June 21, 2011
Although a luxury of space in a kitchen or bath may be much coveted by homeowners, for designers, using it to boost functionality, as well as aesthetics, requires considerable strategic thinking. “When you have a big kitchen, you want to locate things so they’re easily accessible for cooking and entertaining,” said Amir Ilin, of Küche + Cucina in Paramus, NJ. “Your clients shouldn’t have to run three miles just to make an omelet. It also has to be attractive, so you can’t locate everything in one area and leave the rest open and empty.”
These were but some of the concerns Ilin addressed when commissioned to design a 18-ft. x 24-ft. kitchen for an active family of six. Part of a major expansion of an ultra-contemporary home in tony Saddle River, NJ, the remodel also demanded Ilin incorporate a 20-ft.-high sloped ceiling and contend with an open floor plan that encompasses a living room and connects to a new outdoor swimming pool and patio area. The layout of spaces and its lack of walls, Ilin noted, are conducive to entertaining—a pastime the clients enjoy frequently that, as a result, informed his design. “It’s a kitchen that’s also a place for socializing and interacting with guests, which is a very popular trend these days,” Ilin. Moreover, “Contemporary homes are especially suited to having open kitchens that can be used in this way.”
To accommodate all of their entertainment needs, the clients requested a full suite of appliances, most of which are conveniently situated together on a sidewall. Here, separate refrigerator and freezer columns bookend two ovens, two warming drawers, a microwave and a steam oven. On the opposite side of the room, an oversized aluminum garage housing several small appliances, including a summer favorite—an ice-cream maker—is located alongside a coffee station, complete with a built-in coffeemaker, that allows the clients to make a cup of joe without having to enter the kitchen proper.
In the back of the kitchen, a cooktop and a ventilation hood that extends some 16 ft. to the ceiling form the main cooking area. The latter is flanked by wall cabinets equipped with flip-up smoky glass doors and frames finished in gray rift-cut oak. Ilin chose the mix of materials to counterbalance the tall ceiling, whose integration presented a bit of a challenge, as it could have easily overpowered the kitchen if not handled properly. Further taming it, sea-green glass mosaics pave the entire backsplash, adding sparkle and subtle drama.
Below, high-gloss birdseye maple cabinets in a warm natural finish enhance the kitchen’s modern eclectic appeal, as does the beveled door style selected by the clients. Both were also specified for the appliance wall, where additional cabinets cap the refrigerator, ovens and freezer. Of the clients’ choice in door style, Ilin said, “We looked at several options, but they were going for something more personal and individualized and weren’t afraid of introducing different elements.”
Nor did they shy away from color, of which there is a bold dose in the central J-shaped island. Fiery red and shiny in a high-gloss lacquered finish, the unit loosely encloses the kitchen while preserving the openness of the overall floor plan. As functional as it is stylish, it includes an arced glass breakfast bar, raised on aluminum supports, as well as seating on one end, while an oversized sink, commercial-style faucet, ice maker, dishwashers and plenty of counter space make it the workhorse that it is. At nearly 14 ft. in length, its massive size and vibrant hue anchor the tall room while reinforcing its unmistakably contemporary vibe.
But as rich and varied all the finishes are, Ilin was careful to establish a sense of unity throughout the kitchen. The lower cabinets, including the island, for example, are accented with an aluminum toekick that visually links to the stainless appliances and ventilation hood, and on the floor, neutral-toned porcelain tiles offset the kitchen’s bright colors. Jet-black quartz countertops, black stools and the dark-gray wall units help move one’s eye through the space, further reinforcing the feeling of cohesion.
“The most difficult part of the project was creating the right layout in the large space,” said Ilin. “Sometimes people think big kitchens are easy because there’s so much room,” but that isn’t always the case. However, in the hands of the right designer, even the tallest and most open of spaces can be transformed into a hip, cool kitchen with creature comforts to satisfy its owners and their friends.
Designer: Amir Ilin—Küche + Cucina, Paramus, NJ
Cabinetry, sink and faucet: Pedini;
Dishwashers and coffee maker: Miele;
Cooktop, wall ovens, microwave and warming drawer: Wolf
Photography: Peter Rymwid