Kitchen Achieves New Levels of Visual Impact

BALTIMORE, MD— While designers strive to reach the heights of their profession, it is not often they can achieve this both literally and figuratively. However, this was the case for Roland Neifield, Jr. when he undertook a 23'x19' new construction kitchen project overlooking Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor.

Neifield, who serves as president of Northfield Sales Co., based here, notes that the kitchen in penthouse residence, located in a 17-floor building, “was to be the highest-profile and highest-above-sea-level kitchen in Baltimore. It had virtually no budget and had to have enormous visual impact.”

Aiding Neifield in the creation of the kitchen were company staff designer and draftsman David Leone, as well as staff artist Emily Neifield, ASID. The Neo-Edwardian-style kitchen features “an uncompromising masculine style,” reports Neifield.

“It has an imposing feel that meshes well with both the owner’s personality and the dramatic luxury of the surrounding penthouse,” he states.

The highlights in the space include an abundant island with peninsula bar seating; plenty of available storage space for wine bottles; dual-integrated warming drawers; drawer-type dishwashers that double as ice chests, and extra refrigerator drawers. All of this adds up to a kitchen that is “a delight in which to host guests and entertain.”

Hood Winked

The focal point of this penthouse kitchen is the custom 72" polished brass hood from Abbaka.

“The six-foot-wide hood stands out due to the large expanse of polished brass against a dark background. Curved concentrically with the barrel-vaulted ceiling, it is futuristic in shape, yet still complements the kitchen,” Neifield remarks.

The hood posed a unique challenge for the design team, however. “The hood confronted the central issue of a residential kitchen in a commercial space,” he states. “As the stock hood controls were inadequate to control the huge commercial blower, we conceived the idea of using an electrical relay, which allowed the controls to power the blower without a direct electrical connection. After conferring with the electrical and HVAC trades, this turned out to be the best solution.”

Appliance Savvy

The kitchen is also chock full of convenience-oriented appliances, located to maximize functionality. Specifically, the design includes two 30" Viking ranges and a Sub-Zero 601R refrigerator, 601F freezer, 424 G/O wine cooler and 700BCI refrigerator/freezer drawer with icemaker.

The design is also enhanced by Fisher & Paykel dishwashers; a GE JEM31S microwave; two Dacor IWO27 warming drawers; two KitchenAid disposers with pressure switches; an Auton TV lift, and an undermount sink by Blanco America with faucetry from Rohl.

“All of these items feature wood panels where applicable. While these appliances were centered partially for visual impact, the design is still practical,” he says.

To that end, the ranges and the main sink are opposite one another, while the refrigerator drawers are within easy reach, creating the classic work triangle.

The large refrigerator and freezer are on the other side of the island, just a few steps away. The dual warming drawers are accessible from the breakfast table.

Island Attraction

Neifield notes that the island – which features granite inlaid solid Zebrawood countertops by Craft-Art – is laid out in an unusual pattern.

“The 12'x5-1/2' island continues the theme of following the barrel-vaulted ceiling. The curvature of the raised seating area is also centered on – and similar in shape to – both the brass hood and the vaulted ceiling,” he explains.

“The island is a radical four-level design incorporating a lowered baking center, main-level top with sinks and dishwashers, raised-level island seating and an upper cap that conceals the lift-up plasma TV,” he continues.

The lowered baking area facing the breakfast table serves several purposes, he adds. It allows for a lowered prep surface, perfect for tasks such as rolling dough, plus it creates a distinct serving area for the breakfast table.

“It also stands out from the symmetrical island, providing a contrast against the many features aligned under the barrel-vaulted ceiling,” he comments. “Overall, both the island and peninsula seating keep guests out of the kitchen’s work area, yet allow guests to converse with each other and those who are cooking.”

Championship Pantry

Another key element in the design of the space is the inclusion of an adjacent 15'x10' butler’s pantry, which serves as an extension to the kitchen. The pantry not only provides plenty of storage, it also features a tall, lighted wine display with large beveled glass doors, as well as a space to showcase collectibles.

“When the owner uses his private entrance to the penthouse, he first sees a large open display cabinet that is filled with championship trophies and other memorabilia from the sports franchise he owns,” he reports.

The cabinets that line both walls of the butler’s pantry lead the way to the kitchen. To make the upper tier of cabinets more accessible, polished brass rods support library-style ladders. The dark-painted maple cabinets by Kountry Kraft could have made this a very dark space, notes Neifield. However, he adds that it was brightened by the library ladder rails and the cabinet hardware featured in bright polished brass.

The cabinets themselves posed some unique challenges for Neifield. “The cabinets had to reach the 17th floor penthouse by freight elevator. As such, true tall cabinets had to be avoided – they would have been 114" tall,” he exclaims.

The cabinets are finished with crown molding that runs to 10' high, with ceiling heights as high as 12' in some places.

The large wine cabinet posed the most significant challenge, according to Neifield. The design team incorporated tall pocket doors that carry large beveled glass inserts. These fit behind partitions that allow for shelf mounting of wine racks. They are all mirrored with black.

The horizontal band created by the mounting area for the library ladder rails allowed the upper and lower sections of the wall cabinets to be separated, if needed.

Plus, the cabinets were beaded inset cabinets “that look best when combined together to create consistent style and rail widths,” he states.

Both the main kitchen and the butler’s pantry were designed with storage in mind. Niefield states: “There is copious storage space. Roll-out shelving is installed wherever possible, with pull-out towel rod and potholder racks behind the turned legs at the sink and ranges in the kitchen.”

“In the end, the kitchen appears even larger due to its adjoining butler’s pantry,” he concludes.

Just the Light Way

Lighting was key to both the kitchen and butler’s pantry, and multiple light sources and large windows were used to maximize natural and articifical light, and create maximum brightness.

Recessed and undercounter lighting is reflected by the polished brass and glass accents in the cabinets, while the ceiling accent lighting focuses on the hand-painted mural in the barrel-vaulted ceiling, Neifield adds.

Meanwhile, plenty of natural light is washed into the kitchen through “a full wall of windows next to the breakfast table that offers a spectacular view of Baltimore, including historic Fort McHenry,” he adds.

For more about this project, click here.