FORT LAUDERDALE, FL— On a recent episode of Bravo’s Top Design, ELLE Décor’s Margaret Russell said of one designer’s feline-friendly room, “You can’t just design a room around the cat!” Is it, in fact, possible to create a successful design based around a single object? That very question was posed for one Florida designer: “Can you design a kitchen around the faucet?”
The assignment was to create an innovative, beautiful and highly functional kitchen centered around Hansgrohe’s Axor Starck Semi-Professional Kitchen Faucet, which was designed for Hansgrohe by French designer Philippe Starck.
For Cesar and Christine Conde, the hard work was already done by the time they saw the call for entries for the company’s first annual Kitchen Design Competition, which was sponsored by Interior Design magazine.
“We were prompted to enter by the fact that we had just finished the kitchen. We just happened to have that particular faucet installed in our own kitchen,” says Christine Conde, owner of the Fort Lauderdale, FL-based design firm Casa Conde, Inc.
Professional designers from around the country, including kitchen and bath designers,
were eligible to enter and the winners were selected by Interior Design editor-in-chief Cindy Allen. She notes, “The winners’ projects clearly demonstrate that good design transforms pedestrian kitchens into rooms
“I love Starck’s work,” says Cesar, principle designer for Casa Conde. “Starck’s simple approach to design is what makes his work so compelling and so right for what we were trying to do in our kitchen.
“I fell in love with this particular model because of the current trend of commercial-style kitchen faucets in residential spaces [that we wanted to emulate in our personal kitchen]. The faucet’s clean lines, block base and slender control stem meshed perfectly with the contemporary European look we envisioned for our kitchen,” he comments.
The mesh of European design sensibility and an attention to detail in the kitchen project won them first prize in the competition: a six-day Italian vacation to the Villa Toscana Saporita in Tuscany. While there, they were treated to extensive cooking classes and food demonstrations as well as excursions around the scenic Tuscan region.
Badly in need of an update, the kitchen was gutted by the Condes as part of the whole-house remodel of their 1,600-sq.-ft, mid-1960s Fort Lauderdale home. According to the Condes, their redesign reflected the social nature of the role the kitchen plays in their lives.
Knowing best her space and storage concerns, Christine collaborated with Cesar on the kitchen design. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I wanted a modern kitchen that was also functional,” says Christine. “We entertain a lot and I love to cook. I’ve always wanted a commercial faucet in my kitchen.”
It was the placement of that commercial faucet that impressed the judges the most, she says. “They were very impressed with the flow of the design and the fact that the faucet was the main focal point from every angle of the house. It can be seen from the entryway, the living room and the dining room,” she adds.
It was this treatment of the Starck faucet as an objet d’art that Christine believes made their entry stand out: “We treated the faucet almost like a sculpture that can be admired from all angles.”
To achieve the central position the faucet would take up, space needed to be opened up from the existing kitchen.
“I love the European approach, which tends to split the kitchen into two elongated areas – a continuous workspace on one side, facing a large storage or pantry area on the opposite wall,” says Cesar Conde, ASID, who has been designing since 1993 and is working to gain his NCIDQ accreditation early this spring.
“Our inspirations are always Italian designs like Bofi and Poliform – the designs are clean, yet functional,” says Christine.
This look was achieved by creating a long series of finished cabinets constructed of Macasser Ebony veneer and corrugated metal mica covering almost an entire wall of the new kitchen, with hardware by Hafele. A pantry is hidden within the various doors, as well as myriad appliances like a microwave, espresso maker, wine chiller and toaster oven.
Atop the base cabinetry sits a straight-edged, brushed Black Absolute granite countertop and brushed brick-patterned backsplash. Under the Starck faucet, Conde chose to place an under-mount sink by Blanco.
The old kitchen was galley style and, because of the existing home’s construction and because they wished to keep the kitchen’s original footprint intact, galley was the way it would stay. This meant that, to create the more open and distinctly European air they wished for their kitchen, the Condes would need to be creative to solve their storage and space concerns.
“What I hated about the original kitchen was that there was a lot of wasted space,” says Christine. What space there was tended to be closed off and dark.
“We relocated the sink area to the opposite side of the kitchen and opened up about six to seven feet of wall space to create a bar/eat-in area where the faucet was placed,” she points out.
Prior to the remodel, the wall space was closed, “making the kitchen narrower and claustrophobic,” according to Christine.
After opening the existing concrete floor to relocate and replace pipes, they installed a custom marble floor by Marmiro Stones, a company that specializes in Turkish marble from special quarries.
“My new kitchen doubled in size, providing plenty of space for two or three people or more to be cooking at the same time without being on top of each other,” she further adds.
Doubling the size of the kitchen was one goal; the other was providing practical, innovative storage solutions. Space for a pantry and plenty of storage of flatware, silverware and china were a consideration, as was their intent to create a “disappearing” pantry wall that would allow them to keep everything at the same depth after allocating the appropriate space for their microwave, toaster oven and other specialty appliances.
It is a space now full of useful, hidden enclaves for every purpose. Extra storage was added behind kick plates where the Condes can now store their cookware, linens and other entertainment necessities. To further add functionality, display space was created behind, which effectively houses barware covered by touch-latch doors.
Special-touch additions such as self-closing pantry drawers and drawers-within-drawers for cutlery and kitchen utensils were installed.
The galley layout meant that the kitchen area was still narrow, so careful concern had to be given to proper lighting to visually maximize the space.
“We added modern recessed, rectangular fixtures, the kind usually used in retail spaces,” says Christine. The goal in doing so was to provide plenty of light for the space, including under-cabinet lighting to enhance light during prep and cooking, but also to light up the black granite countertop.
The improved lighting, added space, functional storage and personalized touches make the kitchen a pleasure to use and inhabit, according to Christine.
“I love the entire kitchen and sometimes I can’t believe it’s my kitchen. We do this for our clients, and it’s nice to have one for myself,” she adds. “The con- cealed storage, the kick plate drawers, the semi-professional faucet are all special features that I truly love.”
Of the end result, she says, “This is really a custom kitchen that any cook would be delighted to have.”
Founded in 2002, Casa Conde focuses on whole home remodels in south Florida and handles between eight and 10 projects annually.