Design Challenge: Through the Window

In the world of luxury kitchen design, designers and clients alike seek to achieve a level of grandeur in their work– perhaps in the form of a drop dead gorgeous burgundy La Cornue island, a statement light fixture, or a massive semiprecious countertop. But sometimes these heavy-hitters are simply too big to be brought up in an elevator or up the stairs – what then? 


Let us take a scenario I recently encountered in for a client with an elegantly appointed loft on the upper east side. The client wanted a 9 x 5 foot Carrara marble island; one continuous, giant slab. This piece, however, couldn’t fit even horizontally in the largest elevator in the building!

While the facades of luxury high-rises in Manhattan echo grandeur of an earlier time, their interiors especially back and service entrances often also reflect an older period- one of far more diminutive proportions! These narrow staircases and petite elevators were truly not built for the rigors of modern construction nor the magnitude of modern taste.

The alternative: We take out the windows and hoist the giant countertop in on a crane!

Fortunately, kitchen designers are not alone in their woes of spacial constraints. Often the decorator will need the crane as well to bring in an oversize sofa, large works of art, or (classically) a grand piano.

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These pieces are brought up near the end of the job, when almost everything else is in place. Decorators, designers, and architects team up to ensure that all oversize items are coordinated to be hoisted up on the same day. Often the entire street will have to be blocked off for several to accommodate the crane as it carefully hauls up materials piece by piece.

While attempting to install a kitchen on the twentieth (or higher!) floor poses significant challenges, private houses are often just as difficult if not more challenging to install. Fortunately many kitchens are built on the ground floor of the home but, as to any rule, there are always exceptions. When I renovated the kitchen for a brownstone in Brooklyn where the kitchen was situated on the second floor (pictured left). The design of the kitchen was sleek and I specified some heavy-hitting appliances that would suit the needs of a busy family and high volume kitchen: a large integrated Sub Zero refrigerator and a Wolf range.

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Normally these appliances can be brought up (thankfully) in a service elevator for apartment buildings; but here, there was no service elevator and the stairs in the house curved gracefully in a way that would simply not accommodate their substantial size. As a result, these two appliances had to be hoisted by crane up just one story to that second floor and brought in via the balcony. A lot of work for such a short distance.

The added effort (and drama) that can arise from designing and installing on a larger scale, makes these kitchens just that much more special and unique. It allows the kitchen to acquire a narrative ofits own- and isn’t that what having a custom kitchen design all about? So for your next project feel free to dream large, but be aware that the oversize pieces require substantial productions to execute! 

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

It’s January 2nd and that means we are already two days in to our New Year’s resolutions. I think it is a pretty safe bet to say that organization is part of your plan. Am I right? With that in mind, let’s start in the kitchen!

Less is more…too much counter space serves to create clutter.  It’s different stations that are important for organization. I am an avid cook, so it’s helpful to have room around the sink. Outfitting it with accessories like cutting boards, colanders and a pull-out faucet makes it easy to prep fruits and vegetables. Another station many clients appreciate is a breakfast/snack area that can be concealed by a drop-down switch-operated panel or behind a cabinet door. It is zoned for breakfast prep and as a station where kids can make snacks without intruding on the rest of kitchen.


Also be sure to place items where they logically should be – the trash area is near the clean up area, the knives are near the cutting surface in the prep area, pots and pans are near the range.

Hope these tips were helpful! Here’s to a happy, healthy and organized 2013!

~Karen Williams

A Look Inside My Kitchen in NYC

Designing my own kitchen was a great pleasure, because I knew just what I wanted–both from a cooking and a design perspective. That’s why I’m so glad I was able to share my project with Better Homes and Gardens’ Kitchens & Baths magazine in their Winter 2012 issue. As anyone who lives in NYC knows, space is precious and always a challenge. However, there are solutions to create more out of less.  I shared some of my space maximizing tips and tricks with the magazine’s editors. Below are a few key things I kept in mind when thinking about my kitchen planning.

Consider counter space: While more counter space may seem like a good idea, it can be a catchall for all kinds of clutter.  In the cooking zone, for example, you only need enough counter space to use as a landing spot for a pan, a platter, or a spatula.

Add variety: Use different materials in the same cabinent type or the same elevation–it can change the overall architectural feel of the room.

I’ve shared some pages of the feature with you here. It’s also on St Charles USA‘s Facebook page and the issue is available at newsstands now. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens’ Kitchens and Baths!

Happy reading!






























Enjoy a Taste of T at A & D!

Sandy cannot prevent the New York Times Style Magazine and the Architects & Designers Building from their mission to raise money for God’s Love We Deliver, and we are excited to be part of it!  This charitable organization is the tri-state area’s leading provider of nutritious, individually-tailored meals for those who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. Tackling the crises hunger and illness, they generously deliver “food as medicine.”

We are inviting you through our doors and into our kitchen to celebrate an evening of food, design, and health!

Joining you in our showroom will be esteemed chef Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar with her deliciously unreal lobster rolls. Also offering his taste will be Simpson Wong of Wong, who has won over the taste buds of fellow artistic visionary Martha Stewart with his delicious pan-Asian cuisine.

New York’s premier food and design event will take place on Thursday, November 8, 2012 from 6 to 8:30 PM.  Bring your appetite!

Click here for tickets and to see a full list of participants.



Trends Magazine Recognizes St Charles in Top 50 American Kitchens List

At St Charles, we love what we do and feel lucky to be recognized for our rewarding work. A happy client and a project well done is what make us happy. That said, we can’t say we’re not proud to have been a part of the design team of one of Trends magazine’s Top 50 American Kitchens!

Overlooking Central Park, the pied-à-terre was a stunning piece of real estate—except for the kitchen! Headed by my fellow St Charles Principal Robert Schwartz and the owner’s architect & interior designer, the space in question was transformed into a chic kitchen that matched the rest of the luxe abode. Trends called it out for its excellence in design, function, product specification and style.

Check out the coverage here (and below)

We congratulate all those who worked with us on the project & our industry peers who also made the list!

And thank you to Trends!

~Karen Williams


GLitz and glitter kitchen by karen williams draws crowds at Architectural Digest Home Design Show

A rich burgundy La Cornue Château island set off by a stunning 24Kt platinum gold mosaic wall and  gilded sconces drew big crowds to Karen Williams’ glitzy and glamorous  French kitchen at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show last week.

Visitors were also intrigued by the unique La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie, a favorite of Williams.

Karen Williams' glitzy and glamorous kitchen was a big hit at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show

In addition to designing a show-stopping vignette for La Cornue, Williams participated in “The Evolving Kitchen” panel discussion along with celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto and Anne Puricelli, director, La Cornue North America.  Williams stressed that as an enthusiastic cook, she designs kitchens today with an emphasis on stations to accommodate several cooks, rather than around the old-fashioned work triangle.

Karen Williams AD Home Design Show panel
Karen Williams participated in “The Evolving Kitchen” panel discussion at the Architectural Design Home Design Show.

She also talked about creating zones or multiple islands in large kitchens to make them more user-friendly. And she outlined her approach to creating relaxing culinary spaces in vacation homes.

Karen Williams at The Evolving Kitchen panel discussion
Williams said she often designs a breakfast center in a second home kitchen  because it’s such a leisurely meal on weekends and vacations.

KAREN Williams blends the perfect French Burgundy kitchen for La Cornue at the Architectural Digest Show

For the upcoming Architectural Digest Home Design Show, March 22-25 in New York, Karen Williams has blended the perfect French Burgundy kitchen for La Cornue. inspired by the famous colorful and gilded rooms of the Chateau de Cormatin, one of the loveliest in Burgundy, the striking kitchen will be on display in booth 475.

Karen Williams La Cornue kitchen
Karen Williams’ glamorous kitchen for La Cornue at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show

“I love the rich colors and splendor of  this historic  landmark and wanted to capture that feeling in this kitchen,” Williams notes. She set a La Cornue Chateau cooktop into a custom island with integrated sink, surrounded by  burgundy Chateau metal cabinetry accented with polished brass and polished stainless.  Then she layered on more richness with sparkling 24-kt platinum gold mosaic Sicis mosaic wall tile and glittering Bagues sconces.  The La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie would be right at home in the early 17th century Chateau as well as in today’s modern kitchens.  The Paris Ceramics gray and white stone floor lends a comfortable warmth to the space along with the  Pyrolave French lava stone counters that appear delicately aged.

See it at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, March 22-25, Pier 94, 55 Street at 12th Avenue.

Register at

For the birds: Karen Williams designs an aviary

More than a kitchen designer, Karen Williams also specializes in  interior space planning. And not just for people.

Her latest clients are a flock of exotic birds including a striking pink cockatoo for whom she is designing an aviary. She’ll feather their nest with walnut cabinetry housing their seed and other necessities. They must have tweeted her plans already, because she just received another request for an aviary project.

Karen's aviary project

Karen Williams plans to feather the nest of this pink cockatoo with custom walnut cabinetry. That's worth tweeting about!