December 27, 2019
Today’s kitchen is more hardworking than ever and serves multiple functions; for busy families, the kitchen could also double as entertaining, homework and conversational centers. This is an issue in older homes, where the kitchen was built as strictly functional and usually feels small and unconnected. Designer Paul Bentham of Pittsburgh-based Lauren Levant Interiors faced one such home, where the clients wanted to modernize a cramped kitchen – and later a master bath – to better outfit their family.
Combating the Existing Issues
The clients wanted their new kitchen to be a place to prepare meals effectively, while also providing a comfortable area for their kids to do homework. For entertaining, the clients wanted to maintain the classic lines of their home but still offer guests a formal dining experience. They also wanted the kitchen to be opened up to the rest of the bottom floor – but they did not want their older home feeling too open at the same time.
“The space available for the new kitchen in this historic home was far different than the open, large spaces often built in today’s new-construction homes,” said Bentham. “Despite our best efforts, the available space was narrow and limited in size. The question of how to best use the space and to devise a beautiful kitchen – despite those circumstances – was the challenge laid before us.”
To open up the space – without it feeling too open – the team designed the two adjacent rooms, the office and dining room, to have pocket doors that could fold back. This would make the space feel open, but they could also close for a more intimate setting.
There was also the additional challenge of a central and sizable structural post that was not removable. The team decided to take advantage of its location and make it a feature point in the island, widening the beam and running waste pipes and electrical through it.
“The island became a creative arrangement as a result, featuring a working side, an entertaining side with beverage storage and a dining side thanks to the incorporation of a custom table into the island,” said Bentham, explaining that this table extension adds warmth and character to the island, while also providing additional seating.
Since the design team was charged with not going too contemporary with the design, they used more traditional, white base cabinetry – with some white open shelves as well – and contrasted it with a refrigerator/freezer integrated into a decorative armoire surround. This honors the historic setting of the home and complements the dark paneling around the main windows and the chosen finish for the appliances.
“The use of designer appliances dressed in black with brass details sets off the three-dimensional sculptured subway tile to great advantage,” said the designer, adding that the texture of the white tile adds visual interest to the project.
Manufactured stone counters reminiscent of marble stand up to both the luxury appeal of the space and heavy use from the family. Brass detailing sets off the mix of light and dark in the space with its warm tones.
“Keeping with a white-and-black motif, we integrated brass plumbing, hardware, lighting and seating,” said Bentham.
A Restorative Bath
The master bath had similar issues as the kitchen, with a narrow and small floor plan that was never going to be enough to accommodate both a shower and tub comfortably. Despite this issue, the team was charged with creating a spa-like experience for the busy clients.
“The master bathroom for this busy, bi-coastal couple is a place where circadian rhythms needed to be reset and where weary travelers relax as they come off the plane,” said Bentham. “As we re-imagined this space for the lifestyle of its inhabitants, we focused on meeting the needs of their routine while inspiring and welcoming them with the impression of expansive spaces and sweeping natural light.”
To achieve the open and relaxing layout the clients wanted, the team removed the soaking tub and reutilized the square footage to expand the shower. This double shower boasts a central rainhead and a floating shower seat, which was suspended with internal steel supports and built into the wall framing. A wall-to-wall horizontal niche exaggerates the available width of the space.
The space echoes the new kitchen with a sleek black-and-white palette with brass detailing in the hardware and fixtures. Square, neutral-toned tile lines all of the walls – including inside the shower – and helps the enclosure feel larger and more part of the room itself. Finally, marble-look countertops and caged pendant lighting introduce character and modern luxury into the bath.
“The quartz countertops and statement lighting complete the effect of an airy yet impactful design that achieves elegance through simplicity – a sure way to welcome weary travelers home,” said Bentham.
Designer: Paul Bentham, Lauren Levant Interiors
Photographer: Dave Bryce Photography
Cabinetry: Quality Custom Cabinetry Inc.
Faucet: Newport Brass
Cabinetry: Crystal Cabinets
Hardware & Shower Fixtures: Kohler
Lighting: Young House Love
Sink Fixtures: Delta