, Salem, MA

October 11, 2012

Kitchen visions

Designers show off work in tour to benefit Wenham Museum

By Will Broaddus Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — Kitchens should be easy to work in, with plenty of open space. That’s the recipe favored by several local designers, whose projects will appear in Saturday’s Heart of the Kitchen Tour to benefit the Wenham Museum.

If the formula sounds simple, the results are eye-catching, as visitors can see for themselves in nine kitchens across the North Shore.

In Boxford, for example, Howell Custom Building Group of Lawrence redesigned a kitchen as part of a larger vision for the whole house.

“They wanted to open up space on the first floor,” said Susan Howell, who serves as marketing director at the firm. “They wanted better traffic flow for their family, an easier, nicer living space.”

To do that, they needed to solve two problems, according to Steve Howell, Susan’s husband and the firm’s president: “How to connect the cooking area in with the main part of the kitchen, and how to get the refrigerator more integrated into the kitchen.”

The refrigerator was moved next to the sink, from an isolated position in the room, and now falls into line with the other appliances, and with the sink and countertops.

But the island was also reshaped, from a rectangular block in the center of the room to a longer structure with an angled top; cold granite was replaced with warm, black walnut.

“In winter, granite is not nearly as inviting as the wood,” Howell said. “We also wanted to use the grain of the wood to enhance that angle.”

This surface, now resembling an arm bent at the elbow, embraces the cooking area on one side, while also inviting diners to sit along its overhanging, outer edge, where they can talk to the cook while the meal is being prepared.

Its shape further connects diners to the rest of the house, which has been opened up with new half-walls punctuated with columns.

Kitchens are redesigned more often than any other room, Howell said, because they endure the most use.

Remodeled kitchens also generate higher values than other rooms for the resale value of house, he said.

Lisa Kawski, of lmk interiors, also enlarged a kitchen for clients in Wenham using several different means.

“Previously, the kitchen had a dark feeling, with dark cabinetry,” she said. “We wanted to give them more space, an open, airy feeling.”

As with the Howells’ design, Kawski first had to move some appliances.

“Part of the problem was that, when you entered from the dining room into the kitchen area, you walked into a dishwasher at the end,” she said. “It was not convenient if it was left open.”

That was solved by enlarging the space, from what was originally a galley kitchen with “a very small, eat-in nook” with room for one cook.

Kawski cut out a wall — which required adding a steel beam to support the ceiling — to double the kitchen’s size.

The space was further enlarged by creating a “country French feel” with “cream finished cabinet treatments” and toile-style wallpaper with a floral pattern.

Robin Sears of Wenham relies mostly on her paintbrush to bring the best out in a room and will feature her own kitchen on the Wenham Museum tour.

“I have a super-old house,” she said, “and I wanted it as if it stopped in the 1940s — with a 21st-century twist.”

Her kitchen has a checkerboard pattern on the floor and includes a refrigerator and stove from a company that manufactures “retro” models.

“It has a green and yellow linoleum floor and painted wood cabinets with a collapsed apron,” she said, “but I’ve dressed them up with a twist: they wouldn’t have had pink and yellow and green in the middle of the century.

“I’ve painted them in a folkloric, whimsical manner with scallops and animals and flowers, like traditional peasant paintings from Eastern Europe.”

The whimsical charm is further enhanced by a rabbit hutch under a window seat that she rebuilt and by a model train that runs around the room on a track below the ceiling.

“I do any kind of interior,” she said, “but I love doing kitchens because they’re always kind of joyful, colorful and happy.”

Other local design firms on the tour, which will also visit Beverly Farms, Hamilton, Ipswich and Manchester-by-the-Sea, include Meadowview Construction, Northshore Kitchens Plus, Wilson Kelsey Design Inc., New England Design Works, and Designer Bath and Salem Plumbing Supply.

A map to their kitchens is available when visitors buy tickets at the Wenham Museum, where they are also invited to visit the kitchen of the 17th-century Claflin-Richards House on the museum grounds.

The tour, which is co-chaired by Yvonne Blacker of Designer Bath, is also accepting nonperishable food donations for Beverly Bootstraps’ food pantry.

If you go What: Fifth Heart of the Kitchen Tour to benefit Wenham Museum When: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: Wenham Museum, 132 Main St. More information: Tickets in advance (must be purchased today): members $15, nonmembers $18; tickets day of event, $23. At 978-468-2377, or in person at museum.