No one is more particular about a kitchen layout than an experienced cook, which is why Audrey Anderson worked closely with clients Nick and Karyn Downes to design this kitchen for a Shingle-style house on the coast of Rhode Island. As a private chef with ten years of experience who has traveled all over the world, Karyn knows too well what makes a kitchen user-friendly.
"We used to work on private yachts, in close quarters, so Karyn is all about using things practically and making good use of space," explains, Nick, who managed the project. Karyn's input was key to not only the room's overall layout and cabinet features, but also the selection of its top-of-the-line appliances. "There are several appliance choices now, and Karyn has cooked on all of them; she knows the best firsthand," Nick adds.
Once the 48" Sub-Zero refrigerator and 36" Wolf cooktop were chosen, the couple worked closely with Anderson of Apex Kitchens & Baths in Middletown, Rhode Island, to create a kitchen that is great for cooking, entertaining, and unwinding, while appearing both understated and elegant. "It was a wonderful space to work with," says Anderson. "We didn't want to be fussy, but we added really nice details and made sure to keep it classic."
Close inspection reveals a variety of timeless details, such as white subway tile and decorative corbels in the backsplash area. The countertops—gray-blue soapstone that will patina over time—lend a traditional touch, as does the Eastern white pine floor. "Each 12" board was hand nailed; they look as though they've been there for 100 years already," says Nick. Other time-honored elements are a mix of glass and solid cabinet doors with brushed nickel bin pulls, knobs, and cupboard catches.
The Downes entertain a lot, so the kitchen works almost like a catering kitchen; however, it is still warm and inviting for family downtime. To achieve both ends, the kitchen includes all the latest amenities such as two catering favorites, an espresso machine and a warming drawer, plus two ovens and a professional range hood placed over a center island, whose seating area offers views to the water.
To fit the kitchen into the inviting family room environment, Anderson designed custom Shaker-paneled cabinets. Finished simply with white paint, the cabinets were customized with toe-kick valances for a traditional furniture-like look. "The ceiling height allowed for stacked cabinets," explains Anderson. "We used glass on the top, so it wouldn't look too heavy." Also, the crown molding matches the molding in the family room. (Learn how to install kitchen cabinets).
Off the kitchen is a formal butler's pantry. Again, turn-of-the-twentieth century touches, such as a plate rack over the sink area and zinc counters (plus a high backsplash), were incorporated. "This is not just an extra space, it was thought out," notes Nick. "A catering staff can work in the pantry away from the main kitchen, and it has access to the dining room."
Rounding out the multipurpose kitchen is a desk area—Anderson's nod to modern needs. "People live in their kitchens," says the designer, "and this desk does not interrupt the kitchen's look, but it is still accessible. It allows the owners to put down a pocketbook, sort through mail, or check e-mail."
"Our goal was to blend traditional with a more contemporary style, which is hard to pull off," observes Nick. "Every detail was scrutinized; it was a real labor of love. Now, two years later, there is not one thing we would do differently."