Now you see it, now you don't: designer Christine Donner gave one family a space that works for every aspect of their lives.
With this kitchen, it’s as much about what you don’t see as what you do. “They had a very clear vision of what they wanted,” says kitchen designer Christine Donner of her clients. “Bold, crisp, and a very limited palette.” With icy white cabinets and a floor stained a dark espresso, it’s obvious that they had drama in mind.
If you’re surprised to find out that the owners of this chic kitchen are a couple with three young children—one in diapers—that’s sort of the point. “It’s not a traditional kitchen for people with little kids,” says Donner, but her design makes it work for everyone.
Because the long, narrow space opens onto four other rooms in the house and is constantly interrupted by traffic, the issue of how to organize the space became central to the project’s success. One wall became the cooking wall with range and hood. Opposite is the child snack wall with microwave (hidden behind a retractable door) and toaster. And the island became the center of all kitchen activity.
“It’s a dual-use kitchen so that these two activities can be going on at once,” says Donner. “Someone can be cooking, someone can be getting the kids a snack.”
The nine-foot ceilings posed a design challenge as well, added to by the large height disparity between the spouses. To address the issue, Donner custom-designed a taller-than-usual twenty-seven-inch Rangecraft, Inc. hood to play with height and had some fun with scale by using larger size lamps and hanging them lower over the island. A criss-cross coffering system running around the kitchen adds visual organization to the space.
And now here’s what you don’t see: The two tall cabinets on either side of the banquette were originally meant to house cookbooks, but somewhere along the way, hidden compartments were added where crayons and toys could easily be stashed when company comes calling. The message center may look neat and tidy, but open up the doors, and there’s a white board and corkboard inside with everyone’s schedules, menus, etc. “It’s command central,” says Donner, but any mess can easily be hidden away. The long banquette in the seating area features an easy-to-clean Sunbrella fabric that can withstand stains and spills.
Something else that’s tucked away—the bar, which may just be Donner’s favorite part of the kitchen. “I love it,” she says. “It’s really sharp. It just knocked me out.” The space was tight, but by recessing some of the appliances into the wall she was able to fit a sink, counter, cabinets, and fridge.
The leather pulls up the ante.
So it seems that a kitchen can be both dramatically chic and kid-friendly—you just need the perfect plan. “They did a great job of melding their design sensibility with the fact that they had children,” says Donner of her bold clients. “It all comes together.”
Christine Donner Kitchen Design, Inc., 203-966-0160, donnerkitchens.com
Island lamps and sconces, Circa Lighting, 877-762-2323, circalighting.com
Countertops and backsplash tiles, Fordham Marble, 203-348-5088, fordhammarble.com
Island and desk wood countertops in watershed walnut, Raging River Counterworks, 860-892-5180, rrcwoodcountertops.com
Bar countertop and sink, Focal Metals, 800-918-9980, focalmetals.com