Greg Alexander

Modern Family at Home in the Kitchen

Mason-Dixon Arrive, September 2007

There’s no denying that over the past few years, the kitchen’s importance in the home has grown exponentially. What used to be an area reserved for cooking meals for the family and subsequent cleaning of the dishes has evolved into the emotional and spiritual center of the home, a place where couples get together to review their day, families gather for quality time while kids do their homework at the kitchen table and friends gather during dinner parties and holiday bashes. Even in homes with cavernous dens and dining rooms, more often than not, family and friends end up in the kitchen, sipping a glass of wine and enjoying conversation. It’s this movement to the kitchen that inspired a Baltimore couple to renovate their outdated kitchen and create a space that’s both elegant and comfortable for today’s lifestyle.

This mid-1920s home, set in one of northern Baltimore City’s most desirable neighborhoods, had already undergone a renovation. But, for homeowners Joan and Landon Royals and their two daughters, the critical area still needing change was the kitchen. Totally outdated, the kitchen and butler’s pantry were cut off from the dining room and the rest of the first floor. A modification in the 1960s/70s did little to enhance the space (as few renovations did during those decades), so the couple decided that a complete renovation was in order in 2005. As the existing small windows revealed little natural light, new windows also had to be incorporated into the new plan.

“We never used the dining room before because it was too difficult to transport food between the kitchen and the dining room. When this home was built, the homeowners had staff who served and cleared, so the homeowners did not realize the inconvenience. Since I am the ‘staff,’ I knew that it needed to be changed,” laughs Joan Royals, who was actively involved in every step of the renovation.

“We planned the kitchen for five years because we wanted to make sure we got it right,” says Joan. “The goal of the renovation was to make the kitchen an extension of the rest of the first floor living areas. We wanted it high-tech and functional, yet historically sensitive and beautiful at the same time.” Top-of-the-line appliances such as a six-burner Wolf stove with grill, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Kitchen Aid dishwasher and a Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer were high on the list of “must-haves.”

The wall between the kitchen and dining room was removed and a beam was added to the ceiling, covered in molding to mimic the original beam close by, just one of the many elements added with sensitivity to the historical nature of the home. Pocket doors were also added to the dining room for more formal dining. For the kitchen design and cabinetry work, the Royalses turned to Keener Kitchen Manufacturing Co., of Red Lion, Pa., which custom makes everything right in their Southern Pennsylvania location. Joan says that Keener was recommended by their builder, ADR Builders, as well as a friend who had also utilized Keener for new kitchen cabinets. “I visited Keener’s facility and really liked their look,” says Joan, who says that she wanted a kitchen that would accommodate her modern family. “Our furnishings are more modern … classic pieces with an updated twist. When you have kids, micro-fiber is your best friend.”

“Joan had a very clear vision of what she wanted,” says Patricia Caulfield, AKBD, sales manager at Keener. “She and I saw eye-to-eye, I think, because we’re both artists; she’s a freelance graphic designer, while I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art and am a classically-trained artist. Joan chose to paint the coffered ceiling a blue-gray, which really makes you feel like you’re outside, especially with the yellow walls and white accents. I also love the framed poster she chose for the kitchen, which adds an instant splash of color.”

Listening to the couple’s goals and wishes, Keener designer Cindy Myers, CKD, selected a design that looks more like furniture than cabinets, giving the kitchen a historic and classic look. Furniture-style cabinets of rustic cherry and painted birch with two different finishes provide contrast, the candlelight-white painted cabinets have a raw umber glaze making the room bright, while the mocha stained rustic cherry cabinets provide elegance.

“The mocha used for the 8-foot island is a color developed by Cindy just for the Royalses. We custom-tailor colors every day,” says Caulfield. “For the paint and glazing processes, customers come to Keener, and they get to see their actual cabinet door painted and finished right in front of them. The customer stands in the finishing department and decides on the finishing, glazing and the distress level. They know exactly what they’ll get and work with the person who will be constructing their cabinets.” Caulfield adds that customers can peruse the large hardware department and are encouraged to mix and match hardware to create a personal style.

One important element that the Royalses desired was to have the refrigerator blend with the cabinetry. The integrated “freezer on the bottom” refrigerator was draped in rustic cherry with a mocha stain, and two large pantries were placed on each side of the armoire-style refrigerator. Topped with fluted molding, the rustic cherry wood adds to the “furniture” look of the cabinetry.

Two contrasting granite colors were used – Juperano granite with a square edge profile on the counters, combined with an Absolute Black granite with a honed finish on the island, which has become the family’s favorite spot. While the long island provides ample storage, the real appeal is that it was built to look like and function as a table, allowing the family to dine in their fabulous new kitchen.

“While we do have dinner sometimes in the dining room, we almost always eat at the island, which can seat six,” says Joan, who notes that she opted for leather stools from Bed, Bath & Beyond for quick, easy clean up when spills inevitably happen. With the integrated music system – complete with flush speakers in the ceiling – entertaining is also a breeze. “I am the social chairperson of our neighborhood and love to entertain, so this kitchen functions perfectly,” says Joan.

An undermount double sink is contained in a sink base cabinet, complete with “Deco Style” furniture feet. Meanwhile, a 32- inch-by-18-inch built-in bench seat in cherry mocha provides the perfect place for the couple’s two daughters to take off their shoes. Two display cabinets above on either side of the window have seeded glass doors, lit from the inside and below, to highlight translucent heirloom china. Other special touches include the custom cabinet designed by Keener to hide a radiator and the beverage center to the left of the sink.

A nook that was formerly the butler’s pantry is now an office area, which was Joan’s idea. “I wanted to have the kitchen high-tech and love to have the computer right there. The kids use it all the time, and I like being able to keep an eye on what’s on the screen,” she says. A hidden media center with a flat screen television encourages the family to hang out.

“It’s a very timeless kitchen. Joan left nothing to chance; her attention to detail was amazing. It’s by far one of my favorite kitchens that we’ve worked on,” adds Caulfield. It was also a favorite of the Remodelers Council of York County Builders Association, who awarded a Grand Award for Kitchen Remodeling for the Royalses’ kitchen.

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