Counter Intelligence

We asked three design professionals from around the state to share with us their favorite kitchen project. Here are their picks, along with trends, ideas, and products you can adapt to your needs.

Whether or not you like to cook, the kitchen is still the most popular room in the house—the gathering spot, command central. High-end appliances with bells and whistles are certainly nice, but what makes a kitchen successful is open space, proximity to the backyard, and a level of comfort that encourages family and friends to linger.

Steel Appeal
“Luxury is not defined by the amount of the investment,” says kitchen designer Jeffrey Holloway­, who—­along with his wife, Karen—co-owns Holloway Home Improvement Center in Marmora, just north of Cape May. Indeed, this gutted-to-the-studs renovation was completed for less than $75,000—almost a pittance these days. The result is a striking, yet practical setting perfect for the owners, an active family of five.

Bold use of stainless steel on cabinets, countertops, sink, backsplash, kick plates, window jambs, and casings makes cleaning a snap, says Holloway. Butcher blocks made of lyptus—a sustainable wood with the same properties as mahogany—are set on either side of the cooktop; one flows directly into a routed, solid-surface prep sink. The main sink, also stainless steel, is extra deep to hold an often-used, restaurant-sized stockpot.

For a streamlined look, trash and recycling containers are hidden in a pullout cabinet near the main sink. An appliance “garage,” adjacent to the prep sink, conceals countertop appliances when not in use.

A traditional dining area was replaced with bar-height seating “for enjoying breakfast and lunch on the go,” Holloway says. Behind it, cabinets store beverages, stemware, and other essentials for entertaining.

Holloway installed skylights, replacing a single casement window with two, and added glass transoms to make a formerly dark space bright. A new exterior door replaced the old patio door and leads directly to the backyard patio and grill.

Jeffrey Holloway, CKD, CBD.  Holloway Home Improvement Center, Marmora. 609-390-4812;

{Short Hills}
Details, Details
Cliff Geissler had a very exacting and knowledgeable client to please in designing and building this house in Short Hills—himself. When it came to the kitchen, Geissler, principal of Geiss Custom Builders in Short Hills, could incorporate all his favorite features because he was building the house on spec. The result? A fully integrated, traditional kitchen, as comfortable as a living room.

The most prominent feature is the elaborate woodwork. Cabinets are cherry with a milky-white wash, except on the large center island, which is hickory, finished in a rich chocolate brown. The floors are made of random-width oak planks. Geissler installed highly detailed moldings and trim, corbels and columns. “There’s always something to look at—the crown molding, the extensive ceiling trim, the wainscot behind the glass-front cabinets,” he says. Custom woodwork also covers the full-sized refrigerator and freezer. “All the cabinets are floor to ceiling, so there’s no wasted space,” he adds.

Other eye-catching details: the handmade, crackled, subway-tile backsplash; the cornucopia mosaic design behind the cooktop; the large porcelain farmhouse sink; and the open shelving for cookbooks and knickknacks.

Flow and function are well planned: There’s a built-in coffee center, a wine refrigerator and wine rack in the spacious Butler’s pantry, a microwave in its own nook above a prep sink, and a handy spigot above the cooktop for filling pots. The open kitchen is conducive to entertaining. Geissler included an extra-deep, built-in window seat to perfectly situate guests for kibitzing the cook.

In the end, the cost for Geissler’s prized kitchen was roughly $130,000. The home is currently on the market for $4,795,000.

{West Windsor}
Never Too Many Cooks
The owners of this 20-year-old colonial home in West Windsor loved their spacious backyard, with its swimming pool, dining patio, and multilevel deck. The kitchen, however, was small and dark—not on par with the backyard or, indeed, the rest of the house. So they turned to New Outlooks Construction Group of Robbinsville and designer Jon Vogel. The challenge: To transform the outdated kitchen into a multifunctional space that seamlessly connects to the backyard. “We wanted to open up the kitchen and bring the outside in,” says Vogel.

Vogel transformed the room by knocking down walls and adding 1,000 square feet of new space. Now the kitchen has several workstations to accommodate multiple cooks or a bevy of kids. “The family loves to entertain,” Vogel says, “and this is the perfect kitchen for entertaining.” There’s plenty of counter space, a large center island with a breakfast bar, a station with a microwave and a mini-fridge adjoining the family room and backyard, and a separate coffee bar.

Custom cabinets—floor to ceiling for maximum storage—are maple with an oyster-white finish covered in a brown glaze for an aged effect. Backsplashes are tumbled marble with a combination of copper and pewter accent tiles. Countertops are granite, and the flooring is oversized limestone set on a diagonal. There’s under-cabinet lighting as well as uplighting above the cabinets and spot task lighting, all available at the flip of a switch. Ornate fixtures hang above the island. “All the lighting is on dimmers,” says Vogel, “so you can create a mood throughout the room.”

Windows, doors, and open archways offer sweeping views. “The kitchen is a very airy space that looks out over this gorgeous, park-like yard. It’s very functional, yet elegant and grand,” Vogel says of the newly renovated space, which he estimates costs approximately $175,000 (not including the great room and family room additions).

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