Rewriting History

What is the history of your home?
The house was built in 1914 and hasn’t changed hands often. While it doesn’t follow a particular style, I’d describe it as a classic home with a rich history and a lot of beautiful paneling and detailed molding. For example, in our dining room, there’s a pastoral mural dating back to the ’50s that seems to tell part of a family’s story. It’s not really to my taste, but we kept it because it’s a fun part of the home’s past.

When did you renovate your kitchen?
We moved into the house in 2007 and moved out in 2009 to renovate two bathrooms. This small project became a “while we’re at it” undertaking, and we ended up renovating the whole house in a year and a half. I called in architect Martina Burin of Vicente-Burin in Fairfield to help me design the kitchen. My partner at Hillside Design, Ginny O’Brien, was also involved.

What did the redo entail?
The former kitchen was quaint, dated and didn’t even have an island. We wanted an open plan and a more inviting space to live in and entertain. We began by knocking down some walls and moving things around. The butler’s pantry was extended, and we took out a large chimney in the middle of the room, which allowed for a more functional design and space for a large pantry. We chose traditional cabinets with recessed paneling and added small beaded detailing and molding on the drawers. I used polished nickel mesh faces on the cabinets for visual interest, and the ceiling has a unique lattice coffer design. All of these special touches add a refined aesthetic that’s more in keeping with the home’s formal and sophisticated style.

Did anything specific inspire the design?
Martina had recently finished a project with curved molding over a kitchen sink. When she showed it to me, I fell in love, and that became our inspiration. My custom arched wooden hood sits above a sixty-inch Wolf range, and a tiny Calcutta gold mosaic backsplash behind the hood runs all the way from the countertops to the ceiling. I intentionally didn’t put upper cabinets on either side so it could be the star of the room.

Were there any must-haves on your wish list?
It was about storage—balancing aesthetics with function—so I designed the room to be classic and pretty and figured out storage from there. For example, I built a pull-out spice drawer near the range because it isn’t surrounded by cabinets. I also wanted a clean, cohesive look that wasn’t broken up by appliances, so we opted for a microwave drawer that’s tucked away in the island, and all of my appliances are paneled, including the apron sink.

What materials and finishes did you use?
For the painted white cabinets, we chose polished nickel pulls from Urban Archaeology to tie in with the mesh faces on the upper cabinetry. My island has a rich walnut countertop, and the perimeters are done in one-and-a-quarter-inch Calacatta gold marble. Another fun element is that all the cabinets have polished nickel olive knuckle hinges. These are atypical but are on all of the regular doors in the home, so we brought this detail into the kitchen. We also installed custom-made double-hung windows that match the existing ones throughout the house. They have the old pulleys with chains so they look like they were original to the home.

What’s your favorite part?
I love my “ice box” pantry that looks like an oversize refrigerator. It stands in place of the former chimney and is finished in walnut to match my island. I sourced chunky stainless-steel hinges and latches from a supplier in Chicago that are the same ones used on commercial fridges. Inside I have shelves on the doors, pull-out drawers and an area for my baking trays.

Do you like to cook and entertain?
I do! The kitchen gets used a lot. It works well and has a nice flow—it’s a true workhorse. There’s also an extra dishwasher in the butler’s pantry and a wine fridge, so that’s a nice staging point for entertaining.

Is it easier or harder to design your own kitchen?
It’s much harder to decide which way to go for yourself because you know all the options. Although I love more contemporary kitchens, the age and style of my home dictated a more traditional look for this room. Given that the kitchen was designed once construction was under way and not planned months in advance, I’m thrilled with the result. Eight years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Interior design: Nicola de Jounge, Hillside Design, Fairfield; 203-767-1899;
Architect: Martina Burin, Vicente-Burin Architects, Fairfield; 203-319-9571;
Contractor: Marek Bil, Old World Construction, Redding; 203-544-9263



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