"I’m an intuitive designer," Jonathan Gordon, lead designer and owner of Design by the Jonathans, LLC, says. "I look at projects from the standpoint of beauty and function, but since I also have an engineering degree and I love to cook, I looked at this project as: Could I be happy here?"
There’s a certain precision in which Gordon discusses the home of Ashley and Jim, who sought out his firm as fellow locals in New Haven, Connecticut. They live in a historic district that has more twists and turns than a neighborhood planned in a neat grid, filled with houses showcasing clever personalities. Their home was built in 1930, in a burst of architectural creativity that makes it resemble "a tudor, but also possibly a Victorian, but probably more of an A-frame craftsman, too," he says, with a bit of humor in his voice. "It’s a very pretty house. It has certain details that make it hard to peg down."
Ashley and Jim had called Gordon after making the most of the original kitchen, which was cramped in a corner at the back of the home and separated from the dining room by a wall. They painted the cabinets a midnight blue, and did their best to ignore the drop ceilings. It was mostly easy to do, since their time was spent "square dancing" in a space where there was only room for small appliances and slim countertops. "There was barely any room to maneuver in there," Gordon says. "We had three doorways to work with, which is standard for houses of that age, so it was obvious that we needed to take the wall down."
Once the dining room and kitchen were one long space beside the backyard, Gordon could imagine the renovation’s potential for everyday meals and occasional entertaining. "They told me that there were always going to be two cooks in the kitchen," he says. "It had to be functional—with a clear traffic flow between the living space and patio—and had to be modern while still complementing the history of the home." And, most importantly, it had to meet every last must-have on their list for an updated kitchen.
The kitchen of the couple’s dreams had dark cabinetry and brushed brass finishes. It had an island with ample storage near a concealed pantry. It also contained a broom closet, compose storage, a dog feeding station, and a coffee and beverage area. Lastly, it needed to have all of the appliances a chef might need. The real challenge? Gordon had to figure out how to fit it all into 392 square feet.
"I had to think about it very carefully," Gordon says. "I pictured myself getting something from the refrigerator to cook, taking it to the island to clean and prep, tossing it on the stove to cook, and so on. I wanted to figure out the proper flow of the space, so that they were taking as few steps as possible for what they needed."
He designed a 24-inch island with soft-close cabinets that could be opened on either side, and installed a small sink within its Carrara marble countertops for cleaning produce and the like (a larger farmhouse sink a few feet away would be for bigger jobs). The stove sits below a pot filler, the beverage center has extra storage for equipment, and their beloved dog has a hidden space for toys and treats. Gordon planned it so well, he even knows exactly where they store spices and cutlery.
"I looked at it like a puzzle, because we were very meticulous about how it would all work," he says. "But the trick was that we also used beautiful finishes so that it wasn’t all about function, and paid homage to the home’s history. The dark cabinetry was done back in the 30s, as was subway tiling and marble countertops. Even the pedants have an Edison bulb-type look."
The renovation was completed earlier this year, in time for spring. Gordon is thankful to the couple and his team for embracing the precision required of this project, where he’s sure he’d be happy cooking—but he's more than willing to leave the job to Ashley and Jim.
"Every morning, Jim would greet me with a latte before getting to work," he says. "And it’s still the best latte I’ve ever had."
Shop The Look
Architect: Jonathan Gordon, Design by the Jonathans, LLC
Builder: Tom Prete, TRP Construction, LLC
Lighting and Interior Design: Jonathan Gordon, Design by the Jonathans, LLC
Cabinetry Design: United Cabinets
Other Company: Venezia Marble
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