update of the kitchen in her ca. 1900 Connecticut house. “I’m inclined towards a plain style with simple lines … I have a penchant for natural materials and things that are handmade.”

Steve Marchetti, a Manhattan-based architect, followed her preferences when he designed this fresh kitchen for Lynn, his long-time friend. Besides her predilection for all things Stickley, Lynn bakes bread and fancies old-fashioned farmhouse kitchens.

The old transom window was restored and new handcrafted sash made for the original windows.

Steve Gross & Susan Daley

“Steve was my interpreter and guiding hand, able to create a kitchen completely sympathetic to our tastes,” Lynn says. Her family moved to this house in 2010, arriving with an enormous AGA stove she’d had for 20 years, along with a collection of Arts & Crafts furnishings.

The architecture of the house is not specifically Arts & Crafts, though its spirit is, and now the appearance is more closely aligned. As Lynn describes it, the kitchen—once “totally nondescript”—is now “happy and coherent,” and streamlined in the way of early modern homes. The baker-friendly room even manages to be somewhat like Lynn’s grandma’s kitchen.

Steve Marchetti explains that they wanted the kitchen to look “not too fitted, and as un-continuous as possible.” So he varied the heights of the countertops, referencing the unmatched furniture of vintage kitchens. The apron-front sink is a type often called a “farmhouse sink” for its resemblance to the old porcelain-on-cast-iron sinks. A Sub-Zero refrigerator has that quasi-icebox appearance.

At one end of the room, a custom cherry table of English design is accompanied by vintage Stickley chairs.

Steve Gross & Susan Daley

Marchetti designed an expansive island with ample space to lay out all the ingredients for baking Lynn’s specialty, sourdough bread. Fine, custom woodworking distinguishes the piece, which is made of vertical-grain Douglas fir. The counters are soapstone, which Lynn regularly oils for consistent color. A slab of marble, used for rolling out dough, is tucked into a compartment. “Our kitchen works especially well when several people are cooking together,” Lynn says, “because the island has its own sink, accessible from both sides, and there’s a prep sink in the perimeter counter.”

The dominating feature of the kitchen is the formidable, cream-colored AGA cooker, accompanied by its “canoe”: a custom-made, nickel-plated range hood. Actually, the setup is two stoves set side by side, a big AGA and a smaller AGA Companion. Together they can bake six loaves at a time. “The constant warmth emanating from the AGA is so inviting, company is drawn to it like a magnet,” Lynn says. “Sometimes we do have to bat people away from leaning on it when pots and pans are flying!”

Popular in England since their introduction in 1929, these cast-iron cookers, invented by the blind Swedish physicist Gustaf Dalen, are known to be tricky to operate, and take some getting used to. “Cooking on an AGA is intuitive,” Lynn explains. “Instead of setting heat controls, you move the food around to the appropriate heat zone, cooking pretty much as our great-grandmothers did on coal stoves.”

A side porch was added outside the newly renovated kitchen, terminating in a sheltered room off the library. It’s a resting spot “within earshot of the kitchen timer,” the architect says.

Steve Gross & Susan Daley

The room is big enough to accommodate a custom-made cherry table inspired by the work of English country-house architect Edwin Lutyens. A mix of Stickley chairs came from various basements and yard sales. “The kitchen table is the perfect place for guests to hang out and drink wine and kibbutz, and no one gets in the away,” Lynn says.

The last thing they wanted was a drywall ceiling. Marchetti spec’d a retro farmhouse ceiling of panels and straps. The flooring is Lisbon cork, which Marchetti says is “heaven for your feet, cushioning them so you won’t have to worry about varicose veins.” Creamy tiled walls were chosen to play well with the AGA cookers.


 In a bathroom designed by Steve Marchetti, fixtures including the steel soaking tub with a mahogany surround were custom-made according to the architect’s design. The bathroom light fixture is a Josef Hoffmann-design reproduction made in Vienna.

Steve Gross & Susan Daley

Marchetti also designed the handsome pergola-roofed car park outside the kitchen entrance, along with the porch that runs along the side of the house. There’s no mudroom, just a compact window seat where one can sit to remove boots. The well-thought-out space is functional in every detail, yet aesthetically pleasing. Marchetti and his client say that a main inspiration was the Yale Center for British Art [designed by Louis Kahn and completed in 1974]: “one of our favorite buildings in the world . . . We love its materials and palette, its restraint and yet its warmth.”

The modern inspiration is well balanced by such gestures as the restoration of a transom window and handcrafted new sashes for the original windows.

Tags: Arts and Crafts Connecticut Craftsman kitchen kitchen Kitchen Design OHJ April 2019

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