Your Home: Kitchen & Bath

Double take

In Newton, a new kitchen is rooted in tradition but made for a modern family – one with a pair of cooks.

Newton kitchen (Globe photo / MIchael J. Lee)
By Estelle Bond Guralnick
September 26, 2010

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To their architects’ delight, the owners of a new kitchen in an 1892 classic Colonial Revival house in Newton like to joke that they have a his-and-hers setup. “I never put a dish in his sink, and he never puts one in mine,” the wife says. And she’s only kidding a little.

The kitchen’s long, large island is 12 feet by 4 feet and looks like a piece of furniture, thanks to fumed oak cabinetry, bronze hardware, and a countertop made of old-growth walnut that encases “his” large sink’s raised soapstone surround. “His” because the island is where the husband most often gets into culinary form, just a step from the Wolf cooktop and open shelves on the back wall and in front of sliding open shelves at below-counter level. “I just grab what I want,” he says. “It’s my zone.”

“Her” zone, home to a deep farmer’s sink, plant window, and dishwasher, is the wife’s domain, a cleanup area where she can also serve as short-order cook for the kids’ meals. From there, she enjoys the garden views and delights in the light from the handblown Murano glass globes on serpentine cords over the island.

The couple, who met as students at Harvard Business School and now have a daughter, 4, and a son, 2, bought their house the same day they first saw it in 2008, thrilled with its bones and its history. With the goal of leaving the exterior intact while rearranging some of the interior to suit the way young families live today, they hired The Classic Group, a design-build firm in Lexington that had worked on other historic houses in the neighborhood.

What ensued was an intense collaborative process among project architects Peter Grover and Gary Kleinschmidt, Boston interior designer William Gregory, and the clients themselves, particularly the husband, who’s an investment manager. “Many a night, I’d jump out of bed, grab some tracing paper, put it on the architectural plan, and start sketching,” he says. “Dimensions and details were critical to me.”

The major breakthrough in their plan was the architects’ idea to flip the functions of the dining room, with its southeast garden exposure, and the kitchen, which was darker and isolated from the main living areas, as was typical a century ago. Relocating the kitchen gave them room to push the space out an additional 3 feet on both the side and the back, creating a breakfast bay as well as a direct connection to the adjoining sunroom-playroom-family sitting area. Another huge amenity is the handsome new elevated fireplace that replaced the erstwhile dining room’s more predictable version.

“We wanted an open, clean-lined kitchen, but cozy and a bit traditional, too,” the wife says. “And it feels as though we have it all here.”

Estelle Bond Guralnick is New England editor for Traditional Home magazine. Send comments to

  • September 26, 2010 cover
  • Sept. 26 Globe Magazine: Your Home