Turn Your Kitchen Into Your Favorite Room

The Kitchen Design Centre Canterbury Kitchen

Turn your kitchen into your favorite room

If there’s one room you’re sure to become intimately acquainted with between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it’s your kitchen. And whatever you love about it — your huge cabinets, a refrigerator that’s large enough to hold a flock of turkeys — is sure to make entertaining effortless. But if your kitchen presents certain, um, challenges — say, not enough counterspace, an oven that hasn’t aged so gracefully — well, it could just be enough to drive you crazy.

Indeed, while the holiday season is hardly the ideal time to take on a kitchen renovation, it is a perfect opportunity to make a few mental notes — and possibly a plan — on what you’d like to upgrade or change. (You’ll be slaving away in there anyway, right?) When the new year rolls around, who knows? You just might put that plan into action.

That’s what one Briarcliff Manor client of kitchen designer Jason Landau did last year. Then when the new year hit, she signed her old colonial up for a trip into the 21st century and asked Landau to completely overhaul her cooking arena. The owner of Briarcliff-based Amazing Spaces, Landau has designed — and redesigned — a host of Westchester and Fairfield kitchens. With a background in architecture and interior design, Landau is a one-stop shop for turning a functional kitchen into a magazine-worthy masterpiece. And more often than not, his new improved kitchen helps better the flow of the house overall.

“I’m always looking for ways to steal space and improve the flow of a house,” says Landau. “Once you improve the kitchen, you improve everything.”

But the real beauty of working with him is that you end up with a kitchen designed to suit you and your family, and the way you live. “In a custom kitchen, cabinets take up every square inch of your space,” says Amazing Spaces assistant designer Suzy Mordoh. You get to maximize your space.

Given the sluggish economy, though, many residents are understandably reluctant to green-light a kitchen renovation, which can easily cost $75,000 or more. But moving forward now may have its advantages: Contractors and designers are a little more available, so they have more time to devote to your project. “When you say jump, I have time to jump,” says Landau. “There’s a lot of personal attention.” And you may still find some discounts on labor and even cabinet incentives, though Landau warns, they’re small.

Working with a designer gives you the added bonus of a personal kitchen shopper. Aside from planning your space, Landau sells cabinetry and accompanies clients on shopping jaunts for tiles, countertops and flooring. When you can’t decide between honed granite or soapstone, he’ll help you come to a decision that makes sense. On most purchases, you’ll benefit from Landau’s industry discount; then he adds a slight commission to your bill and as he puts it, “everybody wins.”

Kitchen magic

When this Briarcliff homeowner first called Landau, her kitchen was a small 1950s-style space with old appliances. “It was literally falling apart,” says Landau. She had no specifics in mind, but she did know that she wanted a motif that’s a mix of a 1950s and American southwest. “There’s no such thing,” says Landau, who eventually created a space that embraces both aesthetics.

“We started in terms of feel. She wanted light; she felt closed in,” says Landau.

And that’s where things went way beyond the kitchen. Landau noticed a dark narrow hallway, adjacent to the kitchen, that didn’t access the kitchen. Next, the old laundry room, where the new stove is now, led into the garage and there was no mudroom. “I started by trying to help her maximize her space, which affected 75 to 80 percent of the first floor.”

Landau designed a plan that bumped out the front of the house adding about 30 square feet of space and moved the laundry room, off the kitchen, toward the front of the house. He made it a combined mudroom/laundry room. The sacrifice? A half-car space in her garage.

Landau also opened the front hall, linking the kitchen to the stairway. Now, when the family comes downstairs in the morning, they have a direct route to coffee and bagels. Linking those spaces “improved circulation and made the house feel bigger,” says Landau. He also created an archway in the entrance hall that lets you see straight through to the back window. Coming inside gives you a beautiful view of what’s outside.

Next by opening a wall between the kitchen and den, Landau created a sort of great room. Along with funnelling more natural light to the kitchen, the open space allows Mom to talk to the kids while she’s cooking dinner.

The homeowner wanted more storage, more counter-space and more cook-space. “She wanted ‘better,’ ” says Landau, who solved her problems with a new Wolf six-burner range (before she had four), honed CaesarStone countertops (a type of Quartz), a marble island, an oak wood peninsula, and two sinks. Today, she has a two-zone kitchen. The clean-up zone, in the front, is home to an apron (or farmhouse) sink, a Miele dishwasher, custom drawers and cabinets. Meanwhile, the chef station comes complete with a prep sink, an island work zone, the Wolf range, a 30-inch Thermador double wall oven and a pantry. Smack in between — because both the chef and the clean-up crew need access — is a huge Sub-Zero refrigerator. Disguised to look like her cabinets, it’s the Playboy mansion of cold-food storage.

Landau also added a few eco-conscious elements to the kitchen: the peninsula is made with reclaimed oak from a barn in Pennsylvania. Kountry Kraft cabinets boast forest-certified wood and a glass backsplash is made up of recycled material. The floor, a hand-scraped rustic cherry floor, is pre-finished and just a quarter-inch thick. “That’s somewhat green because you use less of a tree to make it,” says Landau. “Also, since the wood is prefinished you don’t have to sand it, which means it’s doesn’t affect indoor air quality.”

Easy does it

When you create a custom kitchen, you get added conveniences that you won’t likely find in your neighbour’s McMansion. This kitchen has a tilt-out sponge tray near her clean-up sink, so sponges never have to be on display. Near the farmhouse sink, in the front of the house, she has a two-tiered silverware drawer, which lets you hold a set of flatware on one level and a set of sharp chefs’ knives underneath. (Along with the extra storage, it’s a terrific safety feature for a family with little kids.) The main dish cabinet opens on two sides — one near the dishwasher, handy for putting dishes away; and one near the fridge and island, strategic for when you’re getting a snack. A light-switch on the island — the baking station — controls the high-hats overhead. Most cabinets have pull-out drawers with custom dividers to specially fit pots and pans. And even the drawers in the island come with custom inserts to accommodate her measuring cups and rolling pins.

And while at the start of this project, Landau thought a 1950s-meets-American Southwest aesthetic didn’t exist, now he’s brought it to life. The kitchen is bright and sunny with red diner stools flanking a practical peninsula, a colourful glass-tile backsplash (a spackle of pink, green, blue, yellow) and sage green countertops. “If you’re doing a busy backsplash, you want a calm counter,” says Landau. The cabinets are a buttery yellow, some with glass doors, and a neutral white marble slab, with beige and gray tones going through it, tops a narrow island. A stainless-steel dishwasher and double-oven add texture and shine to the homey space.

Best of all, from the aesthetic to the functionality, the kitchen suits the homeowner’s taste and her family’s lifestyle. Indeed, she’ll be thankful for that this holiday season.