‘Green’ Kitchen Graces Historic Showhouse

LLOYD NECK, NY— The north shore of Long Island, NY once reigned supreme as the home of some of this country’s most opulent mansions. Its lush hills and majestic waterfront vistas were coveted by the rich and famous, and many built homes along the “Gold Coast” in the early decades of the 1900s that will never again be matched.

Among those calling Long Island home during that time was Marshall Field III, whose Georgian Revival country estate – designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope – sat on a high bluff situated on more than 1,700 acres of land. Caumsett, as it was dubbed, is now under the care of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, with the home and its surroundings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Forty designers descended on the home several months ago, transforming rooms throughout the home for the 2007 Designers’ Showcase. Vasi Ypsilantis, owner of The Breakfast Room in Manhasset, NY, was faced with the challenge of updating the home’s kitchen, whose original opulence and charm had been diminished courtesy of a previous renovation.

Enhancing Existing Elements

Restoring the kitchen to its original grandeur required the gutting of a 1970s renovation. Budget constraints, however, limited the amount of reconstruction that could be done.

The original ceilings in the house were 12' to 13' in height, but had been dropped to about 10'. That drop meant that the original windows in the kitchen had been cut dramatically in size, with the top half hidden behind the ceiling.

“My initial designer instinct was to knock out the drop ceiling and bring back the height, but time and budget would not allow for it,” notes Ypsilantis.

“Instead, I designed a circular cutout around the top of the windows, and created a molding that wrapped around the ceiling. It created almost a three-dimensional effect, as if the windows were a radius, but actually we cut out the ceiling to create a radius around the window,” she explains. “This really opened up the windows and gave great focal points from both entrances to the room.”

Budget constraints also prohibited changing the existing ventilation hood – a large box-shaped working hood mechanism in the ceiling. Instead of eliminating it, Ypsilantis stripped it out of its existing sheetrock and created a cooking center out of Silestone.

“Doing that allowed me to go back about one foot, so it now comes out about four feet from the wall,” she notes. Ypsilantis took 2-1/2' for the cooking surface, and about 18" for a special effects backsplash.

“I lightened the area up just by using light materials – the Silestone, and a painted brick that looks like rift cut stone along the back. I made the back wall a waterfall, and the water and the color just softened the whole space. They draw you to it instead of calling attention to the fact that the hood is so big.”

Combining Styles

After dealing with the existing elements, Ypsilantis debated the room’s overall style. “The architecture is traditional, and I wanted to keep the style as true to the architecture as possible,” she offers. That led to the use of the applied molding in the soffited areas and the heavy molding around the windows. She also chose to use furniture pieces around the two sinks below the two windows, to keep those areas anchored. Black Absolute granite grounds the sink counter areas.

Once that was decided upon, she questioned as to how the room should be furnished. “You’d want to keep it today, and light,” she comments. To that end, she lined the perimeter with Poggenpohl cabinets in Teak Décor.

The upper cabinets featured glass fronts and lighting to give the space an open feeling. “I didn’t want the uppers to conflict with the window areas, so keeping the light glass there kept the attention on the windows and away from the upper cabinets,” she offers.

A louver door of glass, also from Poggenpohl, fronts an appliance garage. Larger appliances in the room included two cooktops, a refrigerator/freezer, integrated dishwashers to the left of each sink, a warming drawer, a microwave and a single oven, all from Bosch.

In the center of the room, a stainless steel table – original to the house – remained in place. At about 30" by 9', it acts as a long, thin center island.

“It was an inspirational piece,” stresses Ypsilantis. “It was very clean lined and sleek, yet it had traditional lines to it.”

The choices for the kitchen, such as the Poggenpohl cabinets, Silestone countertops and Bosch energy-efficient appliances, were in keeping with the room’s overall implementation of ‘green’ design and the use of environmentally responsible products.

“The home is on Caumsett Park, and it was at one time a self-contained farm,” notes Ypsilantis. “So, the green element was a part of its original concept.”

The environmentally friendly bamboo floor featured a center insert of poured cement, and the paint used was a no-VOC version.

The green coloring of the room was chosen partly because of the home’s park setting. “It’s a fresher, newer, prettier version of the bad avocado kitchens of a few decades ago,” notes the designer.

Even the light fixture over the center island table is in keeping with the green idea, with a vine-like design that mirrors the floor. “It just softened the overall design,” notes Ypsilantis.

For more about this project, click here.