Want the Perfect Kitchen?
Kitchens are the new live-work space. Once hidden away at the back of a house and often synonymous with drudgery, the humble kitchen is taking its place at the center of modern design. With family life today emphasizing the sociability of cooking and dining, a fully appointed professional-grade chef’s kitchen is becoming a standard feature in modern homes. Open-concept spaces allow for seamless movement to other living areas, as well as easy camaraderie between chefs and family members or guests.
The modern kitchen aesthetic has evolved with finishes and features that fully integrate with a home’s overarching design, making the kitchen not only a home’s central hub, but also a main selling point.
“The kitchen really is the new living room,” says Cathy Taub of Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage. “Today’s families like to hang out in the kitchen, and life revolves around cooking, eating and entertaining. We find even people who don’t necessarily cook like to hang out in the kitchen.”
A former private school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side turned into 13 apartments, all with central, light-filled chef’s kitchens, serves as a perfect example of classic architecture with this modern kitchen-centric update.
Project developers preserved the historic landmark’s 1908 English Collegiate Gothic facade, then designed each of the interior apartments around an open loft-style kitchen. In keeping with the idea that the kitchen is where inhabitants congregate, each features casement windows filling the spaces with light and have an average of 13-foot ceilings. Fluted glass pocket doors give residents the option of having the kitchen open or closed.
“We designed the kitchens so that they could either have that open loft-like feel, or residents can close the door if they want privacy,” Taub says.
The generously proportioned spaces (the Solarium Penthouse kitchen even has room for a sofa lounger) are all variations on the theme of a luxury chef’s kitchen. With bespoke finishes by designer Christopher Peacock, each kitchen features abundant oak cabinetry and Arabescato Italian marble counters and backsplashes. A full appliance package is included, with six-burner dual range Wolf stoves, professional vented hoods, Miele dishwashers, pot chillers, warming drawers, two sinks, a standalone Sub-Zero refrigerator, freezers and wine storage. Many also include a butler’s pantry and maximize lateral storage with library ladders.
“People who come to see our kitchens are delirious,” Taub says. “Every current appliance you would want is in our kitchens.”
In warmer climates, open concept kitchens naturally lend themselves to living spaces that flow easily from indoors to out. Incorporating outdoor dining areas, as well as kitchen spaces and bars into a property’s layout, are growing in popularity and allow a house to become a center for entertaining. Mindful design elements, however, are necessary to keep sprawling spaces inviting and comfortable, says Joel Schemmel, of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Sarasota, Florida.
“People don’t want to feel like they are in a big, oversized house,” Schemmel says. “A space works best when, no matter what its size, it still has a feeling of being comfortable and cozy. Spaces where owners can have a big crowd or an intimate gathering are ideal.”
A secluded, newly constructed modern estate on Florida’s Siesta Key is a colorful example of the balance that can be achieved with a few carefully chosen design elements.
“This is the perfect kind of Florida house,” Schemmel says. “It’s a combination of indoor and outdoor entertaining space. It’s what Florida is all about. It’s a big house, but it’s very organic, too.”
The 1.4-acre waterfront property on a private peninsula was designed by the owners and their Miami-based architect with multiple entertaining spaces in mind. Disappearing glass walls that function similar to an accordion can be completely pulled open, allowing for a seamless flow from the indoor kitchen and dining room to the exterior dining and pool area. The home’s infinity pool features in-water lounge chairs and a submerged circular fire-pit, as well as a full swim-up bar. An outdoor dining pavilion includes a full kitchen with a living wall and electronic wind screens.
Throughout the interior, contrasting exotic stone and wood blend into one colorful, unified organic design. The kitchen includes: Zebrino white marble countertops; an Arabescato Corchia marble backsplash; all stainless-steel appliances, with a Wolf six-burner stove, a Sub-Zero French-door refrigerator, a Wolf microwave and steamer; and two Miele dishwashers. A separate bar with eclectic pendant lighting is made of jurassic brown hydrostone and illuminated crystal agate onyx.
The formal dining area features a glass wine cellar, with custom wine racks and individual temperature controls. “Here, the flow between in and out is amazing,” Schemmel says. “The owners’ goal was to achieve a very earthy, organic feel. The home blends into the landscape beautifully.”
A kitchen that can cater to multiple generations of family members and guests is paramount. “Recently, clients are using their kitchens more and more as social gathering places,” says Maritha Keil of Sotheby’s International Realty British Virgin Islands. “They want kitchens that allow for interaction between the chef and family or guests.”
Kitchen adjacent spaces, as well as indoor and outdoor seating arrangements, are increasingly all the rage. Most modern kitchens now offer AV stations, where chefs can watch or listen to various cooking channels to create culinary masterpieces, or families can share in other media while they keep the cook of the evening company, Keil says.
Villa Katsura, a tranquil family retreat in Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, has multiple kitchens and dining spaces throughout three pavilions that can satisfy all types of gatherings. The 23,000 square-foot estate on four levels is built into a hillside peninsula above the Caribbean Sea, offering unparalleled serenity and privacy, yet allowing enough room for multiple generations of guests.
The Asian-theme main kitchen and formal dining area on the home’s uppermost level were built from a mix of exotic hardwoods. The open-concept kitchen has enough space for a full dining area, and it includes an AV alcove for lounging, a pantry and additional seating at the kitchen island. Fully retractable glass walls allow a seamless flow from the interior to an additional seating area on the surrounding deck. A formal dining room is incorporated into the home’s airy, vaulted main room, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding ocean on three sides.
An outdoor barbecue kitchen finished in natural stone and exotic wood on the home’s lower level includes outdoor seating and overlooks a pool and healing gardens designed by the landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu.
“Clients these days seem to be more attracted to homes, like Villa Katsura, that offer multiple indoor-outdoor seating arrangements and opportunities to interact with the surrounding environment,” Keil says.