Kitchen and Bath Design Form Meets Function

September 9, 2010

Text by Paula M. Bodah

For a designer, the kitchen and the bath may be the most challenging rooms in any project. They have to be efficient, organized and functional, of course, but we also want them to look just as beautiful as the rest of the house. So what to do when a bathroom lacks enough unbroken wall for a sink, or when a kitchen needs to be integrated with both the view outside and the open living room it abuts? The designers featured here not only overcame such challenges, they used them as springboards for inspiration. A convex wall jutting into a bathroom became a splendid focal point; antiques collected by one couple became an integral starting point for their kitchen’s look. What lesser talents might have stumbled on, these pros embraced, resulting in rooms that are unique, perfectly suited to their purpose and undeniably beautiful.






A Room with a View
Of course the living room would be designed to take advantage of the stunning views of Boston that this South End condominium has, but why not the kitchen, too? When kitchen designer Dalia Tamari teamed up with Michael Carter, the designer of record for the rest of the unit, it went without saying that the room would be both functional and beautiful. But that was only part of the mission. The duo also wanted to make sure the kitchen played to the cityscape as much as the rest of the unit did. “Michael wanted a kitchen that would open to the living room,” Tamari says. “We didn’t want to create any obstacles to the view.”

No cabinet-filled wall separates the kitchen from the living room. Instead, a peninsula clad in zebra wood and topped with Absolute Black granite acts as a divider, providing a bit of functional separation. The cooktop sits in the peninsula so the homeowners can chat with dinner guests or just gaze at the view beyond the windows while tending to the cooking. Sleek wenge wood cabinets match a media unit at the far side of the living room. A backsplash of tiny stainless steel tiles reflects the apartment’s abundant natural light and gives the kitchen the same streamlined, contemporary look as the rest of Carter’s design. Finally, in a functional master stroke, two sleek cylinders descend from the ceiling, countering the space’s overall rectilinearity and handily concealing the exhaust vents. One of the owners, a passionate cook, had a clear sense of what he needed in a kitchen,” Carter says. “We gave the wish list to Dalia and she was able to pack everything he wanted into one fairly tight place in a way that’s aesthetically an A-plus.”

Location South End, Boston
Designers Dalia Tamari, Dalia Kitchen Design, Boston, and Michael Carter, Carter & Company, Boston
What makes it special? It’s designed to integrate beautifully with the rest of the living space, keeping the focus on the dramatic city views
Photo by Michael J. Lee


Old World Opulence

The warm and sunny Old World Mediterranean look of this kitchen started with the Aga stove the homeowners had fallen in love with. “The cooker was really the focal point,” says designer Gerard Ciccarello, leading to a design that he calls “an ornate, Italianate look” for the room. The beauty of this kitchen lies in the details—and there are lots of them, from the elaborate moldings to the ceiling coffers to the crystal chandeliers that hang above the island. In all its beauty, though, the kitchen doesn’t forgo a bit of functionality. Ample storage space surrounds the room, and long lengths of pale marble countertop ensure plenty of surface space for cooking up a feast. Ciccarello found clever ways to make use of treasures the homeowners found on their frequent trips to Europe. A nineteenth-century stained-glass church window they spotted in England was cut in half and installed in panels on either side of the stove. Century-old German blue-and-white tiles from another continental jaunt found their way into the stove’s backsplash. In the center of the room, a freestanding marble-topped mahogany farmer’s table is set perpendicular to a marble-topped island. A custom-designed quarter-round, marble-topped table fits neatly into the corner. “We designed the table to be the right height for the chairs, which the homeowners had and wanted to use in that space,” says Ciccarello. The room gets its sun-kissed feel from a custom-blended buttery-yellow paint that Ciccarello glazed over for an antique finish.

Location South Windsor, Connecticut
Designer Gerard Ciccarello, Covenant Kitchens and Baths, Westbrook, Connecticut
What makes it special? Treasures from the homeowners’ European travels give the kitchen a warm, very personal feel
Photos by Michael Partenio. Reprinted with permission from Beautiful Kitchens® magazine. ©Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.


Tradition with a Twist

The mission in expanding and renovating this kitchen, says architect Jonathan Cutler, was to make the room the center of the house.

“This is an active household. The homeowners wanted the kitchen to feel more connected to the rest of the house,” he says. “The wife wanted a place where the kids could be hanging out and doing their homework while she was cooking.” The mother of three leans toward a traditional style, Cutler says, but he insists traditional hardly has to mean dull. Sure, the maple top of the island, the floors and dining table crafted of reclaimed chestnut and the simplicity of the cabinetry all point to a certain time-honored design. But then Cutler moved the room squarely into the twenty-first century with his use of a rich, deep teal-blue paint. The teal paint went on over a layer of oxblood color, Cutler says. “The blue is worn through in places, so you see the red glow underneath. It has a really rich patina to it.” Granite countertops, a backsplash that combines slate with small glazed tiles in a random mosaic of grays, blues, yellows and whites, hanging lights with modern drum shades and a curvaceous chandelier above the dining table further the contemporary twist. Practicality is important in a household with children, so Cutler employed a favorite design detail: a four-by-twelve-foot strip of honey-colored limestone floor that runs between the stove and the island, making cleanup a breeze. And practical as well as pretty is the copper sink in the island. “Copper has natural properties that kill bacteria,” Cutler says.

Location Newton, Massachusetts
Designer Jonathan Cutler, Brookline, Massachusetts
What makes it special? The intense color of the cabinetry and a few well chosen contemporary details bring a kitchen that is traditional at its heart into the twenty-first century
Photo by Greg Premru


Ahead of the Curve
A curved wall turned out to be both the challenge and the inspiration for designer E.J. Krupinsky and his clients. The convex wall is the back of the townhouse’s interior stair, so it could hardly be dispensed with. But, says Krupinsky, “It presented problems in terms of figuring out where to place things.” He chose to see the challenge as an opportunity. “We decided to use that special shape to create a unique, inviting, stay-awhile space.” Krupinsky played up, rather than concealed, the room’s long aspect, situating the toilet (cleverly hidden behind a slate wall) and sink along the right wall and the linen closet and shower to the left. Krupinsky kept the color palette simple—pale to dark creams, golds and browns—but chose sumptuous materials such as mahogany, Vermont slate and a vibrant, dynamic rainforest brown marble for drama. The pièce de résistance, though, is how Krupinsky made use of that curved wall. A custom-designed teak bench runs along the wall and right through a glass partition to end up as a seat in the shower. Above the bench, Krupinsky hollowed out narrow panels in the wall and lined the edge of each with a length of fiber-optic lights. “It’s a windowless room, so we wanted to create gaps of space that could be interpreted as light,” he explains. As contemporary as the room is, Krupinsky incorporated details like the scroll brackets that hold up the bench as a nod to the historic neighborhood in which this modern couple make their home.
Location Beacon Hill, Boston
Designer E.J. Krupinsky, Lee Kimball, Winchester, Massachusetts
What makes it special? A convex wall that challenged the designer became the room’s most interesting design element
Photos by Edua Wilde


A Place for Everything
Susan and Ron Lubin both have stressful professions. When they come home from work, they want to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, Susan would be first to tell you, neatness and organization aren’t her strong suits. Before Patricia McDonagh came along to redesign the couple’s master suite, Susan says, “I kept it the way I always do—extremely cluttery and disorganized. I said to Tricia, ‘This is not relaxing for me.’” Her goal, she told the designer, was a space with plenty of cabinets and drawers. “I wanted to have a place for everything.” McDonagh complied, creating a combination master bath and dressing room that even the most confirmed mess-aholic can keep organized. But this new space is more than just a paragon of organization. It’s a serene, spa-like retreat where husband and wife can soak away the cares of the day and reconnect with themselves and each other. McDonagh outfitted the space in a quiet palette of creamy whites, pale golds and light yellow for instant serenity. Because the room didn’t get a lot of natural light, she installed a round window above the tub. “I love capitalizing on any light that comes into a room,” she says. “It’s so uplifting, and so necessary in the Northeast.” A square frame within the round echoes the square mirrors inset in the doors of the four banks of closets she added to the room. Her client couldn’t be happier. “Everything is under control,” Susan now says. “And it looks so elegant.”

Sharon, Massachusetts
Patricia McDonagh, Boston
What makes it special?
A serene and relaxing bath is also a super-organized dressing room designed to help the homeowners keep everything in its place
Photos by
Michael J. Lee

Extreme Makeover
Leslie Fine speaks frankly about her first impression of this bath. “It just wasn’t very appealing,” she says. The door opened onto an empty space that led to three other doors. Two doors led to little rooms with a vanity and toilet in each, and another room with the tub and shower was sandwiched in between. Pulling down walls to create a much larger, airier expanse was the first step. The next challenge was figuring out where to put the new sinks. Both outer walls had a pair of windows—nice for natural light, but leaving no space for a vanity. After mulling it over, Fine settled on a center island with two sinks facing each other. Poggenpohl cabinets in Marsh Oak with brushed nickel hardware sit below a limestone counter.

A stainless-steel-framed, double-sided mirror attached at the ceiling and anchored to the countertop hangs between the sinks. Narrow pendant lights trimmed with brushed nickel illuminate the island. That problem solved, Fine turned to the rest of the room. A custom-made built-in unit matches the Poggenpohl cabinetry and holds three pullout laundry bins. Limestone tiles cover walls and floor, while the shower walls and an accent wall behind a dressing table are outfitted in Zen mosaic tiles from Ann Sacks in blues and neutrals. Motorized window shades installed by Maverick Integration, a New Hampshire company that also took care of the new bath’s audio, lighting and HVAC controls, offer privacy. The shades are hidden by simple off-white Ultrasuede box valances. “They finish the windows, but they don’t scream,” Fine says. Form meets function indeed.

Location Weston, Massachusetts
Designer Leslie Fine, Boston
What makes it special? A two-sided island vanity is the perfect solution to a bathroom challenged by an unusual layout
Photos by Michael J. Lee
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