It’s All in the Details

The Perfect Detail

Kitchens are such personal spaces they deserve really personal touches: something that makes a room truly one’s own, and one-of-a-kind. Why would you want anything less in a space that so often ends up being the hub of a house, whether it’s on a weekday morning or during holiday celebrations?

Lots of people can make a beautiful kitchen, but I’m interested in creating one that not only looks incredible, but feels even better —and that’s all about special touches and personalization.

Thankfully, I’ve got lots of help! I’m always on the hunt for really talented artisans and vendors to supply pieces for various projects, and getting to know how they work. I believe these collaborations are part of what makes St. Charles unique.

I recently completed two projects with tailor-made elements, both of which would not have been possible without the artisans who helped create them.

The original detailed rosette and hardware I found at the artisan’s showroom in Paris.

In the case of the first piece, I was working on a dressing area for a client in Baton Rouge, and had a very specific vision of the kind of drawer pull I wanted to use. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find one to match the hardware I had in my minds’ eye.

It was during a trip to Paris, while touring the showroom of a longtime supplier that I came upon a beautiful, detailed rosette that seemed perfect. The problem: it didn’t have a handle. “But”, I thought, “couldn’t we make it into one?” I love a good challenge like that!

Thankfully, I’ve been working with the vendor for years, and they partnered with me to do just that. The result is the beautiful piece pictured here.

The finished dressing area with custom drawer pulls created for the piece.

When she saw it, my client said, “You wouldn’t find anything like that anywhere else,” and it makes me so happy to hear something like that.  It means I’ve done my job of creating something extraordinary and personal.  I believe it’s little details like a unique piece of hardware that you love, that you use every day, and see every day that make all the difference.

That was a small detail with a big impact. For another job, we created a bold and dramatic statement piece, drawing inspiration from the color of the client’s cookware.

The client’s Le Creuset pot and a sample of the blue enamel we created for the one-of-kind La Cornue.

An avid cook, this client loved the rich foam blue enamel of her Le Creuset cast iron pots. I wanted to integrate the color into the design, but in an unexpected, and special way.

My client ended up getting a piece that was unmistakably hers: a custom La Cornue range in the exact color of her cookware. (Which of course, would not have been possible without our great partners at La Cornue; they really rose to the challenge!)

The range was unlike any created, and I visited the plant to make sure production was going smoothly. It was such a treat to be a part of the process. The end result was the stunning range you see pictured here, which I can assure you, is the only one in the world!

To me, this is a perfect example of how, when St. Charles, a client, and our exceptional vendors work together, we can create truly special living spaces.

The finished range being installed


My Trip to Paris and La Cornue Part Two

While in Paris, I couldn’t resist a trip to the world-famous Les Puces flea market, where there’s a little piece of history for everyone, be it a charm with just the right patina, an objet d’art for the mantle or curiosity for your cabinet.  It’s a great place to soak up the character of Paris, both past and present.

Rue Montorgueil photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist

When I’m in Paris, I love to visit Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian market

As a cook, I love shopping for food, which means I always drop in to Rue Montorgueil. This central city pedestrian street market is known for its fish and shellfish vendors, but everything, from the fresh produce in a rainbow of colors to the delectable looking baked goods make this a must-see for anyone who appreciates fine food.

One of my favorite stops on the trip was the Rodin Museum. A nice alternative to the somewhat overwhelming scope of the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, this smaller museum features powerful works by the sculptor such as The Kiss and The Thinker, as well as additional pieces by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. Walking through the stunning courtyard filled with the artist’s work and luscious roses is a quintessential Parisian experience.

Thoumieux, chef Jean-Michel Piege’s brasserie located inside the Hotel Thoumiuex.

Highlights of my gastronomic tour included dinner at the trendy Thoumieux, the brasserie located inside the Hotel Thoumiuex. Jean-Michel Piege, former chef of the two-Michelin star Les Ambassadeurs oversees the kitchen here, and did not disappoint.

Other stops included Philippe Starck’s Ma Cocette, located in the center of Les Puces, chef Otis Lebert’s intimate and quintessentially French bistro featuring market cuisine, Le Taxi Jaune, and Le Cinq Mars, which serves classic French comfort food. I also enjoyed a dinner in the new (and larger) La Cornue showroom prepared by the company’s chef Patrick Laurent.

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know there’s no shortage of day trip possibilities, from Versailles to Père Lachaise to Chartres cathedral. I hopped on a TGV train for Reims to spend a day in the Champagne region.

In addition to being home to a stunning 12th century cathedral, Reims hosts Pommery, one of the most famous and largest French Champagne houses. Founded in 1858, the Pommery estate features lush landscapes, meticulously restored architecture, and of course, Champagne caves! After sampling the fruits of the house, we headed to Les Crayeres to enjoy the phenomenal cuisine of Grand Chef Philippe Mille. Nestled in a 2-½ acre park, the restaurant boasts a wine list that features more than four hundred Champagne labels. (When in Rome!)

The Entrance to Les Crayeres

I also went a little further afield with a jaunt to Denmark to visit Scanomat in Copenhagen. If you’re an espresso enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that Scanomat’s TopBrewer has just been introduced for the residential kitchen. I got to survey their latest products, which I can already picture as part of my designs.

I’m now back in New York and hard at work on several exciting projects. I really find that’s there’s nothing like a trip to Paris to get the creative juices flowing.

My recent trip to Paris and the La Cornue factory

Photo by Jean-Christophe Bendist

Aren’t the Tuileries Gardens just glorious in Spring?

As a designer, I find travel to be one of the most effective ways to get new ideas. I’ve just returned from an energizing trip to Paris — one of my favorite places to soak up creative inspiration — and wanted to share some of the highlights with you. It was full of food, fun, and fascinating people and places.

Envisioning and creating one-of-a-kind custom kitchens is a true labor of love for me. The process is as satisfying as seeing the final product installed in a client’s home. That’s why it is especially gratifying when I have the opportunity to visit and personally meet the suppliers and craftspeople around the world who create the individual elements of St. Charles of New York designs.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited for another tour of the 105 year-old factory of La Cornue, artisan manufacturers of exquisite kitchen ranges.

Located in the French countryside just 45 minutes outside of Paris in the town of Saint-Ouen-l’Aumone, La Cornue produces some of the finest kitchen ranges in the world. Owned and operated by the Dupuy family for three generations, the company employs just 60 people, who painstakingly craft each La Cornue range by hand.

Karen at the La Cornue Factory

Here I am at the La Cornue Factory

Of course, I’ve always thought La Cornue ranges were beautiful, but seeing them being created piece by piece by craftsmen in the French countryside makes me appreciate them all over again. La Cornue produces only a few hundred ranges a year, and each one is created by a single person from start to finish — like a true work of art. No assembly lines here! It was such a treat to see this wonderful tradition of excellence and attention to detail in action and up close.

Capping off the trip to the factory, we had delightful lunch at the historic Auberge Ravoux, or House of Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, where the influential artist spent his prolific last days. It’s easy to see why this region inspired the Dutch painter; the rustic charm, lush and pastoral landscapes, and vivid hues depicted in his work are still found here and I left brimming with notes and ideas.

Auberge Ravoux

Auberge Ravoux where Van Gogh spent his last days

And that was just the countryside. If you’ve ever been to Paris in the spring, you know it’s a magical time there.

More about that next week…

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

Another Project in Glossy Pages

Wanted to also share this coverage of our 2012 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse kitchen in #Design Trade magazine with you. Fellow St Charles Principal Robert Schwartz and I love supporting the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club through its Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse. Each time we try to design a kitchen better than the last…this marks the 4th year we have participated (other years include 2003, 2006 & 2009)! Thanks to #Design Trade for the feature.

Have a great weekend!































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!






























A Great Event for A Great Cause: BITTT Fundraiser

Following up on my last post, I wanted to share some photos from BiTTT‘s Holiday Fundraising Party on Thursday. I was proud that St Charles was a sponsor. I’m also excited to be one of the mentors to the talented young lady who was awarded a scholarship for her outstanding essay and design project submission.

~Karen Williams

Robert Schwartz and I with Daniel Quintero, Executive Director of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club (far right)













Always love to be a part of the goody bags!

Kicking Off the Holidays with BiTTT

I’m so proud to be a supporter of BiTTT, Bring it to the Table, a leading networking group for women in design. The growth the group has experienced in the two years since its inception has been truly moving. Together, we are now hoping to make a difference in a young woman’s life. St Charles is delighted to be a sponsor of the Holiday Fundraising Party they are hosting on Thursday, November 15 to raise funds for a female, full-time BFA sophomore at NYSID. Eligible students applied by writing an essay describing what motivated them study interior design and submitting photos of a residential design project.

In addition to being presented with an award at the event by BiTTT founder Lana Lawrence and interior designer Alexa Hampton, the winning student will be mentored for the remaining three years of her study at NYSID by designers including myself, Katie Ridder, David Kleinberg, and others. As a parent, I know how important the proper guidance, mentoring and encouragement can be, and I am honored to be able to play such a significant role in the life of a student who represents the future of interior design. I absolutely cannot wait to meet this special young lady and I am looking forward to helping and watching her grow into a successful, devoted and inspiring designer!

~Karen Williams