Enduring Function and Style

    A young child going into their grandfather's study and crawling up into the well worn seat of his old wing-back chair would probably miss the qualities of the chair that were meaningful to “Grandpa”. The qualities of enduring function and style.

    This kitchen for a local client of ours always reminded me of a chair like that. One reason is that the custom finish we developed especially for them, embodies the richness of old red leather.

    In some ways the kitchen makes bold statements with full height majesty and eye-capturing symmetry. Its finer points of repeating door sizes and “touch latch” engineering allows the finished look to be free from the clutter of pull or knob hardware. These quiet touches underline the kitchen’s bolder statements.

    Components like a tailor-made in-cabinet closet (with all the necessities close at hand), adjustable roll out shelves in the pantry, deep pot and pan drawers, and unique corner solutions, will allow this kitchen to adapt and maintain its high calling to “ function” for many years to come. One look at the images, and you will see that the styling is also timeless and will endure just like all good design should.

    Enduring function and style . . . . . I guess this kitchen really is like that chair after all.

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    A Kitchen For The Avid Cook

    The attention to detail and the pride in their work is so apparent.

    On a stiflingly hot day in late July, Ann Fulton's light, bright, cheery kitchen welcomes visitors not only with a remarkably airy feel, but also with the sights and scents of a good day's work: a loaf of zucchini bread sits cooling on the counter, practically begging to be sliced and slathered with the freshly canned peach jam sitting beside it.

    “I’ve always liked to cook,” says Ann, the woman behind the popular food website The Fountain Avenue Kitchen, as well as a columnist for Lancaster, Pennsylvania publications including FIG and the Sunday News. Ann christened her website after the place where she first developed her culinary skills: her grandmother’s kitchen. “She is my inspiration,” Ann says, recalling how her grandmother enlisted her help as a young girl for what Ann calls “fun stuff” like brownies and cakes. “Everything was so effortless.”

    Ann carried that love and respect for food throughout her life – and to her homes. The kitchen always has been a focal point of her family’s living area, but perhaps never more so than in the home she now shares with her husband and two sons, which they purchased eight years ago.

    The house – located next door to the home where Ann grew up and where her parents still live – featured a galley kitchen that, like the rest of the rooms, needed a lot of work. The contractor the Fultons hired helped turn that small kitchen into a roomy space, complete with bump-out living and dining areas. The contractor also suggested that Wynwood Kitchens’ owner Wes Funk could help complete the kitchen’s transformation.

    Ann, who was working as a real-estate agent at the time, knew a thing or two about home-renovation projects – and she fully prepared herself for what she thought would be the inevitable glitches and delays in getting her kitchen installed.

    “There were no glitches,” she happily reports of Wynwood’s work. “It was just that easy. There were so many details in the kitchen, and it could’ve been the source of so many frustrations and headaches getting it to where I wanted it.” Ann adds that Wynwood was a delight to work with and that the company made the process a pleasant, fun experience. “And I was doing it with a two-year-old and a six-year-old at the time!” she marvels.

    Ann notes that Wes was very open-minded about her design ideas and prolific in the options he presented to her. For example, he created not one but three prototypes for the cabinet doors based on her suggestions. “He wanted me to love it, not like it,” she points out. Many of Ann’s other requests came from memories of her mother and grandmother’s kitchens, including a built-in utensil divider and a pull-out chopping block.  Wynwood added two blocks to Ann’s kitchen for extra convenience. Wes further incorporated everything-in-arm’s-reach details such as a perfectly sized work triangle between the range, sink and refrigerator, as well as spice racks built directly into the cabinets. Plus, he enhanced the kitchen’s brightness by incorporating glass doors into some of the cabinets, which show off Ann’s serving pieces. “The attention to detail and the pride in his work is so apparent,” she states.

    Then, there’s the kitchen’s durability. In fact, Ann has not made any changes to it since Wes and the Wynwood Kitchens team first installed it – even the white paint on the cabinets hasn’t needed a touch-up, and that’s with two young boys! The only repair Ann can recall is a minor rough patch on the countertop, which Wynwood promptly fixed after Ann informed them about it eight years after it was installed.

    The lasting look and functionality of the kitchen even helped to contribute to Ann’s budding blogging career. The abundance of natural light aids in food photography – she takes all the pictures for The Fountain Avenue Kitchen – while the hominess of the space and the clear view of the bountiful backyard garden help to inspire her recipes. The kitchen has even made it easier for her to balance her writing venture with home life, as her sons often pull up stools and do their homework at the center island while she’s cooking. And, despite the home’s open layout, guests also can’t resist the pull of the kitchen, and often migrate there from the adjoining living and dining areas.

    “Eight years later, I love it,” Ann says of her kitchen. “It’s timeless. There’s nothing I look at that I think, ‘I wish I did it differently.’”

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    The Beauty of Simplicity

    It’s sparked my interest in cooking because I have so much space now. It’s really the focal point of the house.

    It's said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

    In the case of George and Leslie Mann's kitchen, the journey began not with a step, but with a canoe trip along the Brandywine River where the couple first met.

    "We hit it off," Leslie happily recalls.

    As it turned out, she and George shared many of the same interests – most significantly art, which they both studied in college. George even attended the university in Sewanee, Tennessee – the same town where Leslie grew up and where her parents just happened to be professors. “It was a four-hour canoe trip, but it felt like 45 minutes,” George says.

    After 14 months of dating, George and Leslie were married on September 25, 2010 and spent their honeymoon in Sicily. When they returned, they set to work making the first improvements to their new home in Lancaster.

    Well, “new” is a relative term. To Leslie, who arrived in Lancaster from New York City, the circa 1769 farmhouse certainly was new. To George, however, it was a longstanding part of his family’s heritage – not to mention his own home since 1995.

    “I thought it was just beautiful the first time I saw it,” Leslie says of the house. “I thought it was very cool the connection he had to the place.”

    That connection dates back to the 18th century, when the house and surrounding farmlands were owned by the Hostetter family. George’s great-great grandfather, Abraham Kauffman Mann, purchased the estate in 1905 – but never lived in the house. Neither did George’s great-grandfather or great-uncle, both of whom tilled the land. Instead, the house became residence to their tenant farmers. “I think at one time, half the neighborhood lived here,” George remarks.

    When George returned to Lancaster after attending graduate school, he became the first Mann to live in his family’s house. He spent the years fixing up the exterior – painting, roofing, spouting, plus continuing to farm – but it wasn’t until he met Leslie that he considered the interior.

    George and Leslie share a mutual love for simple, classic styles – for her, it’s English and French Country, while he favors Williamsburg colors. The result of their collaboration is evident in their renovated kitchen: a clean eggshell sheen covers the entirety of the Shaker-style cabinetry, bead board and molding – all of which was thanks to Wynwood Kitchens. George had worked with Wynwood Kitchens Owner Wesley Funk on a previous renovation for the home of one of his farm employees, plus George liked the work Wynwood did in friends’ homes.

    Wes and his trusted staff, Nate Brubaker (who was involved in all aspects of the project, from design and layout to shop management) and Carl Ranck (who headed up construction and installation), carefully custom-crafted all the work to blend with the original features. A perfect example is the kitchen’s dumbwaiter – the interior of which had been retrofitted for storage use, but with the exterior still sporting woodwork dating to the kitchen’s installation in the mid-19th century. “Wes was able to incorporate it with the new cabinetry and make it feel seamless,” Leslie says.

    The Manns also were delighted by the unfussy-yet-thoughtful touches Wynwood added. George points to the decorative detail on the edges of the cabinets, noting that it mimics the detail on the dumbwaiter and the porch columns. Plus, Wynwood was able to accommodate other original details of the house – several of which were rather unusual, such as thick-silled windows for which Wes, Nate and Carl fabricated and installed custom-depth jambs and casings. The elevation of the windows was another challenge, as their low height would have conflicted with standard base cabinets. To that end, Wynwood crafted custom-height base cabinets that blended fluidly with existing design lines, while also offering practicality in the form of a lower-height work area. It’s the perfect place for the Manns’ one-year-old son, Isaac, to learn how to cook!

    Wynwood’s style of business also matched George and Leslie’s sensibilities. “I liked Wes’ approach because he wasn’t trying to sell us on, ‘You need this addition and that addition,’” Leslie states. “He was very straightforward and simplified the process for us.”

    Thanks to that efficient approach and off-site workshop, Wes, Nate and Carl were able to complete the installation of cabinetry, molding and trim – plus soapstone countertops and a matching backsplash – on a tight timeline. “It was the fastest, easiest part of the whole process,” Leslie says of the kitchen project, which also included electrical rewiring, laying a floor comprised of recovered barn wood, finding period-appropriate accents like latches and hinges, and applying paint and wallpaper.

    Now, what the Manns call “the most important room in the house” also is the most used. “We spend about 90% of our time in the kitchen,” Leslie attests. “It’s sparked my interest in cooking because I have so much space now. It’s really the focal point of the house.”

    She and George agree that there’s nothing they would change. “We had one chance to do it right,” he says. “This would be the kitchen we’d have for the rest of our lives.”

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    The Hub of Family and Function

    There are custom kitchens. And then, there's Deborah Benner's kitchen.

    Deborah - who came to Mount Joy, Pennsylvania via Texas and New York City, where she performed as an actress - studied in Spain and each year, traveled with her family to France, Italy, Mexico and other parts of the globe.

    Not surprisingly, her tastes lean more toward Provence than Plain. So, when she and her husband, Arlin, were making plans to build a home, she knew exactly what she wanted: a home that could accommodate her friends from around the world, as well as her and Arlin’s large families for visits, holidays and other gatherings. Her dream home also would feature timeless European architecture, bring in the natural elements of the Benners’ foliage-filled five-acre property, and display the furniture and décor she’d been collecting over the years – which she’d been storing in their barn! “I love decorating,” she declares, noting that many of the items in the house – such as the crystal chandeliers – were purchases she made when she was still living single in New York City.

    Deborah even had specific kitchen doors in mind, which she and a friend surreptitiously snapped with a camera while in a Downsview Kitchens showroom in Philadelphia. Other inspirations came directly from Deborah’s own European experiences, as well as her library of French-design books. She flips the pages of one of those books to point out an olive-green china cabinet with a black & white checkerboard surface – the replica of which is directly behind her. She explains that she spent months scouring for tiles that perfectly matched the photo. She flips the book again to point out another cabinet – this one adorned with fleur-de-lis-patterned leaded glass, which she loved so much that she hired an artisan in Chadds Ford to custom-make for her.

    What may be surprising is that Deborah also is a farmer.

    She and Arlin – the fourth generation of his family to work in agriculture – own Yippee! Farms, a 700-acre operation that includes three dairies, and recently was featured on Today and Dirty Jobs.

    Since dairy farming is a 24/7 job that the couple want to continue for a lifetime, they must live close to or on the farm. That’s one reason Deborah was so particular about their home’s design. “This is not our first home. This is our LAST home,” she states.

    After living in an 8,000 sq. ft. Tudor-style home as a child, a tiny New York City apartment during her acting career and a single-wide trailer with Arlin after they were married, Deborah knew exactly how she wanted her home to look and flow. However, the architects and home builders she and Arlin consulted tried to nudge them away from her ideas and couldn’t resist incorporating their signature elements into the design. So, she ultimately decided to hire general contractors for each phase of the building process, designing as they went along. “To get exactly custom, you have to do it yourself,” Deborah says.
    That especially applied to the kitchen. “I knew this would be important real estate,” she says, noting that her Italian family considers the room almost sacred. Between family, friends and dinner parties they planned on hosting, Deborah envisioned a kitchen space made for entertaining.

    With such a specific picture for her kitchen, Deborah required a designer who was completely open to anything she requested. She met with several in Philadelphia, New York City and San Antonio, plus a few local cabinetmakers – but, like the architects, all of them drew up plans that used their own ideas at the expense of Deborah’s distinct vision.

    Then, a friend recommended Wynwood Kitchens.

    Deborah was impressed at her first meeting with Wes. She liked the fact that he owned the company and did all his own work. She also appreciated what she calls Wes’ “design mind” and openness to creating her vision and style – no matter how long it took.

    “It was a tremendous amount of work,” she admits, noting that she rejected several versions of Wes’ distressed look for the cabinetry. Wes even built the olive-green cabinet, as well as the cabinet doors to the style and sizes Deborah specified – no questions asked. “Wes never tried to steer me in any area that said, ‘This is a Wes design.’”

    Five years after Wes finished their custom kitchen, Deborah and Arlin still love it and still spend much of their time there. “The kitchen is always the heart of the home,” she says. The immense island – which Arlin jokingly calls a “continent” – is the centerpiece, where their family, friends, fellow church members and now, two children (they adopted from Ukraine last year and plan on adding more children soon) still gather for buffet-style meals.

    Deborah says one of her friends commented at the start of the building process that her challenge was to make the huge home feel “cozy.” With Wes’ help, she did just that. “I don’t feel like I’m in this massive space,” Deborah says. “And that’s what I wanted. The greatest compliment we could receive is to see people come in, make it their own, put up their feet and almost hear them say, “Ahhh, I feel like I’m home!’”

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    A Thing of Beauty

    “A Thing of Beauty is a joy forever” . . . John Keats

    In the case of this beautiful kitchen for Rick and Joyce, being “a joy forever” is a little unfortunate for us, because we don't get to live there.

    With its graceful design and layout, this family of 5 will get to enjoy the charm and usefulness of their kitchen for many years to come. Joyce was the driving force behind many of the attributes of this space, and that just made our job so enjoyable. Using our experience and then integrating the features and looks that she desired, helped us to achieve the perfect result for them. This kitchen has an eye-catching depth, with beaded inset frames, and a creamy ivory finish, giving a very authentic, deep look. The island, a corner cabinet, and a hutch were skillfully hand painted in heritage colors by Joyce herself, which added dimension to those pieces as well. Even when you stand ten feet away – not close enough to see individual brush strokes – you can tell that there is something about the finish that just exudes warmth.

    We really found joy in working with this family to build and install a kitchen that fits both them and their home. So although we don’t get to live there where we could continue to enjoy the results of this collaboration, its nice to know a this new phrase “A thing of beauty is a joy in the moment” is also true.

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