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Balancing act – old meets new

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Kitchen by Susan Fredman Design Group

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Natural, rustic materials have always conveyed a sense of welcome, warmth and comfort, and that still rings true today.

In a move away from the pared-back, minimalist designs of the past decade, many homeowners are looking to integrate such elements in their own kitchens.

Susan Rossie, president of the Chicago-based design company Susan Fredman Design Group, has embraced the move for the interior of her own ranch-style home, which dates back to the early '70s. This has been extensively remodeled by her own team, headed by architect and lead designer Terri Crittenden.

Rossie says the renovation needed to open up the house to an attractive view at the rear. It also needed to integrate the formerly compartmentalized kitchen with the dining and family living rooms.

"The existing layout meant the house was very dark and internally focused," she says. "None of the rooms related to each other, and there was no connection to the outdoors."


In reconfiguring the interior, walls were taken out and the laundry and powder rooms moved, creating a large, open living space.

"We could also see an opportunity to extend up into the attic space to make the ceiling a little higher," says Crittenden. "The ceiling above the kitchen is now defined by a row of wood beams that were reclaimed from an old barn in Pennsylvania. We have added LED lighting, so the ceiling just glows, by night and by day."

For visual consistency, the reclaimed wood also appears above the fireplaces in the dining and family rooms, as well as above the hearth-style cooking center, and as a detail in the middle of the large island. The rustic touch is reinforced by a textural stone veneer that clads the walls by the cooking center and the fireplaces.

"We wanted to introduce an organic element, but we didn't want it to dominate," says Crittenden. "So we teamed the wood and stone with a sleek marble backsplash and countertop on the island. It is all about balance – if everything is smooth, for example, you stop seeing the smooth. When you put a textured element against it, you start to appreciate the difference."

Each slab of Calacatta marble, like the reclaimed beams, was handpicked, with slabs chosen for their distinctive veining.

Visual balance was also created by teaming dark-stained island cabinets with lighter perimeter cabinets. The dark stain and the dark red oak flooring help to ground the space visually. Similar dark cabinets appear in the dining area, where they give a more formal look than would have been achieved with a lighter color. Recessed panel doors with a bead detail ensure the cabinetry has an old-world charm, but with a contemporary spin.

Functionality is assured, with ample storage provided within the kitchen and a separate pantry. The cabinets include an integrated coffee center and extra-large drawers for tall pots.

Rossie, who loves to cook, says she is not only appreciating the improved functionality of her home, but also the transparency – the view can now be enjoyed from every room.

Credit List

Architect, interior and kitchen designer Terri Crittenden, Susan Fredman Design Group (Chicago, IL)
Builder Superior Pad Corporation
Cabinet company Wood-Mode Brookhaven
Cabinets Off-white and Espresso painted and glazed; rift-cut oak
Countertops Calacatta marble; leathered grigio limestone; wood from reclaimed beams
Backsplash Calacatta marble; leathered grigio limestone
Sinks Kohler stainless steel
Flooring Red oak
Doors and windows Marvin Windows; NW Millwork
Kitchen table Knoll Saarinen style
Formal dining chairs Custom Park West
Lighting Artemide above kitchen table; Hammerton Forge above formal dining table; Lightology pendants above island
Ventilation, oven, cooktop, dishwasher, coffee maker and refrigerator Thermador

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