Like many modern-day entertainers with old homes, Karen Williams had long found that the layout and flow in her Hamptons home just wasn't quite ideal for her lifestyle. Luckily, Williams is creative director at luxury kitchen design company St. Charles New York, so, when faced with "the challenge of how to modernize a farmhouse kitchen," she was pretty well-prepared. Not only that, but she's clued in to some seriously game-changing design details that most homeowners would overlook.
Beneath what looks like a pretty surface of sage green, textural accents, and marble countertops, are smart solutions to make the space highly functional for cooking and hosting (eventually!). Read on to learn from Williams's expertise.
The first thing Williams did was remove a wall to create a more open concept between the kitchen and dining space. "It's just the way people are living now," she says. Plus, as the frequent chef, "I didn't want to be looking at a wall all day" while cooking or prepping in the space, she says. Creating a flow around a center island allows her to engage with guests while keeping a view of the backyard, which connects the kitchen to the outdoors (more on the later).
This layout also establishes the kitchen as an entertaining space and not a site of prep mayhem by relegating cleanup to the far corner, where she's installed a deep sink and two dishwashers. "My cleanup is always behind me, because I don't want to look at it," she reveals. "It's just a little psychological trick."
To keep the kitchen from feeling too modernized, Williams incorporated nods to the original architecture throughout: "The shiplap, the arches, and the moldings are very much the character of the house, so I was able to keep a lot of that, which I love because it doesn't feel like there's a new kitchen in this house," she says. She also added a tall cabinet for serveware, an entertaining necessity that also adds a bit of (unexpected) texture. Despite traditional notions of china cabinets, Williams insists "it's not formal at all. It's very user friendly and very interactive—I can see everything and easily grab what I need."
An Island for Prepping and Sitting
"One little detail you might not notice about the island is it has a little step up," says Williams of the height difference between the two halves of the surface. This way, one is subtly designated for prep while the other is for serving, or sitting. "So when I put a dish up on that area, it can be a buffet and I don't have to move all my prep items or wipe down the counter," she explains.
Another simple, functional addition? The low shelf at the end of the island, where the designer can place large baskets or floral arrangements during parties.
Ironically, of course, since the onset of COVID-19, entertaining has largely been a no-go, but Williams still stands by the improved flow of the space. "I've been very fortunate to have designed this for entertaining, but now that I'm not entertaining, I still have plenty of room to cook, and to have my family sitting pretty spaced out," she says.
If island seating isn't for you, Williams also incorporated a round dining area into the corner of the space, another element that establishes the room as an entertainment hub rather than a purely culinary space.
Beyond that, a patio beckons with an outdoor table, a view Williams thought was important to establish the setting of the space. "What the Hamptons is about, of course, is indoor-outdoor living," she says, "So I like being able to look right outside at the beautiful backyard."
The Right Appliances
"When you're selecting appliances, it's not about remembering only what's on the market most or is the most popular, but it's what's going to serve your needs in that particular house," says the designer. For her indoor-outdoor lifestyle in the Hamptons, a good grill and pizza oven outside were key, and inside, she opted for an induction cooktop, so that "when I'm not cooking, that's extra counter space," she explains. Meanwhile, a rotisserie oven along the back wall "is a fun focal point," laughs the designer—and great for whipping up dinner party fare en masse. "You can do three roast chickens," she says.
Okay, where's our invite?!
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