Mixing It Up
By Christine Newman
When Maggie and Sam got married 22 years ago, they renovated the vintage Astor Street apartment where he had lived for the previous eight years but altered the kitchen area only slightly. It was part of a claustrophobic grouping of five small rooms originally designed to include quarters for a servant. That room became the domain of the couple's Airedale terrier. Maggie had been complaining about the inconvenience of the kitchen for ages, but even when they still had two sons at home to cook for, Sam wouldn't budge. She may be a lawyer, but he's a businessman. It was a no-win situation until tragedy --the dog died --led to triumph.
After that, Sam was wining to face facts:
About a third of the space in their apartment was unusable, and it was time to transform that five-room area into a large L-shaped kitchen with an adjoining media room. Phillip Liederbach and Michael Graham of Liederbach & Graham, Architects, agreed to work within the limits to liberate the back of the apartment. But once the project was defined, the possibilities seemed endless. "They wanted a modern kitchen with every sort of amenity;" Graham says.
For baking, Maggie decided on two Gaggenan ovens with custom-made drawers beneath to hold the attachments, including cookie sheets and a pizza stone. The Thermador grill provided the largest surface, and the two Miele dishwashers operate soundlessly. For heavy-duty storage and additional stainless-steel touches, they selected a refrigerator and freezer and a matching wine cooler by Traulsen.
"I was obsessed with counter space," Maggie admits. "Anywhere youre working in this kitchen, theres a place to put things down; theres a place to let things cools." The concept, she explains, is modern rendition of a old-fashioned service kitchen. Different areas [Image] are designed for specific functions; preparation, cooking, serving, and cleanup. Everything is arranged to facilitate moving food into the dining room.
But often they eat in the kitchen, which they can do with ease because Graham had a brainstorm-when else? --in the middle of the night. By switching the positions of the stove and the refrigerators on the scale model he had built, he realized that he could accommodate an octagonal extension that worked as both an eating area and a workspace and also improved traffic flow. "It could have been round, but there were no other round shapes in the apartment, Graham says. And the octagon allowed us to create individual eating areas." Above the surface he created a high-tech still life: A stainless-steel panel holds a yacht clock that belonged to Maggie's father; a Sony TV, and that modern-art microwave.
When they were still in the homework stages of planning, Graham gave Maggie four drawings for each side of the new kitchen --and asked her to tape them up in the existing space and make lists of what would logically go where. "There were a couple of lists, all sorts of lists," Graham admits. Which is why everything from the lobster pot to the Cuisinart to the KitchenAid mixer, the fish poacher and the wok has "its own little home" a phrase used by both Maggie and Graham. Silverware drawers were outfitted with sliding double-decker articulated inserts and shallow, barely visible drawers beneath the countertops were designated for a single layer of cooking utensils. "In a kitchen, anything you store in more than one layer, you're not going to find," Maggie says. "This divides things into the natural layers that they go in."
Julie and her husband, Steven, both 36, bought a house in Highland Park in 1994, shortly before their twin daughters were born. Built between 1949 and 1950, it was designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright and was featured in Better Homes and Gardens three years later.
The couple went to nuHaus, a kitchen and bath show room in Highland Park, and met with its president, Doug Durbin.
To avoid burns, Durbin wanted the ovens to be positioned lower than they are, but Steven thought they looked better in the line with the top edges of the cabinets.
Steven's most exciting appliance is his KitchenAid icemaker --none of that half-moon-shaped ice for this man. His machine pumps out square cubes; he calls it hotel ice. "I always figured that when I got a house, I'd have hotel ice," he says. "Men like square ice; it's a whole rectilinear thing. I have one friend who comes here to get ice: he empties my machine and puts it in his freezer." Julie insists that square ice is not gender specific and that it even makes diet Coke taste better.
Asked later if he is familiar with Stevens theories about ice, Durbin says, "I had no idea, but Im not surprised."
Two banquettes made of black laminate were built into one corner. " Thats easy for kids, " Durbin says. "They slide in; they slide out." The table, made of the same material, is an asymmetrical shape based on a Wright design for his low-cost Usonian houses.
The day we photographed the kitchen, it was Gordi (his real name), the couple's six-year-old part Lhasa apso, part bulldog who was in the doghouse. Thinking he is the first-born child, he has occasional bouts of baby envy. The night before, he had eaten some of the twins' toys. Or is Steven himself in tronble? "One of the twins has just learned to say; "Bye, Daddy,"' he reports. "Do you think she's trying to tell me something?"
"The original kitchen was all Handy Andy specials," says Paul, a 31-year-old financial manager. "And this isn't a joke. The day after we closed, we came into the house to look around, and one of the cabinet doors fell off-- the hinges had eaten through the corn-pressed wood."
He and his wife, Laura, an artist who doesn't talk age, bought a two-story Victorian house on the North Side in 1994, and they have been righting its wrongs in stages ever since. It was an inaugural project for architects Malcolm Morris and Drew Ranieri, who founded their firm, Morris/Ranieri, just as Laura and Paul were concluding that the closet space in the house wasn't big enough for both of them.
Once the architects solved that problem, they went to work on the kitchen.
"In the beginning, they were just thinking about upgrading what was there," Morris says. "They didn't have a larger vision of how the different parts related. so we tried to zoom out and look at the big picture of the first floor." That wide-open space comprises a living room and a kitchen with a small adjacent area leading to French doors and a deck. At that point, Laura and Paul planned to put their dining table in the living room.
"they wanted the kitchen to be warm, " Ranieri says. "I got the feeling that they were rattling around in this big house and didnt have a place to be. I think warmth was a metaphor for feeling comfortable in a place in the house."
"We went in looking for units that fit the space and were the most functional and had good reputations and were the most reasonably priced," says Paul. And were white The Jam-Air oven, which came in white with gray trim, blended well with the cabinets and had more inside space than units of similar size. The microwave is a Whirlpool, and the stovetop is a Maytag. There was an initial drawback to the KitchenAid refrigerator-it was deeper than the space reserved for it So they broke through the kitchen wall, discovered an extra ten inches of space, and slid it in. Since Laura's father is an electrician, they got a good deal on the lighting.
Abstract paintings by Laura hang above and beside the fireplace; their shades of clack, brown, and gold sem at home. The larger work features a spidery webor perhaps a safety net. "When she put up her art, it was a nice finishing touch to everything," Ranierei says. "The other finishing touch was they actually asked us to dinner when it was all done, " Says Morris. "We came in and started fooling around with the lighting."
The Astor Street apartment
and Appliance Company
Chicago Floor Works
D-Line (Denise Haberkorn)
Liederhach & Graham,
Jeff Miller, 1774
West Lunt Avenue,
The Highland Park house
Alfa Development Associates
N&T Masonry (Adriano
NuHaus (Doug Durbin)
Prairie School Interiors,
The North Side house
and Appliance Company
Allied Cabinet Corporation
Dynamic Building Concepts
(Brian Stieglitz and James Melchiorre)
Richard Marks Industrial
Jon Meihuse Painting
Pine & Design
|Copyright 1996 Chicago Magazine|