Lucy and Solomon Berkoff moved into this loft-like condominium in Norwalk’s historic SoNo neighborhood in October 2005 and began renovating it the following spring.
“The most frustrating part was finding a contractor willing to climb three flights of stairs, hauling all the materials, and then running back down to feed the parking meter,” says Lucy, whose apartment is housed in a building that dates to the 1890s and lacks an elevator. In addition, she says, she can reach her hand out the window and practically touch the tracks frequented by Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
She ultimately found Bill Swidergal, a contractor with Weston-based Quality Tiling, who proved his dedication not only by carting tools and supplies up and down the stairs, but also by constructing elaborate scaffolding to paint the 22-foot-ceilings in rooms other than the kitchen.
“We wanted to make the kitchen space much more modern,” explains Lucy, who, until recently, worked as a designer for Waterworks. “But at the same time, we wanted to highlight and complement the historic nature of the building.”
To help her design the kitchen, the Berkoffs tapped Randy O’Kane, a certified kitchen designer from Bilotta in Mamaroneck. Lucy and Randy had worked together on several projects when she was still at Waterworks.
“I told her not to do it,” says Randy, who thought the existing kitchen required too much work (in addition to being three flights up and inhabited by a pregnant client). “It was a typical builder’s kitchen with white laminate wood trim and no island. I think it even had a peninsula.” But the Berkoffs were determined.
So Randy reorganized the space between the mechanical room and the kitchen to give her clients a pantry, and in the process, avoided creating a “dead” corner. The resulting cabinetry features two roomy storage options: one side is fitted with rolling drawers, capable of accommodating large masonry jars as well as numerous spices, and the other side features fixed shelving.
Large windows—they measure about three and a half feet by eight feet—were one of the design elements the client chose to accentuate.
It was Randy’s idea to create a window seat. “It’s a fun little space that lets in the natural light,” she says. “And that way we avoided interrupting the rhythm of the cabinetry.”
Tucked into the same corner is a double convection oven by Miele and a wine refrigerator, located beneath a wall-mounted pot rack.
“We bought the wine fridge from Sears, when we first lived together in Chicago,” Lucy admits. “It has followed us to three different apartments since.”
The Berkoffs chose walnut for the cabinetry because they wanted the kitchen, which is open, to complement the living room, which is furnished in dark wood and Asian-inspired pieces. Because the ceilings were so low, Randy specified the cabinets to run vertically all the way to the ceiling, without a molding. Hanging cabinets are fronted in frosted glass, and all hardware is Cliffside in tubular stainless steel.
Split Rock Marble and Tile installed the countertops—Caesarstone in Lagos Azul—a choice that Berkoff says is ideal for easy clean-up and it doesn’t distract from the overall look of the room with the abundant veining common in many types of marble and stone. The owners retained the original floors, and stained them a light, Ipswich pine color.
Waterworks’ subway tile adorns the backsplash, and behind the stove Lucy installed a stainless steel sheet of faux brick she found at Klaff’s. All appliances are Miele, with the exception of the Liebherr refrigerator, which is tall and narrower than the industry standard, making it ideal for tight spaces. (Before appliances were ordered, surveys were conducted to determine whether or not building entrances, corners and doorjambs would accommodate the bulky deliveries.)
Among Lucy’s favorite features are the window seat and the island, which Randy designed to look like a piece of furniture, complete with shelves for books on cooking and gardening. It is a default play area for their son, Charlie. (Lucy says her husband’s must-have feature is the pot rack.)
“It really has a lot of counter space for a little galley kitchen,” Randy says of the 200-square-foot room.
The kitchen was completed just days before Thanksgiving 2006. For the holiday, Lucy christened it with a dinner for thirty. The next week her son Charlie was born.
Bilotta, Greenwich, 629-9417; and in New York, Briarcliff, 914-762-3431; Mamaroneck, 914-381-7734; Mount Kisco, 914-242-1022; and New York City, 212-486-6338; bilotta.com
Klaff’s, Danbury, 792-3903; South Norwalk, 866-1603; and Westport, 227-9024; klaffs.com
Quality Tiling, Weston, 226-9351
Waterworks, Danbury, 792-9979; Greenwich, 869-7766; and Westport, 227-5008; waterworks.com