Text by: Nancy E. Berry
Designing an efficient home kitchen for a professional chef is no easy feat. Toss in the request that the kitchen also be traditional, eco-friendly, and open-yet-intimate, and a designer can have a real challenge. Patrick Farley of Watershed Architects—a company that’s dedicated to healthy, sustainable homes—met the challenge, and designed an eco-kitchen worthy of its professional chef and homeowner Morgan Bartolini. “After college I became interested in holistic living,” Morgan says, who studied healthy cooking techniques in Europe before moving to rural Virginia. She not only wanted a kitchen where she could prepare healthy meals for her family but also one that promoted healthy indoor air quality.
Opening It Up
“Simple, small, and healthy were the overarching requests for this kitchen’s design,” Farley says, so one of the first things he did was introduce an open floor plan on the first floor. The kitchen, dining room, and living room now easily flow into one another. With this layout, the homeowner is able to interact with family and friends while cooking. Farley also oriented the center island workstation to the south so the homeowner can take in beautiful views while prepping vegetables or washing dishes. While the island’s work surface is 36” tall, the island’s bar top is 42” tall, smartly hiding kitchen clutter from the rest of the living spaces.
Borrowing from Tradition
Morgan wanted the kitchen to resemble traditional farmhouses in the area. Her kitchen boasts a soft, Zen-like palette of muted green—a color used in kitchens of the early 1900s. The design team chose traditional white subway tiles (easy to clean!) for the backsplash. Like kitchens of yesterday, this kitchen is small and efficient but still offers ample countertop space for creating gourmet meals.
Farley designed the cabinets and center island with a simple inset beaded panel with period bin pulls and cupboard catches for an older look. The upper cabinets have glass doors so Morgan is able to display dishes. Farley counterbalanced the traditional look with contemporary stainless-steel appliances.
Farley, Morgan, and interior designer Carol Lynn Forman chose materials and finishes for their eco-friendly or healthy properties. A bank of energy-efficient windows in the kitchen and dining area facilitates cross ventilation. The cabinets are painted with zero-VOC milk paint. Builders used formaldehyde-free plywood, strawboard, and insulation, as well as solvent-free adhesives in the construction of the cabinets. Walls are finished in low-VOC paints by Sherwin Williams. Undermounted low-voltage puck lights offer eco efficient task lighting.
Whenever possible, the team incorporated salvaged and local materials into the kitchen. The exposed timber frame, for example, is constructed from Douglas fir beams reclaimed from the bottom of the St. Lawrence River. Heart pine flooring was salvaged from a Shenandoah Valley tobacco barn. All wall studs and roof rafters are FSC-certified from Louisiana.
The design team also introduced Virginia-quarried soapstone kitchen countertops. “Soapstone is a natural material with a high thermal mass making it heat resistant and durable,” says Farley. It’s also a traditional kitchen material for a work surface. The energy-efficient Tulikivi fireplace in the kitchen offers yet another radiant heat source. During the winter months Morgan bakes bread in the fireplace’s bake oven.