House Beautful - February 2007


MIMI READ:As a woman who's written six cookbooks and does all her own recipe testing, you needed — and got — a kitchen that's super high-functioning. Yet you also wanted a big, warm, beautiful gathering spot for family and friends. Did you have a guiding vision to help marry these two potentially competing functions?

JUDITH BARRETT: I once saw a picture of an enormous kitchen in a grand old house in — I forget which — England or Newport. I tried to capture that feeling of a place where a lot of work gets done, yet it also has a domestic kind of elegance.

How big is your kitchen and who designed it?

It's 27 1/2 feet long and 16 feet wide. It was a collaboration involving several architects and one very opinionated client — me.

What did you ask for?

I needed a lot of work space and I wanted it very clean, no clutter. I didn't want to see my appliances sitting on the countertops. So my microwave, toaster oven, second refrigerator, and second dishwasher are in pantries just behind the kitchen. I have a KitchenAid mixer that flips up — even if it is 27 years old! I have three food processors in one of the cupboards, on a shelf that pulls out. Everything is behind brushed stainless-steel doors or white cabinets. I don't even have a dish drain.

What else makes it feel so open and airy?

There are no upper cabinets in the kitchen. It's like an old villa. To me, upper cabinets seem like a 20th-century thing, and though I needed a modern kitchen, I wanted it to feel old. And of course there's the fact that it's two stories tall. We get natural light on all sides and from the skylights. Even on a gray day, I never turn the lights on.

What do you think is the room's most striking element?

The central 10-foot marble island. It has tremendous scale and sleekness. It's a single slab of Carrara marble, two inches thick, honed instead of polished — I wanted it to look worn and used. A lot of islands have stoves, sinks, and other things built in. But mine is an open, uninterrupted work space.

Are your zillions of small implements organized in thought-out ways?

Once the drawers were in place, I had them section each one. Now I have a knife drawer with all the short paring knifes in one section, the bread and carving knives in another, the chefs' knives in a third. I might have six different vegetable peelers shaped to do different tasks — they're all in one place.

Which features make you wonder how you ever lived without them?

I love my sinks. Both are by Franke — they're very deep, rectangular sinks, one 16 inches wide and the other 32 inches wide. The large one can accommodate the biggest roasting pan I have. I also have a heavy-duty pre-rinse sprayer, typical of restaurant kitchens — great for rinsing baked-on greasy pots and pans before they go in the dishwasher.

Judith's Kitchen Sink with sprayer Range Pantry Sprayer Kitchen drawer organizer Kitchen shelves