Designer Turns Open Space Into Natural Beauty

ROCHESTER, NY – Space might be the final frontier, but it’s also the ultimate luxury. For Norbert Hausner, AIA, NCARB, CSI, and president/owner of Rochester, NY-based nh Architecture pc, the challenge was taking that space and carving out the kitchen of his clients’ dreams.

Hausner was able to create a distinctive, open-plan kitchen by combining an intuitive, functional layout with a mix of natural materials in order to inspire an intimate, homespun feel that could accommodate an active entertaining schedule.

He explains: “The main objective was to satisfy the lifestyle of a socially active couple and facilitate their desire to entertain guests in a friendly environment.”

In this new-construction kitchen, Hausner would need to create a space that had both an open atmosphere and flow, but with a visible division of space to prevent the 20'x16' room from feeling cavernous.


“Circulation and the prerequisite accompanying vistas are a dominant feature of the house,” Hausner says. Indeed, the kitchen was designed with how it would look from the rest of the home in mind; maintaining open sight lines was key.

Eschewing the inclusion of walls between the kitchen and dining area, Hausner designed a multi-tiered center island with seating to provide additional workspace as well as the necessary visual break from the formal dining area.

He explains: “The central island functions as a gathering area. It [allows guests to sit comfortably] while conversing with the hosts while they are cooking. It features a wonderful prep area for the chef complemented by an intimate dining area for the homeowners to enjoy a quick bite.”

The designer addressed the client’s desire for, in his words, “a homey environment,” by incorporating an earth-inspired, rustic palette of colors, textures and materials. Brown-gold Juparana Classico Supreme granite is featured on all horizontal surfaces in the kitchen, including the main countertops and center island. The same variety of granite was also used to top the custom table in the adjacent dining room to create a synergy of detail between the two spaces.

“We planned on all of the granite for the dining table and all of the horizontal surfaces in the kitchen to be the same. It was important to carry on with this open feeling between these two areas,” he says. “The intricate pattern of the Juparana granite was selected because it will accent any item it is near. In the kitchen, it was selected to accent the custom cabinets.”

Hausner also points to the granite slab on the guest side of the island that is slightly raised and cantilevered over the workspace as adding a functional and natural division of the space.

He adds: “It’s an intricate piece that allows this couple to entertain while they sit at the Wedgwood Baba bar stools, where they can rest their feet on the stainless steel bar rail.”

The designer’s careful consideration of the space’s unique vistas extended to areas outside the interior of the home itself; the main sink area, with its deep granite sill, overlooks a secluded and protected outdoor cedar deck. This area features a 15' long, 12' tall natural stone exterior open-air fireplace and dynamic natural gas-fired cooking pit.

The designer considered his clients’ entertaining needs while arranging the work stations. This planning led to efficient, sensible placing of the appliances in relation to prep surfaces and sinks.

“It was [key] to have the client be able to use all of the appliances at the same time,” Hausner says.

Additional sinks and multiple prep areas also means there can never be too many cooks in the kitchen. A three-bin recycling station, dual Kenmore dishwashers, warming drawers and a microwave/convection oven also by Kenmore are placed throughout the various work stations to allow for easy multi-tasking.

He adds: “It’s important how the centrally located cocktail area adjacent to the side-by-side Sub-Zero complements the undercounter island-based wine cellar.”

The wine cooler, for example, was placed so that all beverages would be within a step of each other for the homeowners’ convenience while serving guests.

Custom Touches

Hausner notes: “The house has certain shaker and prairie-style features. The use of Tuscan columns in the kitchen and fine white maple accents in the bold, dark walnut floor reinforces the main circulation axis of the home.”

Maple is a key material in the overall aesthetic of the new layout. As with his abundant specification of granite, the designer sought a continuity of design by selecting the same materials throughout the space. Working with Mark Lono of Albion, NY-based Lonowood Art Co., Hausner incorporated raised- panel custom cabinetry which feature distinctive details.

“Accents of rich mahogany with Purple Heart wood provide the fine detail, along with custom hand-blown glass inserts, and blue glass to add to the overall effect” of the wall cabinets, Hausner adds. The base cabinetry features hand-selected Bird’s Eye maple inserts.

Purple Heart wood accents are also featured in the island, in the form of a removable wood tray which, Hausner says, provides a versatility of workspace that is useful during party preparations.

Ultimately, the wide variety of texture and material creates the ample visual interest.

“It was also important to accent the stainless items, such as the stove/warming drawers, and balance those items with the cabinet design.”

Hausner notes that the adjacent dining area features a 10'x5' custom table located below a floating-light cloud and centered in front of a custom built-in china cabinet complete with LED lighting from LBL Lighting Co.

Apart from natural light considerations, appropriate task lighting played a major role in highlighting the overall design.
“The lights emphasize the functional areas and other design elements,” he says.

The designer’s layout includes versatile storage options.

“The walk-in pantry features full custom floor-to-ceiling cabinets designed to accommodate all types of products,” he says.
Underneath the tray in front of the sink, the designer included a wooded open storage area where items can be stored discreetly out of view.

For more about this project, click here.