The Kitchen: Heart of the Home, More Than Ever

Brian Stowell, President of Crown Point Cabinetry, talks about the increasing demand for good kitchen design.

What is driving the uptick in expenditure on renovation?

Brian Stowell

We can’t discount quarantining during the pandemic. When people have been spending more time in their homes, they realize they should upgrade. Residential real estate takes on more significance as people continue to work remotely, at least part of the time. They want the space to be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

Of course, today’s inordinately low mortgage rates are a strong driver.

And all this activity has benefited Crown Point Cabinetry?

Well, I’m excited that there’s so much renewed interest in home improvement, especially that homeowners seem happy to make good, long-view design decisions when it comes to cabinetry. We’ve found that our clients want the cabinets to reflect the architecture of the house.

Also I think people who bought a beautiful old house did so for a reason, and being home means they’re falling in love [with the house] all over again.

How do kitchens fit into the hierarchy of reno plans?

Oh, the kitchen is high on the to-do list. Kitchens were often butchered in previous remodelings and today’s owners want to make it right. Families spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so it’s a room that’s important in daily life. Also, the quality of the kitchen affects resale value.

Do you find clients willing to spend more for custom cabinets?

Yes, absolutely. Because they want a kitchen that really fits the house, and they want it to work well and last a long time. A lot of our clients obsess over custom details, even asking us to incorporate reclaimed wood or salvaged pieces.

Which brings up the need for our semi-custom line, which we call Crown Select. The quality is virtually the same as our custom kitchens. But by limiting endless customization, we found we could offer a Crown Point kitchen for about 20% less than fully custom. All the options offered in Crown Select reflect the most popular choices people make for custom kitchens.

Do you sell by style or period or how?

You can come at design from any standpoint: by door style, architectural style, wood species or type of finish … all of those are points of entry on our website. Some people don’t know what they want until they see it. Our designers help with compatibility as well as all the details.

What’s your most interesting project right now?

I have a client — a successful developer with a soft spot for historic preservation — who has a very large, very important house west of Boston. The house was nearly demolished but saved by a grassroots effort, and the client, Jon Delli Priscoli, decided to restore it. I’m honored that he chose Crown Point Cabinetry for the kitchen.

CLIENT INTERVIEW

Old-House Journal interviewed Jon Delli Priscoli, the owner of the Burnett House in Southborough, Massachusetts, which is undergoing significant restoration. The French Second Empire stone house was built in 1847 and enlarged in 1860.

Photo courtesy Southborough Historical Society

How did you happen to end up owning the mansion?

I bought the property — the main house, a carriage house, a cottage, and a chapel — in 2012 from the estate of the second owner. I was busy with other projects, so I shelved it until 2014, when I was approached by a developer who wanted to put condos in the main house and erect a few smaller residences. He had a 30-day purchase agreement to work it out with the town. Unbeknownst to me, he filed a demolition permit. It never occurred to me that he intended to demolish what is the finest house in town — and perhaps the finest Second Empire house in the state.

A small group of high school girls protested the demolition to save the house, and pressure grew — really, it became a media implosion. So [the buyer] defaulted and I remained the owner. I sat down with the town over a period of about 18 months, working on conservation restrictions and so on. I intended to restore all the buildings and run a boutique B&B and wedding venue.

And … the town now has a demolition-delay bylaw.

How much work had to be done?

Oh, the project is massive. My wife and I have taken on about a thousand projects, including several major restorations. But this is a monster; the house is huge, the buildings were falling apart, and there is so much detail work.

Photo courtesy Southborough Historical Society

The stone chapel, for instance, had no roof. Trees were growing on the interior and poison ivy hid some of it from view. The mortar had crumbled … masons worked on it for two and a half years.

I began restoration work in earnest in 2016, and we should be finished by this summer.


Photo Alan Bezanson, courtesy Southborough Historical Society

Are you managing the B&B or hiring a management team?

Well, Covid happened. My wife and I since have decided to sell some other properties and move into this house ourselves. We have four children, two still at home. We will do a limited wedding venue business, operating from the carriage house, chapel, and formal gardens, which were designed in the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Is the kitchen commercial?

The kitchen is big, huge. But it’s designed in a 19th-century French Country idiom, befitting the architecture of the French Second Empire house. It’s largely stone.  It’s the size of a commercial kitchen, but it’s a family kitchen. It includes a new sunroom, a glass atrium, which is the breakfast room.

Have you worked with Crown Point Cabinetry before?

No, this is my first experience with them, and I have to say I’ve been very very happy working with these folks. First, I have a lot in common with Brian Stowell — we have similar entrepreneurial spirit. Then I found that their setup is exemplary.

My wife and I had collected images to convey the flavor, and Crown Point’s designer tuned in right away. We also gave them fragments of antiques to incorporate: French carved wood to embed in the range hood, fleur-de-lys designs to use over another unit.

What’s the timeline?

The room and the cabinets are under construction now. Installation is scheduled for mid-May.

See more photos: http://www.mysouthborough.com/2014/07/19/garfield-house-photo-gallery/


By Old House Journal

Founded in 1973, Old House Journal is the original authority when it comes to old-house restoration, traditional house styles, period kitchens, bath & kitchen restoration, DIY projects, gardens & landscaping, and more-- from Colonial and Victorian through Arts & Crafts and Mid-century Modern homes. 

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