THE STORY OF THIS western Massachusetts kitchen begins with four tiny brass latches. Shaped like locusts, they date to the early 1900’s and have been in Robin Brickman’s family for years. When she and her husband, Jeff, were planning the addition to their Dutch Colonial-style house built at the turn of the century, she showed her treasures to Williamstown designer Lynn Latson. “Lynn was just as excited by them as I was,” says Brickman.
Originally the guest house on an estate, the shingled cottage was charming but inconvenient — particularly its dark, diminutive kitchen. To relieve the squeeze, architect David J. Westall designed an addition that also included a master suite; the original kitchen became the entry. The new kitchen’s angled eating bay is generously endowed with windows and a raised, faceted ceiling.
“We wanted the kitchen to be consistent with basic construction of a hundred years ago,” says Brickman, a book illustrator. But she did not want a reproduction antique kitchen. Inspired by the old latches, the owner and designer aimed for a look that might have evolved over decades. “People started with the basics and added things as they could afford them,” remarks Latson.
To create the impression of gradual accumulation, she mixed different woods, door and molding styles, and cabinet finishes. Joining the locust latches are brass, glass, porcelain, and wood knobs, continuing the illusion that the various built-ins are actually separate pieces of furniture. A large wall unit that evokes a Victorian butler’s pantry uses clear maple for the box and door frames; drawers feature more decorative bird’s-eye maple. On either side of the cooktop, small cupboards mix cherry frames and bird’s-eye maple doors. Most of the other cabinets are painted poplar.
“I like to create visually distinct work areas,” Latson continues, often using a dark color for the cooking area to give the feeling of an old cast-iron range. “It adds presence and allows us to tap into our emotions about kitchens,” she remarks.
Here, cobalt-blue cabinets housing one oven and the cooktop play off the red refrigerator. Since the owners were unwilling to replace a relatively new refrigerator with a pricey built-in, Latson removed the doors and sent them to an auto-body shop for sandblasting and spray painting.
The bright blue and red suggested a primary color scheme, but instead of bold yellow, Latson specified paint the color of antique ivory for many of the cabinets and for the tall beaded-board wainscots; beaded board turns up again in clear maple as a backsplash. In turn, maple reappears as flooring, chosen both to match existing floors and for its durability.
Indeed, with a home-based career and two youngsters underfoot, Brickman has low maintenance in mind. Solid-surfacing countertops would have mystified our Victorian forebears, but they are a breeze to keep clean. “This kitchen draws from the past and leaps into the future,” says Latson, who used the space-age material in innovative ways. In front of the main sink, she imitated the look of an old English sink with an apron of white Corian that matches the counter. “It gives a feeling of substance to the sink,” she notes. And between the range hood and cooktop, a checkerboard of blue and white solid surfacing mimics a traditional tile design.