NEW YORK, NY — Romance in the kitchen? Though cold, hard surfaces and shiny appliance finishes don’t normally conjure up romantic ideas, the creativity behind the art of cooking, and the delectable aromas and tastes that are a part of every good meal, can certainly stir the senses.
Besides, the New York City townhouse that acted as the International Designer Showhouse for American Hospital of Paris Foundation was built in 1888, a time when romance and Old World elegance reigned supreme. Nestled on East 67th Street bordering the city’s famed Central Park, the 26-room home – which had previously been converted into 19 apartments – was being restored to its former state.
Beverly and Rebecca Ellsley of Beverly Ellsley Design in Westport, CT, were entrusted with the home’s expansive kitchen. “I was trying to show a whole new way of looking at kitchens,” comments Beverly Ellsley, principal of the firm.
“I wanted to give the room a romantic look - Old World elegance with a New Age look and function.”
Beauty and Function
The mother-and-daughter design team gutted the kitchen to the brick walls, and chose a cream and taupe color palette for the room.
“It was a big kitchen, and yet it wasn’t a huge kitchen, oddly, because we did a lot of other things in it,” comments Ellsley. There was an eating area, a fireplace and book storage in addition to all of the traditional kitchen elements, she notes.
The cabinets throughout the kitchen space were a cream color, with the exception of the cabinets on either side of the fireplace, which were taupe. The walls were also painted taupe. “It was very neutral, but the two colors really added depth to the cabinetry,” says Ellsley.
The kitchen’s romantic feel and distinctive design were dramatically enhanced by the placement of woodcarvings on the cabinets, island and appliances. Ellsley used carvings from The Villa Collection, which she designed for Enkeboll Designs. Each piece in the collection was designed with a specific function in mind, so Ellsley used the carvings, corbels, legs and other elements throughout the room as they had been conceived.
Glass-front cabinet doors, for example, had carvings glued to the front for a distinctive touch. “They were pieces designed specifically for cabinet doors, but it was fun to use them on glass-front cabinets,” notes Ellsley. She used the carvings on the front and back of the glass so that, “when you opened the door, you didn’t see the glue. You saw the same carving. It’s just a way of doing a glass-front cabinet a little bit differently yet adding some of the same elements used in the rest of the room.”
Many of the appliances in the room were hidden behind panels to enhance the romantic feel of the space. “For me, cabinetry is what defines the look of the kitchen,” stresses Ellsley. “This was meant to be a really pretty room, and the wood panels allow for that.”
Functionally, the kitchen was designed for multiple users, with the layout created to keep people out of each other’s way, according to Ellsley.
The working area to the left of the center island featured a pair of Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezers, positioned side by side beneath decorative panels. “The two refrigerators were on the top and the two freezers were on the bottom,” notes Ellsley. “You just opened the two doors, and it was all there.
To the right of the island sat the clean-up area and cabinets for dish storage. The undermounted Bakersfield sink from Kohler Co., featured in an apron front style, was complemented by a Kohler faucet. The sink was flanked by a marble countertop, and featured the same legs used on the island. A fully integrated Asko dishwasher was hidden by a panel that matched the cabinets.
“I always find – especially in a kitchen where more than one person is going to be working – that it’s better to segregate the working area from the clean-up area, if you can,” stresses Ellsley. “It usually happens that somebody is cooking dinner while someone else is setting the table, or somebody is cleaning up from cooking and someone else is cleaning up the dishes from the table. If you can separate the areas, [no one is] bumping into each other.”
Along the back wall was the range and range hood, which was flanked by doors on both sides. The door to the left was the entry to a staircase that led to the dining room one floor above, “which is the way it often works in this type of townhouse kitchen,” states Ellsley.
The door located to the right of the range led to a pantry area under the stairs. It was tucked away and could be used for larger scale items.
The Wolf range featured legs on each side, while the fully functioning range hood, also from Wolf, was surrounded by corbels built out to the front. It was decorated with Harvest molding and a cartouche in the center of the hood.
Behind the range was the same marble that was used on the countertop by the sink, to give the area a cohesive feel. “We simply took 12"x12" tiles and cut them in half, and then set them in a brick pattern,” remarks Ellsley.
Ellsley, who custom designed the cabinets, had them go to the surface in several areas, which meant that the island would act as the main workspace. The prep area of the island featured an overmounted sink with faucet, both from Kohler Co., and the Asko dishwasher for pots and pans sported a handle that was part of the apron of the table.
The island was specially designed to look like a table, complete with carved legs. Antique wood flooring parquets of walnut with an oil finish were used for the island top. Surrounding the top was a solid surface edging from Innovative Edge that featured a design from Enkeboll Designs.
“Having that wood design in the middle of the room just warmed the space up tremendously,” comments Ellsley. “People kept asking if the wood top would be practical, but I noted that people have been walking on this wood for the last 100 years and it’s held up.
The island panels are a darker taupe than the shade used in the rest of the room. “We actually used the same color, but we blow torched it a little and then varnished it to make it darker,” notes Ellsley. “So it’s the same color deepened up.”
Adding to the Old World appeal was the flooring, which is Dalle de France, a new French limestone that has been aged to look like old limestone. The flooring, as well as the wood flooring on the island and the marble, were from Exquisite Surfaces.
Other Room Elements
To make up for the lack of natural light in the room, Ellsley used halogen light bulbs, which offer “a real clean, crisp light,” she comments.
A chandelier placed over the main island provided additional light over the work area, and complemented another chandelier that hung over the dining table. “It works because they relate as far as material goes,” observes Ellsley. Both were French iron chandeliers, and while one was round and one was long, “they were similar in feeling,” she adds.
Bordering the dining area at the entrance to the kitchen stands a fireplace flanked by shelving on each side. A non-working fireplace, it was added to the room to add warmth and elegance, as well as provide a place to hide a television set, which was placed behind the two-way mirror above the mantel. “The open shelving, which held books and collectibles, gave it a real breakfast room formality,” she notes.
In the end, Ellsley believes that the kitchen was a great vehicle in which to highlight the wood carvings – to have them be the design element of the space. “They created the elegance that we needed to pull off the romantic look,” she concludes.