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? 

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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! 


Karen Williams Project Diary: an English Castle in Westchester

Behind the scenes in an atelier in France, the renovation of a kitchen in an English-style castle in Westchester is beginning to come to life. Karen Williams has selected pewter bar area countertops for their old-world charm and beautiful patina.

After careful checking and double checking of drawings and specifications, the hands-on work has begun. First, the wood base is meticulously fabricated.

wood base for pewter countertop

In a French atelier, work on a pewter countertop begins with the meticulous building of the wood base.

Then the pewter is laid over the base.

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Pewter is laid over the wood base for the countertop.

Then the metal artisans begin the hand work of applying the pewter, using age-old techniques.

pewter countertop atelier

Using age-old techniques, the pewter countertop is fabricated in a French workshop.

Hand crafting a pewter countertop

Handcrafted pewter countertop will add old world grace to a renovated kitchen and bar in Westchester.

Karen Williams regularly seeks out one-of-a-kind resources in the U.S. and abroad for her discriminating clients.  Like this handcrafted pewter countertop, her special sources always bring a unique touch to her projects.

Next up: the countertop and a French range arrive at the Westchester location.


Pro’s Picks: Unearthing Rare Brazilian Stone

Constantly on the lookout for the most unusual resources for his discriminating clients, Robert Schwartz uncovered a rare iceberg quartz from Brazil a year ago. He was attracted by its beautiful marble-like veining and clarity, plus its zero porosity, and thought it would make an excellent alternative to Calacutta Gold marble.

Intrigued, he immediately decided to test it out on his own kitchen table.

It performed impeccably, proving totally impervious to oil, wine, lemon and other acids with virtually no maintenance required. So Schwartz was convinced he could offer it with confidence.

Then began an exhaustive search for high quality slabs, but everything he saw was unacceptably yellow and overly variegated. Not at all suitable for his ultra-selective clients.

robert schwartz selecting rare brazilian stone

Eureka! After an exhaustive search, Robert Schwartz finally found the perfect pristine slabs of rare Brazilian quartz for his discriminating clients. The combination of beautiful veining and zero porosity makes this a most special resource.

Finally his persistence paid off and he struck gold…or quartz…finding the finest, most pristine slabs of the exotic stone. There’s nothing like it on the market, he reports.

Schwartz takes great pleasure in unearthing rare finds, knowing his clients always appreciate something unique.