Bold features open up an old-school kitchen

February 02, 2009|By PATRICIA SHERIDAN / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Interior designer Kay Wiegand cooked up a foolproof recipe for adding a little Italian flavor to her very traditional, very American, Edgeworth, Pa., home. The house, a girls boarding school during the Civil War, has all of the architectural elements you would expect from something built in 1833 -- deep molding, high ceilings, original glass and two-story plantation-style colonnades along the front porch.

What you don't expect to find is an airy, 900-square-foot kitchen with a decidedly contemporary manner. It was a bold move incorporating something so modern into something so old-school, but Wiegand and her husband, Roger, are not timid when it comes to thoughtful updating. The kitchen was small and cut off from the rest of the house, so the couple decided to open things up.

"My personal philosophy is, if you have a great old house and you tear it apart, you want to make sure you maintain some historical integrity and retain a sense of flow," says Wiegand, owner of the design business Kay Wiegand Inc.


The main ingredient used to tie the differing styles together is color.

"Kay is known for her sense of color," says Stacy Weiss, owner of Weisshouse in Pittsburgh.

The furniture retailer represents Poliform Varenna, the Italian manufacturer that Wiegand chose for her kitchen. In it, the dominant rich caramel plays off the sleek Ovangkol touch-latch wood cabinets, giving the room a warm, welcoming feel rather than the cold clinical look some contemporary kitchens take on. It also connects well with the more traditional rooms, which are done in vibrant blues, greens and deep coral.

"I like crayon colors, and I enjoy using color wherever I can," Wiegand says.

Because four smaller rooms had to come down to create the new kitchen space, planning alone took about five months.

"We worked with Kay and architect Bill Childes from Ohio and Ron Reinheimer, who helped sketch out the plans for the kitchen," Weiss says.

As walls came down, steel beams were added to shore up the ceiling.

"We had a leak from the chimney, which caused the ceiling to crash down on the floor. It was a disaster, but we ended up with radiant-heated floors because of it," Wiegand says.

The ceramic-tile floor is very cozy underfoot now. An 18-foot-long island with a notched area for seating at one end is a gathering spot for friends and family, including the Wiegands' three children and four grandchildren. The extra-long island is practical, too, loaded with storage space and appliances. Blizzard-white stone countertops on the island and sink are easy to keep looking new, unlike more high-maintenance stone such as marble and granite.

"I didn't want this space to be fussy," notes Wiegand.

No fuss but lots of storage were some of the directives she gave to the Weisshouse team.

"I really didn't want to lose the storage space I had with the four rooms that were removed," she says.

All of the drawers and some doors open with just a touch, and other cabinets have only streamlined horizontal bars for latches. The result is a clean, seamless look. Behind the sleek surface is room for everything, including a water cooler, an icemaker, a trash smasher, a dishwasher, two sinks and two refrigerators. In keeping with the uncluttered aesthetic, all plugs and switches are hidden under the over-counter cabinets and recessed lighting makes the coral-colored glass tile backsplash glow. White lacquered cabinets above the main sink also set off the tiles and add another dimension to the room.

"We pored over hundreds of different tiles looking for just the right color," says Wiegand, adding that it was one of the harder decisions.

Icon Construction was the general contractor on the project and Carpenter Construction installed the Poliform cabinets.

What to do with the little basement door was another dilemma. It was solved with a nod to the nautical -- a porthole-style window. The stair rail to the right was done in horizontal stainless steel, making everything look shipshape.

"We added a stainless-steel countertop under one of the kitchen windows with a basin for plants, which can be watered without worrying about ruining the countertop," Weiss notes.

A built-in banquette done in camel leather piped in cream surrounds a large oval Saarinen table from Weisshouse, and an oversized ottoman is strategically placed near the in-wall gas fireplace surrounded by rectangular bamboo tiles.

Patricia Sheridan can be reached at

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