by Nancy J. Parisi
“My favorite part of our new kitchen is the ability for my family to sit around me while I cook,” says Julia, a mom to three young kids. She later muses that the reconfigured “linear” kitchen also makes it possible to sit at the granite island and watch for the school bus out the large bay windows.
“This is where they do their homework. We might do math flash cards and talk about sports and about their school days at these three seats,” she says, pointing to three of six comfortable gray leather counter stools. “This is where they sit as I dole out dinner.
“The stools were the first thing I chose for the kitchen,” Julia continues. “We designed the colors of the room around them. They are Ballard Designs’s Marcello model in granite; Ballard is a good online source. We were looking for wide, comfy stools that would be easy for children to hop in and out of without falling off.”
Julia and husband, Jason, are the second owners of this house, built in 1998 and located on a Southtowns street minutes from both downtown Buffalo and skiing in Colden. The two-point-six-acre property is wild and wooded on its eastern edge.
Deciding to update the kitchen after nearly eight years, Julia and Jason called Trish Bailey of Bailey & Harris Architects in East Aurora to draw up plans. The design team includes Mike Walkowiak, who brought in Tom Halloran of Modern Kitchens of Buffalo. Together, they transformed a former hallway-kitchen-half-bath into a magnificent open space that is the hub of the home.
From the front door, there is a music/reading room to the right and the kitchen on the left, running the entire side of the home from front bay windows to a bank of custom windows overlooking patio and yard. Dominating the kitchen is the grand granite island with seating for six, tucked behind it a pair of energy-efficient Asko dishwashers. There is additional seating at a long, ten-foot wooden table at the back of the kitchen, near French doors. The family room, with a fireplace and cozy seating, is adjacent: contractors matched maple flooring to bring country warmth to both areas.
“Mike Walkowiak introduced us to Tom with the highest level of recommendations; it’s a real benefit when the contractor, architect, and kitchen designer have a history of working together,” says Jason. “Julia was the project manager. With the large scope of the project, it blew me away how much detail went into prepping.”
“It’s a linear kitchen in that there are only two sets of cabinets on a wall that is twenty-five feet long,” says Halloran. “That wall has the cabinetry and all of the major appliances; normally there are two or three walls to work with in a kitchen.”
One of the most striking features of the kitchen is its distinguished coffered ceiling that creates architectural interest as well as an antique-looking flourish. This portion of the project, Jason says, was “twenty-five percent of the cost and the workmanship.”
“The coffering was Trish’s idea,” says Julia. “Before this, I didn’t know what a coffered ceiling was. How we got to that point was that we had two beams that would have had to be worked around.” She points out the beams, one at one end of the island, the other in the ceiling.
The ceiling also showcases the room’s elegant lighting: updated glass chandeliers and pendants. Julia, who once worked at Pottery Barn and is familiar with their merchandise, selected the Clarissa Crystal Drop model with silver filigreed base. Similarly modern yet elegant, the room’s pendants are Troy Lighting’s Sausalito model. “I like the transparence of the light the fixtures give off,” says Julia.
Using the aforementioned counter stools as reference, the couple selected gray-toned granite for the island and countertops, Monte Cristo from Italian Granite. The island, as Tom points out, is thirty-nine inches long and double thick.
“The sink is metallic gray granite, Blanco, anti-porous and antibacterial,” says Jason. “The faucet is Delta, and we installed a reverse-osmosis water purification system that also dispenses boiling water.”
A thirty-six-inch Wolf rangetop and a forty-eight-inch Sub-Zero refrigerator hide behind custom wooden cabinetry. “Before, I had a modest Amana four-burner stove,” says Julia. “This stove was an adjustment, and I still feel I’m not using it to its full capability.” Additionally, there is a Wolf convention steam oven, Wolf single oven, and drawer microwave.
Behind the range is an arresting backsplash made of handmade concrete tiles in Moroccan-inspired shapes of grays and muted blues, again picking up the soft gray of the stools’ leather. “This was the final piece of the kitchen,” Julia says. The contractors had packed up and left and we hadn’t yet settled on the tiles.
“We went to Buffalo Home Show and saw samples from the owner of Tile Shoppe on Walden Avenue. Each piece – each tile is made of two separate pieces, and so is double-grouted – accepted the stain differently, so there are subtle variations of colors,” says Jason. “Our goal with the tile was to pull out the gray of the granite and the gray-green of the barstools. The first few samples had too much aqua in them, but we got it; it’s a homerun.”
“Before this project, I had an idea of what I thought a kitchen designer was, and what a kitchen design was,” says Julia, “I thought that the designers and contractors helped you to choose colors and style. Tom’s expertise blew me away. Trish got me comfortable with the open-plan idea for the kitchen. I was concerned about losing the front hall, but the entryway feels right. The expertise of everyone involved was impressive, and made this project what it is.”