Date: August 24, 2011 | Story: Interview by Paulette Pearson | Styling: Mandy Keener |
At Home in Arkansas: The kitchen in this 1920s Hillcrest home was dark and outdated. What were your main goals for the redesign?
Garry Mertins: With their children grown, it was about how the homeowners want to live. They love to cook and entertain. The big thing was having a large workspace to spread out on, within a relaxing, cleaner, more contemporary kitchen. Creating a work triangle—between the stove, refrigerator and sink—and adding storage were also important.
AHIA: Were structural changes necessary?
GM: We took everything down to the studs. We rebuilt the entire kitchen. Removing a laundry room at one end allowed us to expand into that space with a refreshment counter, including an icemaker, wine refrigerator and coffee bar. We also evened out the ceiling height, replaced the hardwood flooring with new travertine marble floors and installed all new cabinetry.
AHIA: You devised separate areas for cooking and entertaining.
GM: Traffic flow is really important. Consider how traffic will flow through the kitchen while you’re working. If you have the luxury of space, create a working side and an entertaining side. We placed the barstools on the end of the island, where someone can have a glass of wine or eat cereal, while keeping traffic in the workspace to a minimum.
AHIA: We love your choice of granite.
GM: We looked at a ton of different stones, and ended up choosing this one because it has enough movement, pattern and color variation to pick up the highs and lows of the cabinets doors and the stone floors. It provided a good springboard for the rest of the kitchen design.
AHIA: Tell us about your decision to use two wood tones on the cabinetry.
GM: From a design standpoint, it’s more architecturally interesting. The darker banding around the cabinetry throughout gave us the opportunity to continue that dark color on the island, in the refreshment bar area and above the range hood as well. It gave us a way to play with color and texture.
AHIA: You also designed the cabinets with functionality in mind.
GM: The goal was to have beautiful dark wood on the exterior of the cabinets for contrast, and we chose lighter wood for the interior to make it easier to see the items that are stored. The refreshment counter cabinets open up like a garage door. That also provides easier access, and they can be left open and stay out of the way while entertaining.
AHIA: Is the new kitchen easy to maintain?
GM: A damp mop cleans the floor, and you can place a hot pan directly onto the granite countertop. The grid design of the cabinetry also establishes a rhythm that makes it feel much cleaner, without being stark or cold.
AHIA: Was lighting an issue?
GM: We had to let in as much natural light as possible. We enlarged the window above the sink and reconfigured the ceiling with can lighting. There’s also Xenon task lighting hidden under the cabinets, which produces much brighter light than fluorescents. I chose the pendant lights because of their scale and Asian influence—they’re glass globes and have a brushed metal finish.
AHIA: What are your tips for achieving a beautiful yet functional kitchen?
GM: Get a professional involved, whether it’s a designer or an architect. Look through books and trade magazines. Don’t begin until you have a good plan. And remember, it’s not a matter of how your neighbor would live in the house, but how you live in the house.
Contractor Chris deBin Construction, Little Rock
Interior design Garry Mertins Design, Little Rock
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, locations statewide
Cabinetry Distinctive Kitchens & Baths, Little Rock
Countertops/floors All Natural Stone, Little Rock
Fixtures Falk Plumbing Supply, locations statewide
Florals Tipton Hurst, Conway, Little Rock, North Little Rock
Furnishings Mertinsdykehome, Little Rock
Light fixtures Garry Mertins Design, Little Rock
Tile Acme Brick, North Little Rock