May 12, 2016
It’s the 1990s, and suburban kitchens are often squished between the living room and the dining room. The cabinets are white, but the lack of windows and lighting fails to illuminate the space. This is the kind of kitchen design Joan Bigg encountered in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., and it was quite the opposite of what the owners wanted.
“It seemed like the kitchen was an afterthought,” said Bigg, who is the founder and owner of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.-based Joan Bigg Design. “The challenge was going to be giving the clients something different that they loved.”
The New Vision
Before the redesign, the kitchen had little organization and visual appeal. A large tree and the mountains outside suggested a great view, but it was well hidden by small windows. Having raised both their daughters there, the homeowners wanted to continue living in the home. Now with the children out of the house, the couple – who are professional scientists with modern tastes and a love for nature – wanted a better space they could cook in and still enjoy the outdoors.
“What they were looking for was not your cookie-cutter kitchen,” said Bigg. “They wanted new products and new materials and things that were unique and cutting edge, but they also wanted it to feel warm and inviting because they like to be together and cook together.”
To first open up the space and make room for these materials, Bigg moved a wall 12 inches over to help show off the view. The newly opened wall revealed wooden beams that contrasted the design’s modern edge, so the beams were disguised inside the cabinetry with finished cabinetry material. The designer changed the location of the doorway to the basement and relocated a bathroom from the hall to the space adjacent to the kitchen and living room. Because of where they were previously located, moving the bath and the doorway to the basement allowed for more pantry and storage space in the kitchen.
This newly opened space allowed for organized areas like a baking spot by the oven and an aluminum door to hide small appliances. The kitchen includes such personal touches as a bookshelf for family photos and a warming drawer next to the bar stools – designed for the client to easily warm up coffee in the morning.
“The way I work starts off sitting with someone and asking what they want this kitchen to do for them,” said Bigg. “Some people don’t care, but this couple wanted everything very organized.”
Going along with the client’s desire for an organized space, as well as a love of science and math, Bigg drew inspiration from one of her design heroes, Richard Meier.
“When I went to the New York School of Interior Design, I did my thesis on Meier,” she said, referring to the American architect and founder of Richard Meier & Partners Architects. “So all those lines in the space are close to the same size, and all the cabinetry doors relate to another piece of cabinetry on the opposite side. I thought architecturally and mathematically it should all blend.”
The clean lines of the space relate to details like the unique pendants, whose geometric designs are similar to Meier’s style. Even the butcher-block top on the island, which was the clients’ choice, fits into the puzzle because it juxtaposes the other side of the island at a perpendicular angle. The hood also blends with the space because of its perfectly rectangular custom steel encasement.
“We took all the measurements, and we had reason for them,” said Bigg. “Everything begins to geometrically relate to the rest of the house.
To contrast the straight lines and perfect shapes, she brought in features like a backsplash with curving lines to allow for movement in the kitchen. White tile covers the kitchen and bath floors to lighten up the space and adds to the contrast with a rounded edge by the living room’s hardwood floor.
“The reason I did the floor with the curve is because every project needs a surprise,” explained the designer. “That was the main surprise, but to me the [powder room] was really a surprise.”
Innovative Lighting in the Powder Room
The powder room adjacent to the kitchen also sits next to the living space, which was a darker corner of the home. The white flooring helped lighten it, but Bigg suggested a creative idea to change up the design.
This innovative thought was to put Houdini glass in the door to the bathroom. The glass reveals a shadow if a figure stands right up next to it, but a foot back nothing is visible from the inside or outside of the bath. Near the ceiling, a glass transom lets even more light in from the living and kitchen space.
“One of the interesting things I do is to try to expand visions,” said Bigg. “They wanted something new and different, and if you want something new, I’ll give it to you if you like it.”
Bigg also designed a contemporary dining room table for her clients. Made of glass three inches thick, the table is meant to resemble a large piece of ice. A larger version of the geometric pendants above the island lies above the table.
“The clients really let me think about what we could do to make the project different,” said Bigg. “They were always open to my suggestions, and being able to think creatively like that was the most enjoyable part of the design.”
Designer: Joan Bigg, Joan Bigg Design
Photographer: J. Ferrara, Cornwall, N.Y.
Bathroom Door: Houdini Glass
Microwave Drawer: Sharp
Range: Wolf 48-in. Sealed Burner Rangetop
Oven: Wolf 30 Series E
Warming Oven: Wolf