Kitchen On Top

By Steven V. Philips.

If you’re building a second home and it’s just for you and you’re starting from bare dirt, be brave. And if you have more than a few friends you’d like to invite to visit and to entertain, be really brave. Think eating and think good times. This house doesn’t have to be your daddy’s. Anything goes. Upside down even. If it feels good, do it!

Scott acquired a rare piece of property. Not only on an island off Cape Ann, but at the highest point of it. With a breathtaking 270-degree view of Ipswich Bay. Well, a view if you were 10-feet tall so you could see over the uniquely wind-sculptured trees. Cut those great trees? Nooope. So how to see over them?

Scott hired an architect in hopes of major creativity that would maximize those water views. What he got was straight from the Boring Shelf of Boring Designs. Tract house dull. Featuring a living/kitchen/dining view of the driveway. Breakfast with a Buick? Lunch with a Lexus and drinks with a Dodge? Shoot me.

Next thing, here’s Scott in my design office mumbling, “This isn’t quite what we pictured.” Why me? Mr. Boring Architect has the retainer dollars, but here is Scott at my Free Complaint and Counseling Desk.

“OK Scotty,” I advise my friend. “You’re afraid to speak to God who’s playing Architect? Did Architect Dull hide in his office, afraid that actually experiencing the site might cause some lightning strike of creativity?”

Here’s the back story: Scott and Kathryn Jackson own a seafood wholesale business. They sell to restaurants. This collection of unique culinary folks (many of whom bring their own knives) are invited to Cape Ann on
weekends to sail and eat and swim and cook and have a little wine while they cook and eat and lie to each other about business. This is on most weekends spring through fall. And not just four or six people either. How about 14 to 20 some Saturdays? Sob not, the lobsters are wholesale plus the guests bring fantastic wines.

With this herd of serious foodies, half of whom also want to be in the kitchen waving knives, the Jacksons need show-stopping entertaining, cooking and dining space that presents as impressive Food Show Biz. They need and want a wow factor. So here’s the plan I gave them.

We turned the house downside up and put the kitchen/gathering room/ deck on the top floor to capture the amazing views.

We conceived the residence as two units that fit the curve of the hilltop. Set into the hillside, the upper level backs onto a small back lawn patio with big deck out front. Units joined by a circulation hall and stairs. In one the upper level is a great, big fabulous open space for entertaining and cooking that flows in and out and all around. Sleeping is in the other pod.

Everybody into the kitchen! A center island you could land a plane on. Seating on one side, cooks showing off on the other. Multiple prep sinks. Major table inside, built-in one for eight outside. A water view over the trees. Serious sliding doors opening to dining deck that maximizes the all important view. Solid walls elsewhere. Oh yeah, guest cars park down under the deck where they’re invisible!

Upper second unit has the family bedrooms, with views. Guest bedrooms are below because guests are so tired after all the fun what they really want is privacy and quiet. Great views not essential at this point.

Upper dining/cooking/ level is oriented to the best view with roof overhangs for low sun solar gain in winter, high summer sun block. Glass upstairs, onto front deck and back lawn. Deck has perimeter seats that are also the railing. Lighting built-in under the seats for a night glow, not glare.

The lesson here? Speak clearly to your professionals, i.e. to the architect for the house and/or the builder for the renovation/addition. It’s your money but it’s a partnership. Listen first. Talk second, but talk. And if your design professional is hard of hearing, move on. But read these tips first.

  • Plan ahead. NO planning on the job. Erasing lines on paper is cheap. Moving real walls ain’t so cheap. Bring your rough ideas on paper to your professional.
  • The electrical plan really can have more conveniently placed outlets. And have enough of them.
  • Get creative on the plumbing plan. Place one sink over there and higher if you wish. Plumbers really can put hot water at an outside faucet. We actually have three prep sinks in this kitchen plus a bar sink on the deck. The powder room has two commodes in separate compartments plus two common sinks. A little luxury two-fer. You definitely want an outdoor shower too.
  • With visiting hordes this large, raise the ante to two dishwashers because nobody really likes hand-washing that much, do they?
  • Remember the railing can be built-in seating. Less stuff to move for weather, the cushion colors on these (Sunbrella fabric) should compliment the inside colors. Then you can pull that color back inside with accent pillows. (Oh yeah, cut cup holders into the seats so glasses don’t tip over.)

But kids, your pros ain’t mind readers. So, make your mandates known. Be clear, be kind, but, yes, it’s okay to be stubborn, because sometimes a kitchen on the top makes perfect sense.

6 thoughts on “Kitchen On Top”

  1. Mr Philips is my kind of guy !!!! What a refreshing change in style. His ideas are so like mine. Electrical outlets are so much easier to put in in the build stage….and so much cheaper. Boat design has followed these same principles by putting the galley up and leaving the sleeping quarters below. All in all, a great article Thanks

  2. I used to rent a house on Cape Cod that was a converted artist’s studio, so the whole top floor was as described above, except not so elaborate. When you love to cook, it is a GREAT way to live even if you ain’t located on the beach, and even when you ain’t entertaining a cast of thousands. The open-ness is so relaxing, so inviting. Did the author get paid, btw? Seems like he should have gotten consultation fees! Is he for hire? Curious minds in New York want to know! Great article.

  3. As usual, all good designs are ones that are “outside the box”. More importantly, how does someone get invited for the weekend??

  4. I read last month’s column by Mr. Steven V. Philips,”Daddy Does a Kitchen” and was pleasantly surprised to find another informative and fun article with “Kitchen on Top”. Both were written with great droll humor so the articles were not just factual information. Nice creative flair and I hope to read more articles by Mr. Stevens in the future.

  5. How can see pictures of this place @ Cape Ann? Does it exsist? Or is it in your head? My friend Harlan has 2 dish washers in his new house across the semi dry river from me.Computer unsavy me L

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