1920s-Inspired Kitchen Gives Spec Home Added Sales Appeal

HIGHLAND PARK, IL — When a spec home is filled with just the right touches and details that make it special, a builder can usually rest assured that the home will just about sell itself, as well as any other home it’s representing. And to get a spec home just right, a builder typically needs a spectacular kitchen that “wows” prospective buyers.

Enter James R. Dase, a CMKBD with Abruzzo Kitchens in Schaumburg, IL. DiamondSchreiber Homes, a local builder, brought Dase in to design the kitchen for a spec home that it was constructing.

“I worked with them on a previous spec home project, and I am currently working with several of their custom home clients,” explains Dase. “[I worked] specifically with the builder since this was a 7,000-sq.-ft. spec home [that] was listed at $3 million, so the potential buyer considerations were rather broad.”

Indeed, it was Dase’s job to create a smashing kitchen that would appeal to a broad range of prospective buyers – and do it all within a 350-sq.-ft. space (or a 475-sq.-ft. space, if one includes the dining area) – in a style that meshed with the home’s overall English Tudor design theme. It also had to pull in elements of a typical seaside kitchen from the 1920s. This was a tall order, but Dase was up to the challenge.

In fact, his kitchen design became a big selling point for the builder. “The home sold very quickly [not only] due to the high-quality building practices of the builder, [but also due to] the detail of design incorporated throughout the home, including the kitchen and baths,” reveals Dase. “It was the classicism of the kitchen and baths that attracted the buyer. The attention to detail in the design is what set this house apart from the rest.”

Dase began the design process with a list of the builder’s stylistic and functional requirements in hand.

“The builder wanted to create a kitchen that reflected the by-gone era of the 1920s – a time when many of the surrounding homes were built. The “Jazz Age” feel, a “seaside ambiance” and that “Something’s Gotta Give” look were all concept ideas that they wanted to somehow incorporate in the final design. They also wanted to hide any appliances that would not have been available in the ’20s. And, the kitchen needed to provide efficient function not only for everyday tasks, but also be flexible enough to accommodate multiple users when needed during holidays and parties,” explains Dase.

Add to that the fact Dase had an oddly shaped space with which to work. Its shape was the first obstacle he had to overcome if he was to create a kitchen from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that was replete with all of the modern conveniences of the 21st century. In fact, the shape caused a few shifts in the blueprints in order to make the space work more efficiently.

“The overall size [of the kitchen] did not change; however, the shape did. The original architectural layout had the range on an angle in the opposite corner from the sink. This crowded the refrigerator and pantry area, and [it] was not proportioned properly for the size of hood needed for the range,” recalls Dase. “Moving the range to the center of the back wall from its original location on the blueprints helped spread out the work zones and reduce user congestion.”

These changes also made it a little easier for Dase to create multiple work zones using a peninsula and an island, which, in turn, help accommodate multiple cooks and increase the kitchen’s everyday efficiency.

“The island and peninsula keep guests away from the cooks in the kitchen, yet they still allow the cooks to interact with guests,” notes Dase.

And while the “glass-fronted” bookcase at the end of the peninsula is the formal transition between the kitchen, and dining and family room, Dase feels it is the 5'x8' island that helps to truly “transition” kitchen design.

“It functions as several work stations, and is the literal hub of this kitchen. Without it, the kitchen would not be as efficient in ‘transitioning’ from everyday life to entertaining mode,” he asserts.

Using white Calcutta Gold marble for the countertop and maple wood cabinetry from Wood-Mode in the firm’s Hancock inset door style and Nordic White enamel paint finish, Dase designed the island with myriad storage features. These include knife storage for prep work, a waste pull-out and deep drawers for pots and pans that face the 60", six-burner, stainless steel Viking range with griddle.

Pull-out towel storage to the left of the sink, pull-out bottle storage to the right of the sink for use at the range, “cavernous” pantry storage that flanks the stainless steel Sub-Zero 48" refrigerator/freezer and tray storage near the bar area round out the storage options.

“I just made sure that most of the options that are available were included around the kitchen in the most convenient ‘source of first use,’” notes Dase, adding that the refrigerator/freezer “breaks up the otherwise massive look of the pantry wall and balances the window wall.”

A Viking hood with a 1,200-CFM, exterior ventilator kit, DACOR 24" warming drawers, a GE Monogram convection microwave, a Sub-Zero ice maker, Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers and two Bosch dishwashers complete Dase’s appliance selection.

“The appliances not found in the 1920s, such as the microwave, dishwasher and undercounter refrigerator drawers, are all hidden behind cabinets or paneled fronts,” he explains.

To further appeal to a broad base of prospective buyers, Dase infused the kitchen with a few select nautical elements that simply recall the ambiance of an upscale beach house.

“[Those elements] were meant to add an additional subtle design element so as not to pigeon-hole the overall design into one specific category. For instance, the style of the lights... fulfills the seaside feeling, or they can have an upscale factory feel about them when placed in a more commercial setting,” elaborates Dase.

He was also careful to tie the kitchen back to home’s English Tudor style through the contrast between “the white woodwork and dark cherry floors, which continue throughout the first floor.

“The same cabinetry is also used throughout the rest of the baths, including the master bath,” Dase concludes.