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Originally the preserve of servants, this kitchen has been reconfigured as a comfortable and welcoming gathering place for family and friends

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Changes in the way we live and run our homes can be motivating reasons for renovating an old house. The home shown here was built at a time when, for many families, the kitchen was the domain of servants and was located in a separate wing from the rest of the house.

This way of life is now a distant memory and most families prefer a more casual lifestyle, with the kitchen as a gathering place for family and friends.

Kitchen designer Matthew Rao was asked by the owners of this home to update the kitchen and to make it more family-friendly.

The old kitchen wing contained three rooms – a kitchen, butler's pantry and laundry/utility room. The family room was on a lower level and the home's main eating area was the formal dining room.

"We really wanted a kitchen with enough space to allow everyone to gather and eat together," says the owner.

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Rao opened up the kitchen and laundry to create one large space. The butler's pantry area was retained as a semi-separate space, opening off one end of the main kitchen. However, its layout was reorganized to make the space more functional and better connected with the rest of the kitchen.

Most food preparation and cooking is done in the main galley-shaped kitchen, which has a large granite-topped island in the center. In here are the cooktop, two wall ovens, a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and a second dishwasher. Three bar stools provide seating at the island.

The galley is also designed to be the family and guest area. At the far end, which was previously the laundry, is a sofa, breakfast table and chairs. The matching bar stools and kitchen chairs are all height-adjustable so they can be moved around when extra seating is needed.

The butler's pantry is the main clean-up area, with a dishwasher, sink, bar refrigerator and ice maker. It also has a small bar area with a bar stool which matches the kitchen chairs, and a desk with a telephone and computer.

"This house was built in 1950, and apart from the kitchen, which was in its own wing, its design was very modern for the time.

"Our intention was to provide the house with a kitchen that looked as if it belonged in its modern setting. We believed the kitchen cried out for clean lines and simple architectural details," says Rao.

Beams on the tongue-and-groove ceiling were exposed and clad in cherry, matching the cherry finish on the tall cabinets. As a contrast and to compliment the grey limestone floor, grey laminate was chosen for vertical panels on the island and for the cabinets under the Caesarstone sink countertop.

The island is mounted on high, slim, tubular steel legs, and stainless steel appliances are all integrated to maintain the clean look.

"The granite-topped island contrasts with the simplicity of the Caesarstone, and adds pizzazz to a space where most surfaces have a matte finish. Wood is the only vertical material featuring grain or design," says Rao.

Credit List

Kitchen designerMatthew Rao, CKD, Rao Design Studio (Atlanta)
Kitchen manufacturerBulthaup
CabinetryCherry veneer and mouse grey laminate
Island countertopAutumn brown granite
Main countertopEggshell Caesarstone
FlooringHeather grey limestone from Renaissance Tile and Bath
Bar stoolsLigne Roset Pam
Dining tableLigne Roset Crescendo
SofaLigne Roset Opium
PaintsBenjamin Moore
LightingTech Lighting
SinkFranke undermount
FaucetsKWC
Hot water systemFranke
Oven, dishwasherMiele
CooktopWolf
VentilationBulthaup
MicrowaveSharp
RefrigerationSub-Zero 700 Series, Sub-Zero 400 Series

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