A Cast of Characters in the Kitchen
A Cast of Characters in the Kitchen
By Mary Courtney
No one would dispute that Sonoma is an epicurean center. Abundant fresh food surrounds us, even the ocean and its fresh catch is right at hand. The rolling hills are decorated with row after row of grapes, ripening in the sun and soon to be pressed into service, as bottles of fine wine. Sheep, goats and cows grazing in our fields are the source of many fine and varied cheeses. Does this sound like a picnic?
Just walk to the plaza on a nice day and see the many tables and blankets set with food for a leisurely afternoon under the shade of the big, old, trees and in one corner the duck ponds bringing a bit of activity for all ages. Tuesday’s Farmer’s Market fills the plaza to capacity where there is always music and the call of a sweet small town is everywhere. The plaza is the hub of this charming town. It is a gathering place, surrounded by historic sites, with many fine shops on all four sides, overflowing down each side street. You could spend a day here, a week, a lifetime.
Now about that picnic - It begins in a kitchen of course. Today the kitchen often serves as a family room, dining room, office, and it is the social center of the home. For this area of California frequent choices for kitchen designs are Tuscan, Country French and Arts & Crafts. Each has a distinct look and fits well with the overall design of most of our homes. Of course there are exceptions.
The kitchen shown here, started out in its “life” as a somewhat common and uninspired result of the builder’s intent to appeal to a more general group of prospective buyers. The new owners, originally from the east coast and with an art collection, favored a more contemporary style. Transforming the space into a disciplined contemporary artistic style changed the look dramatically. Gone are the paneled wood cabinets with brass pulls, gone is the tile backsplash and gone is the catch-all cabinet that too easily became where “everything” got dropped. That space became a base cabinet with a 2”chiseled glass top and the wall space now displays a stunning piece of art with adaptable built-in- lighting placed above.
The cabinet doors and drawer fronts were all replaced with new flat panels with a graphite gloss finish and inlay of stainless steel bands. By just replacing the doors a lot of the cost and inconvenience was avoided. The cabinet refinishers did all the structural work in place and then later attached the new doors. Several of these, including the high cupboards over the refrigerator, have opaque ribbed glass inserts installed. Simple finger pulls on the drawers eliminate the need for hardware.
The owners of this home entertain frequently and the kitchen is at one end of a large space, the other part is an informal “family room” area looking out to the gardens and accessible to the patios. There is a large living room with a more formal dining area adjoining this space but most parties end up in the kitchen area. This meant everything had to look good, to be a more “finished” space. The details come alive in the interplay of fixtures, materials and the finishes. The tall backsplashes are a brushed metal with a soft pattern adding nicely to the industrial materials used to create this modern kitchen.
The large island has three sides in the same graphite finish as the cupboards and with a slab granite top. The working part of the island that contains the double sink, the dishwasher and the compactor are opposite the stove and less noticeable to guests when in the kitchen. A look of refinement and order allows other things, such as sculpture or hand-blown glass objects to be noticed. Pieces from their collections are incorporated throughout the kitchen area, an ever changing display.
A large granite topped table, with casters, can slide up to the side of the island when all of the space is not needed and can also be pulled out and away for a separate dining or serving table. There is recessed and indirect lighting as well as the Italian glass pendants over the island and soft down lighting has been installed under the wall cabinets.
Each home is so unique and each kitchen has to serve the needs and taste of those living there. A good design draws from the history of the owners. What are their particular interests? How do they like to cook? Do they entertain often, what size group? Do they do all the cooking or let their guests participate? When planning on re-designing or re-decorating your kitchen the details are the ingredients that create a personal style. Celebrate the elements of design that give a kitchen its own spirit its own personality.
Design for the view from the window. This extends our living space, brings natural elements inside, can add a lovely splash of color with flowers growing beyond in the garden. In a kitchen a garden window visually expands our view, allows more natural light inside and creates a dimension much like an architectural element. Keep this space uncluttered and simple to retain the sense of outdoors. It is a small device but very beneficial, the more we bring the outdoors in, the more we nurture our spirits.