Project Diary Karen Williams: Baton Rouge Landmark Home

Karen Williams has been retained to renovate the kitchen of an historic home designed by the renowned Southern architect A. Hays Town. The Baton Rouge residence is one of about 1,000 that Town created featuring a singular style of understated elegance based on French and Spanish architecture.

a hays town courtyard a hays town interior

Like many Town homes, the one Williams is working on exudes classic Louisiana elements such as a center courtyard, raised front porch, exterior stairs, French doors with Creole-influenced, full-length shutters, and dramatic 13-foot ceilings.

It also features Town’s signature use of recycled local building materials. He was one of the first architects to salvage old floorboards, mantles or flagstones and incorporate them into new houses. Elements such as brick floors with a special beeswax finish gave his homes a comfortable, elegant feel.

Of special note to Williams is the aged cypress wood in this Baton Rouge residence, which Town incorporated because of its beauty and its innate adaptabililty to the humid climate.

Karen William's challenge is to update the kitchen while respecting the history of the A. Hay Town residence.

Williams challenge is to respect the heritage and materials of the home, which is featured in the book Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town, while creating an up-to-date kitchen.

Watch our blog as the new kitchen in this landmark home comes to life.


Choosing the right appliances

Clients often ask, “what is the best range on the market and what do I have?”  Both these questions are truly irrelevant when designing their kitchen.  As my article in East Coast Home + Design magazine this month points out, my guidance is to first obtain a better understanding of your cooking needs and lifestyles. Then I can determine your best cooking options in total.

The design of each kitchen presents multiple challenges, delegating storage and counter space requirements and then balancing the appliance requirements.

When it comes to ranges, there are many grand professional-style ranges on the market today, offering  gas, dual fuel, induction, and convection options. A few allow you to configure the burners and even allow for wok cooking. Some are more user friendly than others, and this should be discussed in detail prior to selecting a range. Some spaces are limited to a single range (cooking elements and oven in one unit).

scarsdale showhouse range

In a smaller kitchen, a range with cooking elements and ovens often makes the best use of the space.

However in a softer contemporary environment I might suggest a cooktop with a wall oven below. This allows the countertop to flow seamlessly and affords a cleaner unbroken aesthetic.

Wall ovens are preferred by many homeowners as they are placed higher and eliminate bending.

wall ovens

For this client, we chose wall ovens in part because they require no bending. And then I designed a convenient landing area to the left.

Wall ovens also are available in professional quality and when provided by the same manufacturer as the range or cooktop, offer the advantages of common design elements and handle treatments, as well as a single source warranty and service in the future.

Many range and oven manufactures also offer color and/or metal trim options. There is nothing more beautiful than adding a small splash of color to your appliances with a combination of nickel and brass, for example. Or for a big splash of color, consider a lipstick red cooking island.

With a La Cornue Chateau, we can select both the range color, and the trim and detail finishes to make the it the design centerpiece of a kitchen. Here the black range is accented with a combination of nickel and brass.

In my next post, I’ll focus on some more ideas for kitchens with experienced cooks in their household.


Karen Williams Project Diary: an English castle in Westchester

In a project fit for a king or queen, Karen Williams has begun work on the renovation of an English-style castle in Westchester, in partnership with the interior design firm Peter Balsam and Associates. (The team has done several projects together including a Kips Bay Decorator Show House kitchen.)

castle in Westchester

As part of a renovation of an English-style castle in Westchester, Karen Williams is designing a new kitchen for the owners who love to cook and entertain.

The kitchen had been poorly renovated some 35  years ago, and is much too small for the owners, who have an extended family of five kids plus grandchildren and love to cook and entertain.

Williams has planned  a bump out to double the size of the kitchen. Her goals are to capture the British manor style of the amazing stone castle in a kitchen that can handle both large scale entertaining and intimate meals for two.

Westchester castle construction, kitchen addition

Work has begun on expanding the kitchen which will be located where the concrete is being poured.

Williams is  thinking of two large islands as a way to carve out the space. From the concept, next steps are to develop and revise plans, in consultation with the homeowner and the interior design team, as well as the architect.

Watch our blog to see what happens next.


Fabulous fridge designs: Karen Williams

In the 30+ years I’ve been designing custom kitchens, the advances in built-in refrigeration have greatly expanded the options for creativity. From totally integrated units, to point-of-use drawers, there are so many fresh and practical approaches. Here are a few of my favorites.

We generally want the most refrigeration we can fit into a kitchen, yet sometimes these large units can overwhelm a space. In my own kitchen recently I used a combination of marble and wood paneling to scale down the visual size of the door.

Marble panels matching the walls and white panels matching the cabinets clad the in

Marble panels matching the walls and white panels matching the cabinets clad the refrigerator in my own kitchen. Together they make the door appear somewhat smaller.

Marble and wood together clad the front of the integrated refrigerator in my kitchen.

I also like to use mixed panels to give balance to a long kitchen wall. In our showroom, the narrow wood panels on the refrigerator repeat the scale of the slim wood front on the pullout pantry at the other end of the wall.

The wood panels with square handles mimic the pantry on the opposite end of this wall in our showroom.

The wood panels with square handles mimic the pantry on the opposite end of this wall in our showroom.

st charles of ny showrm working kit

The tall pull-out pantry on the left matches the wood panels on the concealed refrigerator, right.

Of course fully integrated refrigeration is ideal for creating armoire furniture pieces that can enhance the style statement in a room.  For example, in a Dallas kitchen I created a refrigeration furniture piece with mirrored panes in painted mullioned doors, highlighted with custom ornamental iron work for a Southwest feel.

Painted refrigerator armoire with custom iron work complements a Southwestern style kitchen I did in Dallas.

Painted refrigerator armoire with custom iron work complements a Southwestern style kitchen I did in Dallas.

And a classic armoire is timeless in a traditional kitchen. Here’s a mirrored one that I created for a previous home of mine.

A classic refrigerator armoire in a wonderful color is always right for a traditional kitchen.

A classic refrigerator armoire in a wonderful color is always right for a traditional kitchen.

Copyright 2010 St. Charles of New York.


A tale of two turkeys

On Thanksgiving Karen Williams experimented with cooking two turkeys, one conventionally in the oven and the other on her La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie. Then she put it out there to family and friends: Which is best? Hands-down, the rotisserie turkey won. Everyone thought it was much more moist and delicious. Karen appreciated that the bird, which weighed almost 11 pounds, cooked in about an hour and fifteen minutes. And there was no fuss because it self-basted. To keep the leftovers moist, she relies on another of her favorites, the steam oven. She finds it ideal for reheating turkey and stuffing because it replenishes moisture instead of drying out foods as a microwave does.

La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie

Karen Williams and a Thanksgiving guest prepared a turkey on her La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie, and roasted another one in the oven. Hands-down, everyone preferred the rotisserie turkey for its delicious moist meat.


Easy and delicious Thanksgiving turkey on my rotisserie: Karen Williams

This Thanksgiving I’m going to do the turkey on my built-in La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie. I’m planning to keep the preparation simple by rubbing the bird with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I may put some Meyer lemons in the cavity, put it on the spit, and roast for about an hour and a half. I love that there’s no basting necessary. So once the turkey is on, I can focus on doing all the sides. And if guests are running late, there’s no problem slowing down the cooking so the bird won’t dry out. Looking forward to a  moist and delicious turkey that’s easy to do.  Can’t wait for that wonderful aroma to fill my kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey on the La Cornue Flamberge rotisserie

This year I'll do the Thanksgiving turkey on my rotisserie. It's so easy and I'm sure it will turn out moist and delicious.


Karen Williams: More ways to ban boring

In her first column for East Coast Home + Design magazine, Karen Williams began a crusade against boring all-white or monochromatic kitchens. Here are a few more of her ideas to bring life and personality to your kitchen, the same way you would add embellishments to other rooms of your home with colorful fabrics, textures and details.

Mirror, mirror on the (cabinet) wall

A mirrored refrigerator armoire, stainless cabinets at the sink, and stainless feet on the mahogany cabinets keep a traditional kitchen fresh. The change in countertop material from marble to butcher block on the prep center spices it up even more.

A mirrored refrigerator armoire, stainless cabinets at the sink, and stainless feet on the mahogany cabinets freshen a traditional kitchen. The change in countertop material from marble to butcher block on the prep center spices it up even more. The marble repeats on the wall behind open shelves.

Create a centerpiece

The lipstick red cooking island dresses up this kitchen and makes everything around it look extra special. Think beyond     around

The lipstick red cooking island dresses up this kitchen and makes everything around it look extra special. Think beyond the predictable stainless when it comes to appliances. This range takes center stage on its own tile "rug."

In the hood

A dramatic hood can take center stage in a kitchen, becoming a focal point. Here Williams created a custom metal hood with special strapping detail. Other options such as wood or plaster hoods can also elevate a kitchen.

A dramatic hood can take center stage in a kitchen, becoming a focal point. Here Williams created a custom metal hood with special strapping detail. Other options such as wood or plaster hoods can also elevate a kitchen.

Dish it up

A glass-front china cabinet brings a fun burst of color to a kitchen without overwhelming the room.

A glass-front china cabinet brings a fun burst of color to a kitchen without overwhelming the room.

While Willliams does not advocate a free-spirited potpourri of color and fashion in a kitchen, she does believe that mixing materials, textures and colors adds a sophisticated and subtle excitement that can’t be achieved with a more conventional approach.

Copyright 2010 St. Charles of New York




Karen Williams: Banish the bland and boring

In her new column Kitchen Cookbook for East Coast Home + Design magazine, Karen Williams writes that far too many homeowners default to the safety of all-white kitchens or a dull line-up of matching wood cabinets. Yet some simple techniques can go a long way toward embellishing and personalizing the most frequented room in the home.

Here the Kitchen Mixmaster offers a few of her ideas for banishing the boring, banal and bland without going overboard.

Heat it up with color in the cooking center

A blue range with matching cabinets on either side creates a cooking center that enlivens a white kitchen. Glass doors and a stainless drawer also mix it up.

A blue range with matching cabinets on either side creates a cooking center that enlivens a white kitchen. Glass doors and stainless drawers mix it up even more.

Look the room up and down

williams scarsdale overall

Ceilings and floors are the largest areas of a kitchen, but the also the most frequently ignored when it comes to adding personality. Here Williams created a lovely soft ceiling treatment with detailed molding and a subtle paint color. And on the floor a tile mosaic "area rug" defines the space in front of the range. All are tasteful ways of escaping the mundane.

Counter play can be fun

Three countertop materials are artfully combined in this kitchen. Calacutta gold marble on the island inter- sects with a round American walnut butcher block prep center. Elsewhere, lava stone in a custom blue color coor- dinates with the wall tile.

Mixing up three different counter top materials brings life to an all-wood kitchen. Calacutta gold marble on the island intersects with a round American walnut butcher block prep center. Around the perimeter Williams brought in lava stone in a custom blue color to coordinate with the wall tile.

Treat walls wonderfully

A tile mosaic treated as a piece of art and illuminated with a picture light takes a white kitchen to a new level. The butcher block top on the prep station brings more texture to the space.

A tile mosaic treated as a piece of art and illuminated with a picture light takes a white kitchen to a new level. The butcher block top on the prep station brings more texture to the space.

Any kitchen can easily be elevated with a little creativity. For that bland  white or all-wood kitchen, the antidote is discriminate use of color, detail, texture and pattern. Stay tuned for more ways to banish boring.

Copyright 2010 St. Charles of New York


Preserving summer: Karen Williams

Now that summer is fading fast, I’m so glad I’ve  preserved the farm fresh tomatoes from the Hamptons to last me until next year.  They’ll taste wonderful in a sauce this winter.

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How great are these tomatoes? We're so lucky to have such fresh local produce.

It was off to the farmer’s market to stock up on several boxes of deliciously ripe tomatoes, as well as other local produce. Then home to spread everything out and get started. Thank goodness I have a large dining table that doubles as a holding area for all my goodies.

My dining area flows right into the kitchen, so the table is perfect for staging all my goodies from the farmer's market.

My dining area flows right into the kitchen, so the table is perfect for staging all my goodies from the farmer's market.

From there, I can move the tomatoes onto the prep island, where I peel and score them right on the teak countertop. Since this is the second sink, I’m not in anyone’s way while I work.

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My prep island with teak countertop and second sink makes it easy to work. And with the open storage below, a bowl or pot is easy to grab.

With a view out to the dining room and the family room beyond, I don’t miss out on anything that’s going on while I’m in the kitchen.

That's a lot of tomatoes.

That’s a lot of tomatoes.

From the prep island, it’s just a few steps to the range, where I can begin cooking everything down.

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My range easily accommodates a big stock pot. And I love the versatility of the griddle which closes up to give me more landing space right next to the burner.

Here’s where it’s important to have good ventilation. Otherwise generating all this heat on a summer afternoon would not be fun.

These will make lots of wonderful sauce this winter. I still remember coming home from school to the delicious aro in my mother's kitchen. No wonder I became a kitchen designer. ma in my

These will make wonderful sauce this winter. I still remember coming home from school to the delicious aroma in my Italian mother's kitchen. No wonder I became a kitchen designer...I love to cook.