Residential builder Peter Mark and his wife, Elizabeth Needham, a portrait photographer, designed their dream home—the first home they ever built for themselves—less than fifty feet from the water in Old Greenwich, with the help of Bruce Beinfield of Beinfield Architecture. From early on, when the 5,800-square-foot house was just being framed, the couple knew how they wanted it to feel: pared down yet sophisticated.
That aesthetic carried through to the kitchen. They enlisted the expertise of designer Kathy Conroy Molloy of Christopher Peacock Cabinetry in Greenwich, who had collaborated with Peter on several spec houses his company, Coastal Properties, had built in the area.
“These clients were great to work with,” Kathy says. “They knew what they wanted: pared down in style, yet with details that were well thought out and appropriate for a family.”
But unlike so many of his clients who commission the company to design distinctly traditional kitchens, Peter wanted something more modern for his home.
“I like the artisan craftsmanship of their kitchens, but I wanted something simple and contemporary,” says the homeowner-builder who moved into the house in June 2007 with his wife and two children—all of whom spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
“We have a panoramic view of the water,” he says. “Wherever you are, you see birds, boats and water. So we didn’t want anything overly ornate and fancy.”
He wound up selecting Peacock’s Cosmopolitan line, which typically comes in a wood-grain finish. Peter, however, opted to have it hand-painted in a soft blue-green gray. “It’s almost Mission-style, a wide stick and rail,” he says.
Based on a completely open floor plan, the kitchen is bounded by only two walls, and is accessible to both the dining room and the family room—all of which look out on the water. Because they were adamant about maximizing the view, Kathy says it was a challenge to accommodate ample cabinetry for storage.
As a result, they installed a central utility island, which is finished in quarter-sawn oak and topped on one end with an end-grain bamboo butcher block from Brooks Custom and on the other with a hefty, two-inch slab of statuary marble from New England Stone. Sleek bar stools with backs tuck beneath the overhang. The island houses a trash compactor and recycling bin as well as refrigerator drawers, which make it possible for fruits and vegetables to be lifted “straight out of the crisper and onto the butcher block,” according to Kathy. The remaining countertops are statuary marble.
Above the island Peter installed a series of three industrial pendant lights, which he found at Urban Archaeology, and the floors are a wide-plank oak.
In addition, to delineate the kitchen from the dining room and to facilitate the serving of food, they built a serving island with a polished-zinc surface from Danbury Sheet Metal.
Throughout the kitchen, Peter employed several convenient features to expedite basic chores, tricks of the trade that are nearly second nature to a man who previously spent several years working for Martha Stewart. In addition to installing the refrigerator drawers in the island, he mounted a pot-filler above the stove, and configured deep drawers, lined in felt, to hold silverware in a vertical position, just as it comes out of the dishwasher. He also fitted the upright Sub-Zero refrigerator, concealed behind cabinetry, with chalkboards for messages and lists. (Another Sub-Zero wine refrigerator is tucked into the mudroom off the kitchen.)
“Double ovens are the best way for any cook to work,” says Peter, who chose Wolf. He selected a Rangecraft hood and suspended it above the Wolf range, which is equipped with a French griddle. Pot storage is located directly below.
“The hood and range top set up nicely in one space,” says Kathy. “It’s not overpowering, yet it’s elegant and timeless.”
The homeowners chose a stainless steel farmhouse sink from Bates & Bates, which they found at Klaff’s in Westport. The vintage-looking sink mixer and handles are from the British company Steam Valve Original, which also supplied the pot-filler.
“We do more entertaining than cooking,” Peter admits. He says the kitchen works equally well for caterers too. As both a builder and a new homeowner, his advice to those considering a kitchen renovation is to “find a kitchen designer you trust and with whom you are comfortable.”
“If you don’t have a relationship with the design team, it’s not going to work,” he says.
Beinfield Architecture PC, South Norwalk, 838-5789; beinfield.com
Brooks Custom, Mount Kisco, New York, 800-244-5432; brookswood.com
Coastal Properties, Greenwich; coastalpropertiesllc.com
Christopher Peacock Cabinetry, Greenwich, 862-9333; peacockcabinetry.com
Danbury Sheet Metal, Bethel, 743-4443; dsmfab.com
Klaff’s, Danbury, 792-3903, South Norwalk, 866-1603 and Westport, 227-9024; klaffs.com