Style Soars in High-Rise Kitchen Remodel

CHICAGO— While the third time may be the charm for most people, it was actually the fourth time around that did the trick for Mick De Giulio. That is not say that it took him four tries to capture the results of this stunning kitchen remodel; rather, it represents the fourth kitchen project that De Giulio, president/owner of Wilmette, IL-based de Giulio kitchen design, has designed for these clients.

But, while knowing the clients’ needs helped him achieve the streamlined look he sought, pre-existing structural problems in this kitchen – which was located in a high-rise building – posed some unique design challenges.

“Working in a high-rise is always a challenge, and we certainly ran into more restrictions than we would in a single-family home – especially in terms of something like ceiling lighting and recessed cans and venting,” De Giulio explains.

Into the Light

To begin with, the dimly lit kitchen lacked suitable natural lighting, which required De Giulio to integrate some creative lighting solutions. In fact, the ability to introduce more effective lighting was a critical component to the project’s success, according to De Giulio.

“The main thing we did was open up the space with a 9'-foot-wide opening between the kitchen and the dining room,” he remarks. “That let the natural light from the dining room into the kitchen.”

Pocket doors were added between the two rooms for various functional reasons.

“Typical to many high-rises built in the 1960s, the ceilings were relatively low, so pocket doors were devised to not only divide the kitchen and living room, but to open up the space overall,” he says.

De Giulio points out that these doors are kept open in most instances, which allows the beautiful views outside of the dining room windows to be seen from the kitchen, in addition to flooding the entire space with natural light. The doors can also be easily closed, he continues, which provides the clients with the option of more formal living or entertaining accommodations.
To work with the natural light, De Giulio incorporated a combination of recessed lights, undercabinet task lights and special halogen lights under the hood to illuminate the room.

The especially low ceiling over the pantry posed another challenge for the designer. “The ceiling height over the pantry area was only about seven feet high, but had to have an air conditioning vent put down the middle of the space,” he comments.
De Giulio was also able to meet and overcome this obstacle.

“We made sure the vent was located in the middle and did tracks of recessed lighting on either side, mainly because we couldn’t do recessed cans. We literally did troughs of light,” he remarks.

“So, even with the low ceiling and the cabinets going to the ceiling, it still came out very well because of the interest of the lighting and simplicity of how the ceiling was detailed,” he explains.

“Overall, we were able to incorporate the structure of the building into the lighting applications, which was impressive because the mechanicals in a high-rise are typically not easy to manipulate,” he states.

A Modern Design

In order to fully capture the modern look desired for the 20'x16'8" kitchen, De Giulio worked first-hand with interior designer Barb Gorman and architect Dick Gorman of Manifesto Gallery in Chicago, and cabinet manufacturer Premier, which supplied stainless steel cabinetry and Santos Rosewood African Mahogany cabinetry for the perimeter cabinets and center island.

“A modern look is reflected throughout the entire home,” De Giulio explains. One of the ways he tied the look of the kitchen into the rest of the home was through the use of millwork, which featured the same finish throughout the home to provide continuity.

De Giulio worked closely with the interior designers who were doing a lot of millwork throughout the apartment, which led the team to a wood called Santos Mahogany.

He explains: “We had purchased – between the client and her millworker – a tree so that we could take all of the veneers out of the same tree and end up with the same grain characteristics and stain characteristics throughout the kitchen.”

“The kitchen is more durable because of the rest of the millwork, and there is a very cohesive feel about the whole apartment that the clients wanted,” he says.

Storage solutions also played a vitally important role in the success of this kitchen design.

De Giulio explains: “The clients prefer to have everything neat and put away, so we designed sliding doors in the cabinetry to the right of the sink area.” This provided ample storage and easy access to countertop appliances, as well.
In addition, a hallway was converted into an 8'x8'6" pantry area, which provided a corridor of long-sanded glass doors on both sides for additional storage opportunities.

Lines of Communication

In order to allow for ample room to move around the kitchen, the design team needed to integrate functional and aesthetic elements that suited the clients.

“The man of the house loves to cook and entertain, and he wanted a space that would allow him to work in the kitchen while visiting with guests,” De Giulio explains.

To that end, a center island – with Wolf cooktop located in the middle – was specifically incorporated into the design to allow for seamless interaction between the client and guests during gatherings. The island also features a Flamed Ivory Chiffon granite countertop that was custom made by de Giulio kitchen design to help warm up the room.

“Being on the 60th floor presented some exhaust issues with the cooktop being in the center of the room, but close work and planning with the general contractor ensured a design that would work,” says De Giulio. He ultimately custom designed a thinner, faceted stainless steel hood with a scale and proportion that would not obstruct any views.

He continues: “The island and hood definitely provide a focal point in the center of the space.”

A breakfast area that seats four was located directly adjacent to the island. It eliminated the need for counter seating and allowed the area to remain clear of chairs and stools.

He adds: “Across the back wall, we were able to do the stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer and Wolf oven. This layout allowed us to tuck them into a wall where they didn’t take a lot of mass on the interior of the space.”

Other appliances incorporated into the layout include a Dacor warming drawer, Sub-Zero wine storage unit, Panasonic microwave and Miele coffee system, all in stainless steel. Dornbracht faucetry and a custom designed stainless steel sink are also featured within the space.

With regard to the key role of stainless steel in the kitchen’s design, De Giulio comments: “Stainless steel is a true neutralizer and is a great material to mix with others, such as with the glass and stone used in this project. In my opinion, it really allows other elements to stand out more.”

He adds: “The mix of materials used in this space is subtle, but effective. Sanded glass is used on the backsplash and also on the breakfast tabletop, stainless steel on the appliances and perimeter countertops for a beautiful counterpoint to the warmth of the mahogany cabinetry and flamed granite island.”