New In New England
Joe Carter -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
When a really old house needs a brand-new kitchen, the road more traveled follows the architecture and materials already in place. But with a portfolio of successful old-new style merges to his credit, Charles Rabinovitch took the opposite route at a house in Easton, Connecticut. His firm, C.M. Rabinovitch Architect, provided a sleek, high-tech kitchen renovation-addition that makes only the subtlest references to its 18th-century host.
With its wide-plank oak floors and rough-hewn timbers, the house was an authentic antique. The existing kitchen, however, was just plain antiquated. The last major addition had been built in the '70's, long before the arrival of the current owners, a retired corporate lawyer and a real-estate company owner. "The appliances were on their last legs," says Rabinovitch. "And the layout never worked properly."
The G-shape plan offered insufficient cabinets and counter space and came up equally short on logic. The refrigerator was tucked in a niche around a corner, interfering with a decent work triangle; a big pantry was around another corner, several steps in the opposite direction. In Rabinovitch's assessment, "Everything was too spread out. The more the owners used it, the worse they found it."
As weekenders who spend most of their time in New York, the owners put a high priority on wide views, lots of light, and commercial-style appliances for cooking up large country meals. The couple had worked with Rabinovitch before—once renovating their city brownstone, then making over the wife's office—and they knew he could successfully integrate a contemporary element into their farmhouse.
Step one was to tear out the ceiling to make way for a sloped, atrium-style glazed roof set above a bank of windows. Inside that glass box, a U-shape layout with a center island puts all appliances and storage within easy reach.
Around the corner, Rabinovitch built a silolike tower enclosing an eating nook that also serves as a home office. Glazing is distinctive here, too: a 9-foot-wide arc of laminated glass that follows the tower's curve. (Though the panel looks continuous, it comprises three sections joined by thin seams of silicone.) "It's dramatic, emphasizing the alcove's shape without presenting any barrier to the view," the architect says.
The job of choosing materials and finishes fell to Marjorie Hilton Interiors, the firm that had worked on the rest of the house. To help her clients "minimize upkeep while keeping it elegant," Marjorie Hilton says, she specified cabinets wrapped in matte aluminum. This both ties in with the aluminum framework of the atrium and complements the sea-foam quartzite counters and sandblasted glass inserts in the cupboard doors. She put more glass on the walls: 2-inch squares the color of plate glass seen from its cut edge. On the floor, deep-brown porcelain tile subtly echoes the dark-stained oak in the rest of the house.
"The kitchen is pleasurable to work in because it offers a connection not only to the old part of the house but also to the outdoors," Rabinovitch says. With sunshine and landscape pouring into the new space—lighting up sleek metal, glass, and porcelain surfaces—his mission is beautifully accomplished.