Function Complements Aesthetics in Modern Farmhouse-Style Kitchen

New Canaan, CT — This farmhouse-style kitchen with a modern twist offers a number of beautiful design elements. But Judi Stoogenke, ASID and senior designer with True North Cabinets, recognized that functionality would be equally important in meeting the homeowners’ needs for the space.

“This design wasn’t as simple as it looks,” she says of the kitchen, which was part of an addition recently made to the home in New Canaan, CT, where Kuehn Building served as the contractor. “It was carefully executed with the clients’ busy lifestyle in mind.”

Consideration for a client’s routine is essential, she notes, adding that these particular clients have an active family with two boys. They wanted a bright, airy space that would highlight the view to their backyard.

“It’s important to understand how clients live in their spaces,” she notes. “You don’t want to create any obstacles.” For example, the island in this particular home was a priority for the clients, yet it could have been an obstacle, as it essentially divides the kitchen workspace. “But its design is purposeful and useful,” she notes, blending aesthetics and function.


island challenges

“The challenge was to create a working kitchen on each side of the island, with ample circulation around it,” Stoogenke notes. Although each side is interchangeable, one side serves as a cleanup zone with a Shaw farm sink and a KitchenAid dishwasher and double oven. Ample storage for dishes and glassware is supplied by hand-painted maple inset cabinets accented with a 25-percent Snowflake sheen and exposed hinges.

A pair of glass-front upper cabinets provides display space and helps break up the continuous bank of upper cabinets. Stoogenke also gave careful consideration to the proportion of the cabinet doors to ensure a balanced, elegant look.

The second side functions as a prep zone and features a stainless Wolf gas range, a BEST ventilation hood, a Jenn-Air stainless refrigerator/freezer, a GE Monogram Spacemaker microwave and a second dishwasher (Kitchen Aid) and sink (Elkay).

The second dishwasher and second sink were important design features, stresses Stoogenke. “The homeowners wanted the island to be one continuous surface,” she recalls. “The logical solution was to add a second sink next to the range.”

The addition of the second sink also helped satisfy their desire to eliminate the pot filler at the range. Plus, it enhances safety because the homeowners no longer need to carry large pots of water very far to fill or dump them.

The island serves as a third zone to maximize overall efficiency in the kitchen.

“When I design a kitchen, I like to create zones to help make sure tasks can be accomplished efficiently,” she says. “I approach kitchen design like it’s a factory. You’re making something in this factory, and you’re making it at different times, with different appliances and for different numbers of people. It is my goal to make sure that whatever task is being done can be completed efficiently. I think that’s where design has to start. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is.

“For example,” she continues, “there is enough space that the island could have been larger than what we designed here. But that would have impeded the cook’s ability to easily move from the range to the oven.”

Charming focal point

In addition to its functional benefits, the distressed island also serves as a visual focal point, featuring furniture-style Kountry Kraft maple cabinetry (installed by Tomas Simko) highlighted with a 25-percent sheen Spanish Moss glaze. It is topped with dark-stained heart pine. Horizontal slatted panels on each end balance the slatted ceiling, while custom-crafted brackets support the overhang that was carefully proportioned so as not to overwhelm its base.

One side of the island features stainless steel open shelving and a series of drawers to neatly house pots and provide adequate storage, while the other side features hidden Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers and a cook stool. In a quaint retro design, the stool provides additional seating when the cook needs a break.

“It’s an important element in a lot of our designs,” says Stoogenke, who indicates that, oftentimes, when homeowners entertain and guests congregate in the kitchen, the cook is frequently left without a place to sit down.

A pair of period stools on each end provides seating for four. The island is carefully proportioned so people sitting on either end can easily converse.

Overall, the island was designed to allow for a lot of circulation between the two sides of the kitchen. “The homeowners really wanted the island,” she says. “But [although it initially] created several challenges, in the end, it helps make the design stand out because it has so much charm.”

Both sides of the kitchen are tied together with Nordic Black (Labrador) granite, supplied by Stone Resources, in a leathered finish. A subway tile backsplash maintains a clean, crisp look so as not to detract from the architectural elements and the outdoor views.

Red oak flooring adds contrast to the cabinets and ties in with the beams in the ceiling. Soffits capture the beams and maintain a clean line for the cabinets. They also provide space to add lighting above each sink.

Room with a view

Working with a large number of windows – including a trio that runs nearly to the floor along an entire side of one wall – took careful design consideration.

“The huge windows at the end of the kitchen capture the entire backyard view," she says, “and my clients didn’t want to block it with wall cabinets.”

“The overall effect of the space is really successful,” says Stoogenke. “Its airiness and warmth, accented with a few retro pieces – including the schoolhouse light fixtures – give it some whimsy without being too ‘matchy matchy’. It’s a great design that blends the view with the kitchen so they complement each other, without either one taking over the other.”