Beautiful balance

When architect and designer Arthur Valk renovated the kitchen of his Ruxton home, he created a space where different materials co-exist peacefully- honed black granite countertops, cabinets made of bald cypress and teak, a stainless steel table with aluminum legs. But, even more important, Valk- a longtime home cook- created a kitchen in which design and function mesh in creative and beautiful ways.

Valk designed the butcher block-topped peninsula in the middle of the room, which is used for preparation, serving and storing cookbooks in its cubbies. He also designed two sinks whose perforated stainless drain boards can be easily replaced with cutting blocks. A plant area in the window filled with succulents is radiantly heated, ensuring that the plants don’t freeze in the winter. So is the entire glazed porcelain concrete floor, a favorite napping spot for the family cat.

Valk’s real pride and joy, however, is the kitchen’s industrial Blodgett stove. Made of stainless steel with six 36,000 BTU burners, it allows Valk to do the kind of high-stakes cooking he enjoys. “I have a thing for commercial appliances,” he admits.

“As an architect, I wanted to establish a sense of balance in the kitchen to provide access and flow with the rest of the house,” he says. “But as a cook of over 35 years, I was focused on functionality. It’s as easy to cook here as it is to mingle.”  -Samantha Gendler

Architect: Arthur Valk, Valk Design Associates, 410-321-6925
Cabinets: Dale German Design, 410-385-9097
Countertops: BC Stone, 814-652-2397

Family history

In 1924, when this “manse,” as it was called, was built, the kitchen was tucked away at the back of the house, considered just a workplace for the hired help. When asked to renovate the kitchen for the 2005 Symphony Decorators’ Show House, Blue and Lance Arnold of Kitchens By Request brought the room out from its hiding place. They combined the breakfast room and butler’s pantry, ripped down the dividing wall and created a spacious new kitchen directly adjacent to the dining room and centrally located within the house’s design. “We wanted the room to be gorgeous, but at the same time, realistic,” says Blue. “It’s for the family who wants to get together and entertain.”

The original flooring- pine and polished slate- remains, lending an Old World feel to the contemporary kitchen. The island, meant to evoke a “furniture-like” feel, is painted linen-white, aged slightly with a mocha glaze and topped with polished DuPont “smoky topaz” quartz. The striped silk drapes, each valance edge beaded with glass pearls, complement the soft khaki-colored walls. Suspended above the center of the kitchen is a dramatic chandelier with dangling amber teardrop crystals.

Perhaps the kitchen’s most stunning element is the majestic trompe l’oeil “copper” oven hood- actually hand-painted drywall, featuring a family crest created by the designers, and trimmed with custom heavy wooden molding. Blue even invented a “history” for the oven hood. “I imagined that the maids would always be told to come in and dust the crest,” he says. “The rest of the copper looks a little smoky, but the crest is polished.”

This kitchen is definitely not one to hide in the back of the house. -Anne Howard

Kitchens By Request, 410-557-6857, http://www.kitchensbyrequest.com

Social center

Charm and practicality meet in the custom kitchen of Rob and Cathy Rosenbaum’s Owings Mills home. The kitchen is classic, though it sports a contemporary edge perfectly suited to the busy lifestyles of the couple and their two children.

Traditional cherry-wood cabinetry is updated with glass-fronted doors. Halogen lighting installed under and above the cabinets illuminates the sleek, cool, granite counter and casts a warm glow on the ceiling.

Modern touches like stainless steel appliances, a glass-front wine refrigerator and side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer offset the country feel of the hand-painted tile backsplash by local artist Claudia Chappel. Two full-sized dishwashers ensure that the entire mess from the night’s meal can be washed at once.

Rob’s favorite part of the kitchen is the cherry wood workstation, which features concealed charging cubbies, where each member of the family is allotted a designated spot to charge a cell phone, Palm Pilot or digital camera. “It really eliminated the rats’ nest of wires we were used to dealing with,” he says.

The primary cook of the family, Cathy, favors the spacious island in the center of the kitchen for cooking and baking projects with the kids. “It’s also great for entertaining,” she says. “At gatherings, it’s fun when everyone congregates around the island to socialize.” -Samantha Gendler

Stuart Kitchens, designer, James D. Lichty, 410-252-6520
Tiles by Claudia Chappel, http://www.claudiachappel.com

Room for everyone

Each member of the Renko family- parents Ben and Charlene and their four grown children- enjoys cooking, so mealtime generated a lot of elbow-bumping and general disarray in the family’s small 1980s kitchen. “We needed a place to accommodate everyone,” says Charlene.

So Steve Farless from Design House Kitchens worked with the Renkos to create a modern kitchen that’s open and airy. The maple cabinets are softened by a porcelain white glaze and set against white walls for a classic look. The countertops and backsplash are smooth black granite, and the island’s gracefully curved edge mirrors the curve of the perimeter countertop. All the appliances are by Viking, including a combination built-in microwave and oven-warming drawer unit.

The Renkos were most excited about the island, which, unlike their old “peninsula” counter, opens up the kitchen. “The old counter blocked off movement,” says Farless.

“The island allows a much better flow.” And, Charlene adds, the new island is a great place to spread out meals buffet-style for the busy family’s version of a traditional sit-down dinner.

Lots of room and accessibility are essential to this family of six. Now, says Charlene, “Every time you turn around in the kitchen, there is a convenient surface.”  -Samantha Gendler

Design House Kitchens, designer, Steve Farless, 800-827-0001, http://www.designhousekitchens.com

Sunny delight

“It was a cave,” Rebecca Corbett says of the original kitchen in her 1906 Roland Park home. Last renovated in the 1950s, it was dark, outdated and much too small. “The oven only worked at 500 degrees,” Rebecca says. And there was no dishwasher. “I’d spend three hours washing dishes after a dinner party.”

But in the fall of 2003, with Rebecca heading the design, their kitchen underwent a complete renovation. By relocating the powder room and the basement access and removing a staircase, the Corbetts transformed an unappetizing “cave” into a bright, airy kitchen.

Now painted a deep taupe, the walls complement the white oak hardwood floors, which are new but blend well with the home’s original flooring. The Corbetts installed all new appliances and enclosed a porch to create three huge south-facing windows that look over the back yard. A long cushioned seat beneath the windows, upholstered in blue and white, gives the family room to relax while dinner’s in the oven. In the evenings, recessed ceiling lights and under-cabinet lighting lend a bright, cheery atmosphere. The countertops are brown, black and white granite, while the large island has a wooden butcher-block top and four tall cream-colored wooden chairs, which match the white cabinets lining the walls.

Although she appreciates all the newfound conveniences of the new kitchen, Rebecca’s favorite part is the window seat- sunny, comfy, with a view of the flower garden. And, of course, she appreciates the simple pleasure of having a dishwasher.  -Anne Howard

Window seat custom upholstery: Fern Hill Design, Butler, 410-472-0300

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here