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Annapolis Home - January/February 2013
By Kymberly Taylor
Photography by Anne Gummerson

Imagine a seagull gliding high above the Bay. Next, picture a baby osprey crash landing on Spa Creek. Good and bad kitchen design has much in common with flying: success depends upon balance.

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When balance is achieved, there is harmony. When there are flaws, there is disruption, lack of ease, or even pain if you hit your head on a cabinet door while loading the dishwasher. By contrast, a good design promotes effortlessness and comfort. Every phenomenal kitchen has this balance, a special poise, and a primary example can be found in the work of architect Leo Wilson of Hammond Wilson Architects in Annapolis and kitchen designer Brad Creer of Bradford Design in Bethesda. Recently, an Annapolis couple turned to Wilson and Creer for help transforming their newly purchased 1970s waterfront house into a home, but not just any home – one with seven working fireplaces, including one blazing away in the kitchen.

Wilson and his firm aggressively redesigned the house, built by Greg Younger of the Annapolis-based Younger Construction Company. Wilson added fireplaces, moved walls, and enlarged the kitchen, which needed thirteen appliances integrated seamlessly. The kitchen is, literally, in the home’s center, so creating some privacy, while including a fireplace, sitting areas, a suite of professional-grade appliances, and workstations were especially tricky, says Wilson.

Early in the design process, Wilson and Creer collaborated to create a balance not only between appliances and furnishings but also between space and matter, forming, among other things, invisible pathways so one can travel easily from island to island, from task to task, appliance to appliance. Wilson believes the kitchen’s success has much to do with deferring to a professional kitchen designer. “They know about options you may never have heard about. They’ve done this before. They know your story even better than you do,” he says.

Creer had many conversations with the homeowners and came to understand their romance with warm fires, and respect for beauty – they wanted both in a truly working kitchen. “To make a kitchen functional is fairly easy, but to make one beautiful and efficient is harder,” he explains. For instance, what good is an attractive fireplace if you can’t experience it? With this in mind, Wilson and Creer positioned the fireplace higher than usual so the chef could see it while cooking. The mantel was designed by Creer to complement the kitchen cabinetry. A flat screen television overhead is hidden behind pocket doors.

Creer notes that the drama created by the fireplace and range hood is balanced by quieter elements. For example, the cabinets along the range walls vary in placement. “I like to pull some cabinets out and push others back in so it doesn’t look so clinical with them all lined up,” says Creer. He anchored the inside row of cabinetry at both ends with tall cabinets, which creates symmetry. Creer also used color to provide symmetry. “There is lots of glaze, lots of sheen, calling attention to the island, which is a unique green,” he notes. Cabinet and wood floor finishes complement and accentuate each other. “That is very important to kitchen design, there are different grains, species, colors, and intensities. All these things play and can almost clash, so you must make sure the woods are compatible,” he says. Fine but seminal details such as these could get lost in the process of designing a kitchen.

Before embarking on your own project, Wilson suggests three things. The first is to take your time and educate yourself about the many options available and then build upon that knowledge. The second is to trust an expert. “Don’t be afraid to hire a qualified kitchen designer. The A+ kitchens all have them. It is invaluable if you want a good outcome,” he says. Finally, he cautions: “Be honest with yourself. People demand a lot from their kitchens today. They tend to be way over the top, with not just one workstation but two. Make sure you need what you build.”

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