Nine-year-old Hannah Stowe is passionate about cooking. So much so, in fact, that she recently hosted a dinner party for her family and filmed the evening with the idea of pitching it as a story idea to the Food Network. So when her mother, Meg, drew up a wish list for the home they were building in North Kingstown, R.I., a top priority was designing a kitchen where both Hannah and her 11-year-old sister, Sophie, could be actively involved.
“They absolutely love to cook. I wanted the kitchen to be open, with multiple cooks being able to work at the same time,” Meg says. “We love preparing a meal together.”
Meg Stowe and her husband, Jeremy, came to the project with a meticulous layout and sought the professional expertise of Audrey Anderson, kitchen designer at Apex Kitchen & Bath in Middletown, R.I. With Dan Kinsella of Kinsella Building also alongside, an expansive kitchen was created with a variety of resourceful storage and kid-friendly options that are practical and eye-catching.
These kids can cook… seriously
Nearly every facet of the kitchen was designed with the children in mind. The drawers near the dishwasher are at a lower height so the girls can take part in clean-up chores. A second island sink was installed for them. A lower countertop in the transition area between the mud room and kitchen features a compact refrigerator ideal for storing juice boxes, while another cabinet was built nearby for storing their lunch boxes. These areas can easily be converted into a wet bar when they grow older.
“I wanted it built so the girls could be completely free to take on the responsibilities of maintaining the home,” Meg says. “I designed the kitchen around things I use the most. And the girls know where everything goes.”
Although the kitchen is distinguished by its many open shelves, clutter is easily hidden in a pantry that serves as the ideal spot for platters and other cookware. “I wanted the best of both worlds, with open authentic living as a family,” Meg says. “I also think it makes other people more comfortable in your space.”
The prominent 5 x 9-foot center island serves as the kitchen centerpiece. It includes a six-burner stove and storage for cooking tools, pots and pans on one side, and an opposite seating
Stowe’s love of antique furniture is reflected in the island’s design, which looks like an executive’s desk. Legs at one end mimic a bead that circles around the island, while the black granite counter, with metallic flecks of gray and brown, produces a clean yet traditional appearance. The dark countertop that runs throughout is off-set by creamy white maple cabinets and a lightly-stained oak floor.
A bay window over the kitchen sink allows light to stream into the area and provides views to the garden.
“The bay window is a great feature,” Anderson says. “It is enhanced as a focal point by flanking glass cabinets, while the granite counter extends all the way to the window, giving it greater depth.”
The bay window and the counter are on the same level, a design that Stowe wanted. The house, located on three acres in a natural meadow, was sited so that indoor lighting is only needed at night.
As a further ode to her children, Meg designed a number of areas to display their art work and other school projects. Built-in bookcases, a gallery wall in the mud room, a large working area in the pantry and open cube cabinets above a built-in desk all serve as prime landing spots for Sophie and Hannah’s latest inspirations. “I wanted it to be clear that a family lives here, and that we honored what our kids were doing at any given stage,” Meg says.
As for the finished kitchen, Meg marvels at how it turned out. “Who knew something so utilitarian could also be so beautiful?” she said.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Chris Vaccaro
Kitchen Design: Apex Kitchen & Bath
Construction: Kinsella Building
**As seen in Southern New England Home magazine’s 2012-2013 print edition.