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The kitchen has long been a gathering place for family and friends – and that's something that hasn't changed for centuries. No matter how high-tech your home or appliances, the social factor is all important, as these kitchens illustrate

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When is a kitchen not a kitchen? When it is designed to be a library. That was the philosophy behind the design of this family living area, which incorporates kitchen facilities, but plays them down visually.

Integrated appliances and cabinetry designed as pieces of furniture help ensure the kitchen is seen as part of a large family living space, rather than a purely functional area for food preparation.

Architect Jacob Albert of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects says the house is modeled on the traditional stone farmhouses seen in Pennsylvania – combined with some of the more refined elements of a country house.

"Some aspects of the house, such as the curving bay window in the family room, are more generous and grand than would have been the case with an old farmhouse," he says. "But we have taken some of the spirit of those old homesteads – locating the kitchen-family room in the center of the house, for example."

Albert says the kitchen was always the heart of the home, the place where the family spent most of its time. For the owners of this house, that is still the case. With its comfortable seating, built-in bookcases and large fireplace, the kitchen-living space is a room for all seasons.

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In keeping with the concept of a large family gathering area, the kitchen is well equipped for entertaining – there are two ovens and a separate walk-in pantry. An island provides extra countertop space.

"The compact nature of the kitchen area makes it very easy to work in," says Albert. "Everything is right at hand."

Honed Absolute Black granite countertops are paired with white painted cabinets. These feature flat drawers at counter height, with paneled doors and drawers at lower levels. Several overhead cupboards are designed to resemble antique display cabinets.

"As we wanted the kitchen to fit with the overall look, we also avoided using a hood," says Albert. "A decorative, cast-iron grille on the backsplash doubles as a ventilation unit."

The height of the cabinets was customized to suit the owners' preferences – the countertop with the cooktop is slightly higher than the sink and island units.

To reinforce the sense of the kitchen in the heart of the home, the architect provided a strong visual connection with the rest of the house. Doors to other rooms are positioned in a line, creating a long axial view right through the house and out a window at the far end.

"The green of the surrounding fields can be glimpsed through this window, providing a further connection with the more immediate landscape," says Albert.

Soft green walls in the living room also provide a link with the outdoors.

First published date: 04 October 2006

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Credit List

Architect Jacob Albert AIA, Craig Gibson and Jim Righter, Albert Righter & Tittmann Architects (Boston)
Interior designer Ellen White, Boxwood Interiors
Builder Robert A Lawrence, Jr
Windows and doors The Woodstone Company
Flooring White oak
Cabinetry Painted wood custom cabinetry by Northbridge Woodworking
Cabinetry hardware Baldwin
Countertops and backsplash Honed Absolute Black granite
Sink Elkay
Ovens Thermador
Lighting Rejuvenation Lamp Co; Brass Light Gallery
Fireplace Rumford Design Fireplace
Drapes Osborne & Little
Coffee table Mill House Antiques