My Own Gorgeous Kitchen

Three kitchen designers create their own dream kitchens.


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Designers’ Kitchens

 

Three designers, three dream kitchens

 

By Barbara Winfield   Photography by Phillip Ennnis

 

A Complete Do-Over

Maria Bilotta Distefano of Bilotta Kitchens

 

 

When Maria Bilotta Distefano and her husband, George Distefano—each owners of their own home design/renovation businesses—purchased their home in North Salem, they knew they would have to make some pretty radical changes, starting with the kitchen. 

“It was horrific,” Bilotta says. “A bathroom opened up right into the eating area. The space was small, the cooking area crammed. Cabinets were an inexpensive stock—pickled oak—and were falling apart. And the appliances were completely out of date. It was a kitchen-company owner’s worst nightmare.” She should know. Along with siblings Regina Bilotta and Jim Bilotta, Maria owns and runs Bilotta  Kitchens, a full-service kitchen and bath company that specializes in cabinetry design. 

 

 

Maria Bilotta's 400-square-foot kitchen boasts a large hearth area with a stainless-steel dual-fuel range surrounded by crackled rectangular tiles, sconces, and an antique glass mirror. Over the range is a handy pot filler, an item frequently recommended by Bilotta for its ease of use. On the far wall next to the hearth stands a 48-inch side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerator paneled in the same cherry as the cabinets. The generous island is equipped with an undermount Franke stainless-steel sink with a bronze oil-rubbed faucet by Rohl, a built-in ASKO dishwasher, and a double trash pull-out. The dining table’s unique copper top, along with the copper trim on the ledge leading into the family room and along the edge of the pizza oven, are all custom made and finished by George Distefano at his custom-metal shop, Ornametal, based in Newburgh, New York.

Bilotta wanted a kitchen that would not only accommodate her family’s lifestyle but embrace the best of the products and designs out there. To achieve this, she asked Mel Elion, a top designer in Bilotta’s Mamaroneck showroom for 10 years, to work with architect Terry Lennon of Somers and general contractor Fred Boehmer of Boehmer Homes of La Grangeville, New York, to bring her dream kitchen  to life. Bilotta looked to her past to hone her vision, recalling boisterous family gatherings where everyone pitched in to make the meal. Thus, Elion included in her design a large banquette area for casual sit-down meals and a wide multi-purpose island with three stools, designed for both food preparation and light dining. 

In terms of style, Bilotta favors a rustic aesthetic, complete with  state-of-the-art appliances and top-of-the-line amenities. And number-one on her wish list: a pizza oven. The Old World “appliance” brings back special memories of pizza-making with her siblings, cousins, and grandfather, an Italian immigrant who brought a love of cooking with him from Arpino. 

To accommodate Bilotta’s request for a sophisticated country look, Elion recommended cherry cabinets from Bilotta Kitchens’ private cabinet collection, with perimeter cabinets sporting custom inset doors of rustic cherry wood and an island of antique cherry. Green Verde Vecchio granite countertops and a soft moss shade for the walls complement the warm wood. Sixteen-by-sixteen-inch honed limestone tiles used for the floors have decorative metal inserts that match the copper tabletop in the banquette area (hand-made and finished by George Distefano) and other copper accents, such as the pizza oven’s ledge. 

A magnificent ivory-colored cherry hearth was designed to surround the 48-inch professional Wolf range. Behind the range, framed by the crackled tile backsplash from Waterworks, hangs an antique glass mirror with metal trim from Distefano’s shop, GlasSolutions, a New York-based architectural glass and metal company. Besides providing an interesting focal point, installing a mirror behind the range has a practical purpose, allowing the chef to keep an eye on the often boisterous and energetic activities while cooking.

 

 

 

The focal point of the kitchen is the wood-burning pizza oven by Earth Stone in California, used often by George and the couple’s three children. To its right is a second sink and plenty of counter space for prepping and cooling the pizzas. An undercounter Sub-Zero beverage center is hidden behind a cabinet in this secondary prep area.

 

Grand Opening

Jennifer Howard of JWH Design & Cabinetry

 

 

 

 

When Jennifer Howard, owner of JWH Design & Cabinetry in Rye, and her husband, Robbie, purchased their 1950s ranch-style home in Rye, it was out of sync with its estate neighborhood. So the couple decided to turn their home into a two-story shingle Colonial. They took on this project at the same time they were undergoing another major transformation: expanding their family of five by adopting from Kazakhstan a son and daughter who desperately needed a loving family.

Because of their growing family, the Howards knew they’d need a highly functional kitchen. They reconfigured the first floor, combining the former dining room and kitchen to create a combined kitchen/breakfast area/butler’s pantry, measuring a spacious 17-by-30 feet and serving as an additional work area and storage space. Separated from the kitchen by a peninsula, the pantry, with its Linkasink hammered copper farmhouse sink, provides a second area for food prep and cleanup. To its left is a pair of Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers with custom panels. Cream-colored upper cabinets feature glass-fronted doors and open shelving to hold cookbooks and kitchen accessories.

 

 

Jennifer Howard chose a black six-burner DCS range to coordinate with the Walker Zanger Verde Fire granite countertops. The subtle shades of the flecks within the dark granite also inspired other color choices, including a green glazed island base, red cherry cabinets, cream walls, a Walker Zanger-tiled backsplash in varying shades of brown, and counter stools in red, green, and chocolate.

Howard placed a 90-by-60-inch island—custom made by JWH Design & Cabinetry—in the center of the room, with a Miele dishwasher, a trash/recycling center, and a copper undermount sink. Across from the island, a Walker Zanger-tiled backsplash and furniture-grade cherry cabinets, finished with a hand-wiped stain and glaze, frame a 48-inch DCS duel-fuel range.

“I designed the room to be comfortable and simple to navigate,” she says. “It’s so convenient. I never feel I have to go out of my way to find anything. Everything has its own place.”

 

 

Unlike most butler’s pantries, which are closed off, Howard’s is an open space where children can comfortably prepare snacks and their parents can make coffee in the morning. A furniture-like cabinet addition to the peninsula, topped with butcher block, houses a knife block in the first drawer and, in the second, a pull-out prep counter for shorter members of the family.

 

 

An important factor in the design was to have the new kitchen seamlessly blend in with the rest of the house, especially the adjoining family room. Cabinetry with furniture-like legs and formal light fixtures, such as the one from Solaria over the island and the pendant from Luna Bella in the butler’s pantry (previous page), were chosen over high-hats to create a warmer “living room” ambiance. A TV cabinet that hides the television was designed to coordinate with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry.

 

Bigger, Better & Brighter

Jason Landau, Amazing Spaces, LLC, Briarcliff

 

 

How does one go about renovating a kitchen when the man of the house leans toward modern design and his wife favors a traditional style? Very carefully—especially if the husband designs kitchens for a living.

Upon moving into their 1952 Cape Cod-style home, kitchen designer Jason Landau, owner of the Briarcliff Manor-based Amazing Spaces, LLC, and his wife, Tara, agreed on one thing: the small, obsolete kitchen with green linoleum floors and laminate counters had to go. Yet there was little agreement on what would replace it. She wanted a classic look; he contemporary. “In this case,” says Landau, “the challenge was to create a kitchen that looked both current and classic.”

This was achieved by using transitional-style cabinets, adding into the mix stainless-steel appliances, contemporary mosaic tile for the backsplash, and Ouro Brasil granite with flecks of taupe and chocolate. Dark walnut laminate flooring by Pergo was chosen for its rich look, easy maintenance, and resistance to moisture.

 

 

Additional storage can be found in the lower cabinets below the pass-through between the family room and the kitchen. Niches placed in the columns that separate the kitchen from the eating and family areas showcase collectibles and artwork.

“Outside of aesthetics, the real problems with the kitchen were its awkward layout and lack of storage, plus nothing was in a logical place,” Landau says. “The space was so small that the refrigerator was in a utility room next to the kitchen.”

 

 

Jason Landau’s favorite appliance is the heat lamp and warming shelf above his 36-inch, professional-style Viking range. The warming shelf, he says, “ensures that food reaches the table hot.” The polished granite-topped surface between the kitchen and eating area is used as a serving counter. Landau designed the cabinets overhead with glass doors on both sides for easy access from either room.

Landau expanded the old kitchen to 150 square feet. Custom cabinets by Amazing Spaces, painted off-white with a chocolate glaze, replaced the brown oak cabinets installed more than 50 years ago. To give the kitchen more light and visually expand the space, Landau created an open pass-through to the eating area, which functions as a serving counter, and another one to the family room, which serves as a bar and buffet when entertaining. To maximize storage, Landau installed shelves in the two columns placed between the kitchen and living room to hold cookbooks and stereo equipment.

“We love to cook and entertain,” he says. “But that was barely possible in the former kitchen. There was just no space to store all of our cooking equipment.” Now, there’s no excuse not to invite company.

  

 

 

A large bay window located over the stainless-steel Elkay undermount sink offers a view of the tree-filled backyard. The new window, framed by tumbled-marble mosaic tiles, not only allows for more light but more cabinet and counter space under the deeper bay. The new kitchen now has space for a stainless-steel Bosch dishwasher and a Sub-Zero refrigerator.  

 

 

 

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