Qualified Remodeler

Kitchen Showcases the Unexpected

This designer’s parents wanted a vacation home that would work with its surroundings without being predictable. Now, ‘mountain’ features serve as a backdrop, allowing more surprising elements to shine.

authors Kim Berndtson 

Ann Arbor, MI — When Leslie Murchie Cascino set out to help design her parents’ Park City, UT vacation home, she wanted to incorporate elements that would herald its mountain location…without being too conventional or heavy handed.

“The property overlooks the Deer Valley ski resort, the Jordanelle reservoir and the Uinta mountains,” says the owner of Bonnie Wu Design, in Ann Arbor, MI. “My parents wanted a home that felt appropriate for those surroundings…like a ski home in the winter and a place to hike in the summer. For many people, that means warm colors and earth tones with natural wood and lots of reds, oranges and hunter greens. But they didn’t want something that looked too much like a log cabin. They didn’t want to fall into the predictable traps they had seen in so many other homes in the area. Instead, they wanted to do something a bit unexpected.”

With that goal in mind, Cascino collaborated with the Jaffa Group (architect) and JOC Construction (builder) to tone down the expected traditional mountain-style elements, reserving them as a backdrop highlighted in architectural features such as the ceiling beams, limestone fireplace and rustic white oak wood floors that run throughout the living room, dining room and breakfast nook and into the kitchen.

Cascino located the main kitchen sink to be outward facing so her parents could more easily watch TV, enjoy the view or talk with guests as they prep food or clean up.

That left room for unexpected elements to shine in the open-concept kitchen, such as the Sea Pearl quartzite countertops and custom Swirl Woodcraft cabinets color-matched to Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue and accented with Top Knobs hardware.

“They wanted a natural material for the countertops…something that was earthy and connected to nature, without being too ‘warm,’” she says. “Marble immediately came to mind, but they anticipated frequently hosting family and friends and they didn’t want anything quite so precious. When we found these quartzite slabs, the subtle greens and grays spoke to us. And, the slabs offer enough veining to be interesting, without being too loud. They work beautifully with the limestone fireplace and hearth as well as the oak floor, ceiling beams and iron hand rails. There’s a lot going on, and the countertops say enough…without saying too much.”

The material’s polished finish adds to its interest, offering a wider depth of field that enhances its aesthetics, the designer indicates. “You can more clearly see the pattern of the stone and some of its crystalline structure,” she states.

The countertops also serve as inspiration for the cabinetry, which cools the home’s color palette with its grayish blue/green hue.

“My parents love the color because it’s so different from what is expected,” she says, noting that it’s usually the first thing visitors comment on. “We went through a couple of rounds of tweaking to get a color that wasn’t too pure, or too dull. It takes up a lot of visual space, so it needed to be just right with the perfect blend of blue, green and gray that works nicely with the countertops and the light that flows into the space.”

Addressing storage

While the kitchen’s aesthetics often grab initial attention, Cascino gave equal consideration to function, creating a layout that balances cooking needs and storage requirements with entertaining essentials, all of which needed to be accomplished with minimal wall cabinets.

“We didn’t have many wall cabinets because we didn’t have many interior walls,” she says, adding that the latter’s inclusion would have significantly compromised the view.

The kitchen’s sole wall includes a few cabinets combined with a paneled Sub-Zero refrigerator, Wolf double ovens and a toaster oven, which is concealed behind doors beneath the Wolf microwave. A small countertop area provides just enough space to be a momentary drop zone for items coming out of or going into the nearby appliances. Cascino accented it with a reflective backsplash of Artistic Tile’s Hip Herringbone in Be Bop White.

Sea Pearl quartzite countertops offer a connection to nature without being too ‘warm.’ The stone’s subtle greens and grays work well with the limestone fireplace and hearth as well as the oak floor, ceiling beams and iron hand rails, while its polished finish offers a wider depth of field to highlight its veining pattern.

“The herringbones are so small that they create sparkle and texture,” she says. “And because each piece of glass isn’t a single color, there’s a bit of mottling that adds another layer of depth, aside from the various ways it reflects the light.”

To enhance flow within the kitchen’s large footprint, Cascino included two islands, each planned according to its function and well-equipped with storage to make up for the near-elimination of upper cabinets.

“The home is about 10,000 square feet, which means the kitchen is quite large,” she explains, noting that both of her parents like to cook and each can be creating their own meals simultaneously. “We needed to create a layout that offers enough separation so people don’t bump into each other, yet keeps everything close together so they can move around without having to take too many steps. Our solution was to include double islands.”

The outer island offers seating and is home to dual ASKO dishwashers that flank a ROHL Shaws fireclay farmhouse sink accented with a Hansgrohe faucet and a Newport Brass beverage faucet. The center island, which is a bit narrower so people can easily reach across it without having to walk around it, includes a Wolf cooktop, ROHL prep sink and an abundance of doors/drawers to handle the bulk of the kitchen’s storage needs.

“The middle island has storage on both the front and back,” she says. “The cooktop side stores everything needed for food prep and cooking, such as pots/pans, spices, knives and cutting boards. The opposite side has storage for plates, bowls, extra cups and serving dishes, so when someone unloads the dishwashers, they can easily turn around and put them into the base cabinets. That way, anyone who is prepping food for dinner isn’t in the way of someone who is setting the table or putting away dishes.

“Overall, our goal was to create a beautiful and functional kitchen where people can hang out, within a comfortable home with plenty of space for hosting family and friends,” she continues. “The best compliment is when everyone says they immediately feel at home.” ▪

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