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Designing

That '70s Kitchen, Refined

More than a decade after they bought their home, a couple restored their kitchen to look a lot like the space a modernist architect designed a few decades ago. Really!

By Regina Cole
January 4, 2009
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Susan and Bill Firestone didn't undertake their kitchen renovation project lightly: They know that theirs isn't just any modern house. Built during the 1970s, the two-story stucco home on a quiet suburban street in Western Massachusetts is a brilliant example of modernist architecture, with an asymmetrical layout, glass-curtain walls, a flat roof, and flush metal casement windows. Even the mailbox support, rising from the curb at a rakish angle, makes a bold minimalist statement.

"I'm an architecture buff," says Susan, 50, "and my husband and I are both interested in design. I grew up in a traditional house down the street."

The original kitchen, bold-colored and small by today's standards, was remodeled in the 1980s, when previous owners built an addition. The Firestones, who bought the house in 1993, did a lot of research and walked endless showrooms and design centers before they installed their new kitchen two years ago.

Instead of attempting to reproduce history, they chose a contemporary Bulthaup system that they believe the home's original architect, Elroy Webber, would have loved: It brings together the best of contemporary design, but doesn't skimp on sophisticated technological elements.

While traditional fitted cabinetry stands on the kitchen floor, an engineered wall system supports the cabinets. For aesthetic decisions, the Firestones turned to interior designer Susan Corson of Newton, who guided their choices of materials and colors. "My aesthetic is that of a modernist," she says. "Even when I work with traditional architecture or furnishings, the overall feeling is clean and modern."

Corson specified bamboo cabinets, quartz countertops, and a white-glass backsplash. Other fittings include hinged flip-up upper cabinet doors, a steam plus a regular oven, an aluminum tambour door on the appliance garage, and touch-system drawers. Sleek and refined, the room is without clutter.

"A streamlined design like this forces me to be more organized," Susan Firestone says. "For one thing, it's so easy to clean the surfaces and to put things away." She demonstrates the ease of lifting the cabinet door above the counter. "Also, it looks wrong when it's messy. There is logical, easy-to-reach storage space for everything. And," she continues, "if I don't see the food, that's for the better."

Regina Cole is a writer in Gloucester. Send comments to designing@globe.com.

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