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! 

Robert Schwartz on the cover of East Coast Home + Design magazine

The cover story this month on East Coast Home + Design magazine is a Brooklyn kitchen designed by Robert Schwartz. Centerpiece of the stunning kosher kitchen is a dramatic underlit marble island, crafted with custom black cabinetry accented by silver trim and glittering Swarovski hardware.

East Coast Home + Design cover

The cover of East Coast Home + Design features a stunning kitchen by Robert Schwartz.

The magazine noted that Schwartz is “renowned for creating one-of-a-kind, highly custom culinary spaces for discerning clients.”  In this case, he devised both a meat and a dairy kitchen all correlating around the island as the axis of the room.  A separate coffee bar continues the use of rich millwork and marble, with the added advantage of a hidden two-sided pantry. Read all about it at www.echomeanddesign. com.

East Coast Home + Design magazine

The magazine noted that Schwartz's kitchen is a "study in how varied textures and finishes can combine to elevate a room design to new levels."

A Blitz of Glitz: Robert Schwartz does the ultimate man cave

“Everyone knows what a kitchen looks like, but often people hire us to do an adjunct to the kitchen or a bar,” says Robert Schwartz, explaining why he threw caution to the wind and converted a bland conference room in his showroom into the ultimate leather-clad Man Cave.

“We were going for drama,” admits Schwartz, adding,”there’s a lot of bling.”

Man Cave St. Charles of New York Showroom

A blitz of glitz, the new Man Cave at the St. Charles of New York showroom.

The Mad-Man-worthy space is about 8×9. The glitz starts with base cabinets of quartered European larch, finished in a 100% gloss lacquered sheen. Not to be outdone, the wall cabinets are in a taupe-bronze shade of car paint with metallic flecking and high lacquered sheen. And to polish it all off, all the doors and drawers have nickel frames done by same guys who do all the work for Harley in York, Pa.

LEDs in Man Cave

LEDS light up automatically when doors are opened. Cabinet frame was done by the guys who work on Harleys.

When opened, every door and drawer activates LED lighting and even the glass rollouts have LEDs. “We’re using these a lot more now,” Schwartz reports. “When people see it, they really want it.”

The lights sparkle in the mirrored and lacquer covered backsplashes.

As always with St. Charles of New York, one-of-kind artisanal touches abound. The countertop is blue tiger eye semiprecious stone, each slab pieced together by hand.

                                                                                                               Blue tiger eye countertop

Hand-pieced blue tiger eye countertop is just one unusual material in the new St. Charles of New York bar.

Robert Schwartz with countertop slab

Robert Schwartz says its was worth the wait for his handcrafted semiprecious stone countertop.

When Schwartz couldn’t find a rectangular polished nickel sink, he commissioned a metal crafter to build and plate one to his specs. The faucet was custom made as well.

And should anyone bounce off the Man Cave walls, they’ll encounter the finest Edelman leather.

cutting Edelman leather

A premium Edelman leather hide is cut on the premises at the St. Charles of New York showroom to cover walls of the bar.

The icing on the cake? The Octopus Baccarat fixture with 16 arms and light lavender colored Murano glass.

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!