WINTER PARK, FL — The Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo told the story of a fish who took a courageous – and ultimately successful – journey through the natural surroundings of the ocean in order to find his missing son, Nemo.
Dina Masci of Central Park, FL-based Central Kitchen & Bath, set out on a similarly challenging adventure when she designed her own “Nemo.” The new construction kitchen (dubbed NeMo for its roots in New Modern architecture), ironically enough, features a 600-gallon, saltwater tank filled with exotic fish. Not only does the tank face the kitchen on two sides – creating a natural, tranquil setting – but it also allows the kitchen to share attention with its natural surroundings.
The design theme required a combination of high-end appliances (from Dacor and Scotsman, among others), as well as natural materials and a warm, earth tone palette, all intended to establish an inviting aesthetic.
To accomplish this, Masci – who worked with installer Ron Vaughn, as well as interior designer Rob Turner – incorporated a variety of unique elements, such as a 12' glass wall above the sink area that disappears into a pocket, opening the kitchen to the lanai and pool area, as well as a temperature-controlled wine room.
“We incorporated strategic appliance locations that allow both cooks and guests to enjoy the open atmosphere,” she explains. “There is a wet bar with a sink, ice maker and a beverage center.”
Predictably, natural lighting plays a key role throughout the kitchen, enhanced by recessed lighting and a sleek hanging lamp over the center island. The previously mentioned aquarium casts a salient glow into the space.
“The overall theme speaks very well of the client’s love of relaxed living, and the outdoors,” she concludes.
When deciding on cabinetry, Masci notes that she decided to do something different than standard boxes-on-the wall in order to facilitate a smoother traffic flow.
“The goal was to allow the homeowners and their guests to flow through without the defined boundaries that wall [cabinets] typically create,” she explains.
Therefore, she selected brown, wiped off, Mondrian maple cabinetry from Cuisine Laurier (which she designed), to establish a more free, less obstructed feel.
The cabinetry was recessed into the walls at high traffic areas.
“The placement of the recessed cabinets was created specifically to give the room its open atmosphere,” Masci points out.
“This [treatment] creates two consistent horizontal lines throughout the design. It allows for a seamless transition between the cleaning, food prep and cooking area to the dry and refrigerated food storage area, as well as to the dining, wine and wet-bar areas of the kitchen,” she says.
Masci also notes that glassware is stored in the wall cabinets above the sink, and the lighting, which is recessed into the bottom of the wall cabinets, is concealed by frosted glass.
Indeed, storage was a major wish-list item for the client, so Masci used base cabinets to help accommodate this request.
“All base cabinetry appeared to have three drawers, even though some were sink base doors, pull-out trash and recycle centers, spice pull-outs and two 30"-wide dishwashers,” she says.
Masci adds that there is an abundance of useful storage throughout the layout, including a hidden pantry space created from the surrounding cabinetry.
“In the center of the room, the cabinets basically are the four walls, and this creates a space in the center for the hidden pantry,” Masci says. “Conversely, the cabinets facing the dining room are on touch latches to avoid the use of decorative hardware and keep the clean look.”
Island in the Stream
The 87"Wx 48"D center island (which includes countertop overhangs) also plays an important role in the traffic and workability of the space.
“The one-level island sits in the center of the main kitchen area,” Masci explains. “It has seating for three on one side and the gas cooktop, downdraft ventilation and drawers on the other.”
She continues: “The range top in the island, for instance, enables guests and hosts to mingle during food preparation. The range top is also offset in the island and centered on the two wall ovens and microwaves behind it.”
Masci notes that this allows for a wider prep area instead of two equally sized smaller ones, and also creates a shorter distance from the range top to the main sink.
Notable, according to Masci, is that the blower for the downdraft unit is located remotely, allowing for additional drawer storage under the range top.
Capping off the look of the island is Giallo Antico granite, which wraps the top and sides of the island, offering a warm complement to the appliances while still maintaining the consistent design theme.
According to Masci, the countertops even feature pop-up electrical outlets that are easily accessible for powering up laptops or using small appliances such as blenders. When not in use, they remain concealed, so they don‘t mar the aesthetics of the island.
Masci points out that the appliances were strategically placed to maximize the open atmosphere.
“The warming drawer is concealed under the coffee maker, [and] the microwaves and coffee maker all finish at the same height,” she explains.
“The cooking appliances are concentrated on one wall with the Dacor cooktop and downdraft ventilation placed in the island, which sits just in front of them.”
To add some playfulness to the layout, the blue-toned controls on the wall units mimic the blue light of the aquarium, as well as the blue water of the pool, and the sky that’s easily visible from the large windows.
She concludes that the Dacor non-dispenser refrigerator and two 30" Dacor dishwashers are fully integrated and paneled for an unobtrusive feel, furthering the free-flowing aesthetic the clients desired.
Time for Wine
Another unique component to the kitchen layout is the nearby, built-in, temperature-controlled wine room, Masci offers.
Not only does the wine room enable the clients to entertain more easily, but it also fits ideally into the overall design theme, she maintains.
“The wine room is at the far end of the kitchen area [and] it is bridged to the dining room by the wet bar area, which also contains a small sink, an ice maker and an undercounter refrigerator,” she explains. The result is a space that is perfect for entertaining, and equally enjoyable for private family time together.
Tying the entire kitchen look together, she concludes, is travertine flooring, which helps to maintain the warm and inviting feel of the space.
For more about this project, click here.