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Kitchen inspirations
Design ideas for the serious chef or consummate party host



When Rebecca Guralnick and husband Michael entertain in their newly remodeled Bayside home, Rebecca sets up a buffet right on the island. "When we entertain we donít even need the rest of the house to exist," she says. The renovation project by Fein Design, Mequon, opened the kitchen to the family room and the living room, created a mudroom and remodeled the master bathroom.

When chef Rebecca Guralnick put together plans for her dream kitchen, she had a few more requirements than your average cook, starting with a 12-foot island in the heart of the space.

Guralnick is a chef at the Jewish Community Centerís new kosher restaurant, CafA B Data. She also does private catering and offers cooking classes out of her Bayside home. "My cooking background really drove the design of the kitchen," she says.

Though the large island raised the eyebrows of contractors and even architect/builder Rory Palubiski of Fein Design, Mequon. Guralnick says it isnít as big as it could have been. "I could have seen it a foot bigger," she says.

"(Since) there is not really any other kind of counter space, it works well," Palubiski says.

One end of the island drops to a 30-inch bakerís counter and swing-up shelves on either side house a food processor, blender and other small appliances, all plugged in and ready to go.

Other features in this cookís kitchen include a U-Line drink fridge in the island, a large pantry, an indoor grill and three convection ovens. "I usually dedicate one for sweet and one for savory," Guralnick says. The third, about half the size of a regular-sized oven and located in the Wolf range, is for reheating.

The custom pot rack was designed by Guralnick and Gonen Liberman of Iron Creations, who hand-forged all the hooks.

The Carmen Terra Cotta granite on the island and the knotty cherry cabinetry complement the Ann Sacks Tile Jerusalem Stone backsplash. "That was the first design feature I picked," Guralnick says of the Jerusalem Stone. "All of the colors flowed from picking that backsplash."

The cherry cabinetry is painted chestnut and the wall paint is Stonewear with brown glaze. Juperana Bordeaux granite tops both the island and the counters. Wisconsin Kitchen Mart interior designer Nadine Millot assisted with the selections.

The 1970s kitchen in the Bayside home of Dan and Julie Rosenfeld, though stylish for the time, wasnít a practical use of space by todayís standards. The U-shaped kitchen featured cabinets over a peninsula that separated the work space from the dining space. "They really didnít like the communication block," says Russ Waters, kitchen designer with Wisconsin Kitchen Mart, Milwaukee.

The main goals in remodeling the space were to open up the area, update the appliances and have it reflect the coupleís design tastes. "Their design is more elaborate," Waters says. "We wanted this kitchen to jump out and sing.

"I had to come up with a design that allowed for an island of a significant size. Luckily room was big enough to do that without breaking any design rules," Waters says.

He also had to make up for the loss of the cabinets in the peninsula. The new space incorporates a chefís pantry, storage in the island and additional cabinets in the adjoining sun room and dining room.

"To create punch and character, I drew upon European design," Waters says. He accomplished that by incorporating rope molding, carvings and pediment arches into the design. "I wanted some architectural flair and to make every place you look in that kitchen special," Waters says. In addition, the unique ceiling panel helps to define the space.

The Rosenfelds were no strangers to remodeling projects, previously completing a 1,000-square-foot second-story addition. Julie Rosenfeld had lots of magazine pages and ideas to bring to the table, among them the mini chandelier light fixtures and the use of different woods to create a classic look.

Her three children, ages 3, 11 and 13, like to gather at the island, Rosenfeld says. "I love that I have the counter space for when we donít have family meals."

Her favorite features are the openness and warmth of the room and the updated appliances. "The kitchen is elegant, yet it functions for a family," she says.

Features of Marge Konigís kitchen addition are stainless steel appliances, including warming and microwave drawers and a three-bowl stainless steel sink.

Marge Konig likens her 1874 farmhouse to Abe Lincolnís axe in Springfield, Ill. ó the one that has had 10 new handles and five new blades.

She and her late husband bought the Grafton farmhouse in 1941 as a young married couple. The citified pair had their work cut out for them ó the house had no running water or electricity. "We went through the first year that way," Konig recalls.

They raised chickens there and along the way installed modern conveniences. "Iíve tried in all the steps weíve done to bring it up to date as far as comfort and living," Konig says.

Konig has been widowed for seven years, yet continues to make improvements to the house. For the latest project, a kitchen addition, she called upon Willard Geidle and Son, Mequon, the firm that had previously put a sun room addition onto the home. "I wanted something up-to-date in the kitchen but didnít want it to be ultra modernistic," Konig says.

With the help of designer Susan House and cabinet maker Bob Maectle, both of Grafton, Konig crafted her dream kitchen, with all the newest modern conveniences.

"I have Scandinavian style teak furniture in the home so that was the theme (Maectle) used for the kitchen," Konig says. "It is simple in design, but very striking."

With two walls of windows, House and Maectle had to consider aesthetics and conveniences in designing the layout and cabinetry.

"The view from kitchen is spectacular," Konig says. "Iíve seen a lot of wildlife that I havenít seen before."

The 86-year-old grandmother is looking forward to lots more family visits in the new space. "To the casual observer it looks like it is all just one home," Konig says, "and it is."

Finishes in Jack and Nikki Levineís remodeled kitchen include maple hardwood floors and custom-made cherry cabinets. Warm-toned stone tiles make up the backsplash; the countertops are Verniz granite. The island holds a built-in oven and has a bonus 6-inch-deep spice cabinet.

When Jack and Nikki Levine contemplated remodeling their kitchen, they didnít want to expand their Fox Point home, knowing they were going to be empty nesters in a few years.

"We wanted to make it a happy work and family space and preserve the original footprint," Jack Levine says.

Certified kitchen designer Terri Bird of Design Group Three in Glendale collaborated with the Levines to come up with a plan that accomplished their goals. They reconfigured the layout and eliminated some closet space to improve traffic flow and make the space more efficient.

"I wanted to have a new stove and lots of storage, of course, and I wanted a pantry, which we did not have before," Levine says.

"The homeowners wanted an island, but space was very limited," Bird says. "Reworking the walls of the closet and pantry area opened up the floor plan of the kitchen for an island," Bird says.

The expanded bay window brings more sunlight into the room and a new lighting arrangement created task and ambient lighting.

Not only does the new kitchen function well for Levine, a self-described part-time cook, it has become the familyís central gathering spot. "We pretty much live in it," Levine says. "We cook in it and entertain in it and read the newspaper in it. Itís better used than the family room."

This Whitefish Bay kitchen remodel features Canadian Neff cabinetry, which are a formaldehyde-free product and ecological. The cabinets are finished with a Mohair Patina. The granite counters are Artus; the ceramic tile backsplash is Walker Zanger Gramercy Park. Other features of the kitchen include two-bin trash rollout and two spice racks on cabinet doors.

A Whitefish Bay couple wanted to update a 1960s cave-like garage-turned-family-room and outdated kitchen, and unite the two spaces to create a family living center.

The challenge for Alan Freysinger of Design Group Three, Glendale, was to interject design elements into the plan to break up the long space. He accomplished this in part by varying ceiling heights between the kitchen and the family room, designing a kitchen island and matching a bookcase in the kitchen to those flanking the fireplace in the adjoining room. "We introduced some of wood cabinetry from the family room in the kitchen to visually interrupt the sight line," he says.

Freysinger says he and the homeowners went back and forth on the layout of the kitchen, particularly the island element. "Islands are such great gathering spots," he says, noting the owners are pleased with the decision to incorporate it into the plans.

The homeowner selected pendant lights over the island, which serve as another visual break between rooms.

Though the couple are empty nesters, their college-age children come home frequently and the couple often entertain other family members who live nearby.

"There are a lot of things going on in the space," Freysinger says, "and the challenge was how to make them all fit together."

The granite counters are Black Galaxy Island and the island is Juperana Classico Supreme. The coppery undertones of the island granite pick up the cabinets and play off the 4-by-4 copper tiles on the backsplash. The farm sink is made of hammered copper.

Much like the original owners of this Glendale home, the current homeownersí tastes trend toward modern.

The house was built in the 1970s and designed by an Oconomowoc architect. In a 1975 write-up in the Milwaukee Sentinel, the home is described as contemporary with Spanish stylings. "The most spectacular interior space in the house is the two story living room with its semicircular conversation pit facing the fireplace," according to the article.

Now more than 30 years later, the new owners are putting their 21st century stamp on the space. They leveled out the multilevel first floor and tore out the shag carpeting. In the kitchen, Mexican tile and dark wood cabinets gave way to cherry cabinetry and a walnut floor. The homeowner originally wanted to install tile on the floor, but B&E General Contractors, Glendale, advised against it due to structural issues. B&E designer Tove Kenyon suggested walnut flooring. "As long as we were doing wood, I said, ĎLetís do something different,í" Kenyon says. "You can get a lot of darker looks out of it."

The house is located on a wooded lot along the Milwaukee River. In order to capitalize on the scenery, a first-floor laundry between the kitchen and family room was eliminated, which then connected the kitchen and family room.

"The trend now is to open up rooms to each other," Kenyon says. "It wasnít in the í70s."

The conversation pit remains a focal point in the home. The yellow shag carpeting gave way to the walnut floor and the couch was reupholstered. "We had to keep the conversation pit Ö it was, and is, a conversation piece," Kenyon says.