Alexandria kitchen wins COTY Prize


You could call it a quiet revolutionthe way the kitchen is taking over the all-American home, as the chief selling point and living space as well. In Bob and Carol Kemps Alexandria townhouse, the interior insurrection won yet another battle with a prize-winning kitchen-centric first-floor makeover. It brought Michael Nash Kitchens and Homes a 2007 Contractor of the Year Grand Award for kitchens under $50,000, from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The firms designs had swept the entire category, winning all five prizes, starting with honorable mention.

The old kitchen was pretty hemmed in, says Carol Kemp, who purchased the spacious end unit with husband Bob about four years ago. It didnt really support our lifestyle, which includes lots of entertaining on a side deck in warm weather, and in the front living room all year round. Also, I wanted a more stylish look, and display space for our Italian ceramics.

Adds Michael Nash principal Sonny Nazemian:

Partitions arent the best solution in a lot of situations today. A kitchen thats hard to access can actually inhibit a social gathering. When cabinetry and finishwork are well-integrated into an open plan, though, you can bring all the needed utilities into  compelling interior design scheme.

On this point, the Kemps home is an interesting case study, Nazemian observes. The homes original kitchen was open, yet tucked into a back corner behind an
L-shaped serving and dining counter. With couples favorite grilling deck in view yet cut-off by a half-wall serving counter the homes traffic problem became increasingly apparent as warm weather approached. To travel from kitchen to deck, for instance, one had to circle around the counter and through the living room.

Beyond the kitchen, the traditional formal living room offered a spaciously inviting place to watch the game with friends. Three glass-facing French doors nearby opened to a side elevation grilling deck where the Kemps, nearing retirement, discovered their favorite outdoor spot.

Early on, Nazemian recognized that the owners dilemma could partly be resolved by re-defining the aesthetic relationships between kitchen work zones and the adjacent living and socializing areas. Typical of most production homes, the existing plan called for a discretely self-contained utility kitchen. In an open area, containment seemed arbitrary and even hopelessly old fashioned.

Nazemian suggested that the entire back half of the L-shaped great room could be reconfigured as a component in a new kitchen entertainment area. The cabinetry would extend all the way to the French doors leading to the deck. He next proposed a smaller, stand-alone island for the sink. It would look toward the family room from the center of the new kitchen, and double as wet bar and midroom dining counter.  A small wine cooler would fit below the sink. As a bonus, the islands lower cabinet would house a glass display casecomplete with accent lightingcustom-designed to spotlight the Italian porcelain collection.
The glass-facing cherry wood cabinets are so handsomely designed, Kemp notes, that none of the kitchen appliances are even visible from the front living room:

The ceramics display is the dominant focal point, she notes enthusiastically. The dark woods and textured tile backsplash on the rear wall converge into a nicely warm background.

Moreover, the new spatial configuration invites a more functionally circular traffic plan with plenty of room on either side of the island and straight paths to the deck, family room and dining room.

Storage capacity is also greatly enhanced with the new cabinets stretching across the back wall. The gas range and stove below are perfectly placed, yet not visible from the living room. A refrigerator and trivection oven both stainless steel now dominate the side wall of the new kitchen layout. Kemp says that the kitchens work triangle is ideal for a whole series of cooking and entertainment tasks.

High-intensity recessed lighting in the ceiling and indirect lighting from the cabinets keep the room bright after sundown.  The grilling zone on the deck has an indoor grilling counterpart, and the new food preparation island/counter has seating on three sides each with a view of the flat screen television on the family room wall.

The result is a lovely set up for entertaining and, more importantly, for everyday living, as the COTY judges obviously agreed.

Michael Nash staff periodically offer seminars in kitchen design at their Fairfax showroom. Call 703-641-9800, or visit