An Architect's Kitchen

Seven years ago, Lisa Muskat and her husband fell in love with a farmhouse in Bedford that was built two centuries ago. But love affairs inevitably have challenges and so did this one. Most of the house had to be gutted to, as Lisa says, “get to the bones” and bring the house up to today’s standards. The majority of the house hadn’t been updated in the past 30 years. The kitchen presented the biggest challenge. It was found to be structurally unstable with significant water damage. The decision was made to tear it down to the foundation and re-build. Her major concern as both the architect and homeowner was that the feel of the old house be maintained. The fact that the house is in Bedford’s historic district determined the look of the exterior. It also meant they had to work within the existing 20' x 25' footprint. The interior plans started with an issue important to Lisa — circulation. “You have to consider what kind of access there will be to other parts of the house and how you will move about the kitchen, to accommodate the size of today’s appliances and how people work in kitchens today,” she says. “There are usually more than one cook.” A staircase to the second-floor hallway was relocated to provide a better flow. The connection to the other downstairs rooms was on the same wall. To tie in the rooms visually, Lisa used the same flooring: random-width antique wide pine: “That consistency is a key element in having the kitchen not feel like an addition.” The floor was coated with polyurethane and then waxed. Even though pine is a really soft wood and this pine was really old, salvaged from a barn, the treatment made the floors “very hardy, very forgiving, almost like steel,” says Lisa. In keeping with the Colonial style, she chose traditional beaded frame inset-style cabinets with period nickel hinges and latches. “I wanted to keep the cabinets on the simple, clean side. Nothing would be terrifically ornate in the era the house was built,” she says. On the other hand, it was built by a wealthy merchant, not a farmer, so she wanted the woodwork to be elegant, or “sophisticated Colonial,” as she puts it. To keep the kitchen bright and light, she chose off-white Architectural Woodworking cabinets and white Carrara marble countertops. There’s no stovetop in the island (there is an oven under) because she wanted an uninterrupted workspace for cooking, for her kids to do homework or to set a buffet for entertaining. “It’s more versatile with nothing on it,” Lisa says. The restaurant-quality four-burner stove is a Diva de Provence, handmade in France: “You tell them the configuration and the desired BTUs and they fabricate it.” The blue enamel, which acts as a color accent and coordinates with the pale blue of the walls, is trimmed with nickel and bronze. The backsplash of handmade Delft tiles, each with a different flower, completes the picture.
SubZero refrigerators — one to the right of the undermount sink, one to the left — are hidden by cabinetry. “We keep raw in one and cooked in the other,” says Lisa. Because Lisa likes to use contrasting styles, the lighting is contemporary. Cleanly designed Italian glass lights hang over the island. To accommodate a low ceiling, frosted halogen lights the size of a film cannister are used in place of recessed ceiling lighting. Over the sitting area are jewel lights. The sitting area, Lisa says, makes the room more like a family room than a kitchen, which is just what she wanted. Two comfortable re-slipcovered chairs from the 1920s sit in front of a row of windows, with Roman shades adding another contemporary detail. The Muskats lived in the house for the entire year the kitchen was under construction. Ask what that was like and she laughs: “It was a challenge. We had two very young children at the time. Some days were more challenging than others.” But it was worth it, she says: “It’s so much fun to live in a space I’ve designed. It’s a real treat.” NH LKM Design, Bedford (603) 472-2925
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