ARCHITECTURAL DRAMA (excerpt from "Connecticut Home: Come into the Kitchen" by Kim Waller courtesy of Connecticut Magazine November 2004 )

Home: New updated shingle-style in Woodbury.

Highlights: Extensive cherry woodwork; extra-high ceilings; wall of Prairie-style windows; ceramic tile floor; retro light fixture

Builder Eric Strachan has more than 600 houses to his credit, so when it came to building this one for his family, he and his wife Carol knew just what the wanted: “a modern house that had the character of a classic home from the past”. Its not unusual for a kitchen to take its style clues from the house. But in this case, things worked the other way. The understated cherry Dutch Made cabinets they chose, with the help of designer Kyong Agapiou of The Kitchen Factor (Glastonbury, New Haven, Wilton). Were the prime influence on cherry woodwork used lavishly throughout the rest of the house – which, by the way, won a first-place HOBI award this year from the Home Builders Association of Connecticut.

Over all that warm wood of the open kitchen soars a 20-foot-high white plaster ceiling (shared by the linked family room), visually balanced by strong horizontal beams. The striking Crestline windows over the sinks, reminiscent of a Frank Llyod Wright design, appear to be leaded, “but the aren’t. says Strachan. “They have dividers inside and out and are double-paned–the look of the old and the efficiency of the new.”

That’s surely the theme of this kitchen. Though Carol is the master cook in this family of three teenagers and two pug dogs, Eric knows a thing or two about efficiency. For example the dishwasher is raised a bit to ease bending backs, and so is the dish storage drawer to the other side of the triple sinks. “Now all my clients want theirs raised!” he says.

Themed by glowing cherry cabinetry and detailed paneling, the kitchen and adjoining family room of this new house evoke the craftsmanship of yore. Look up, however, and you’ll see that clerestory cuts in the soaring plaster walls are boldly modern, crowning the wood spaces with airy openness.A double bank of Prairie-style windows brings in views of a neighboring nature center: to break up the extensive wood, the owners opted for tile floors and a dark finish on stainless appliances.
But why three sinks? Well, one is for rinsing, one for pots and one for drying. Like many another updated idea, this old one works to keep counter clutter down. And remember warming ovens? There’s one in the island. “I’m home late sometimes, “ says Eric, “and my dinner is waiting for me, warm but not dried out.” Recycling is important, so the modern island has a drawer for all those soda cans that the kids go through. Because the granite-topped island also has a prep sink (with double waste baskets below), two or more people are able to work together at different stations, especially since Eric insists that the floor space surrounding an island be no less than four feet. “Otherwise,” he explains, “you get pinch points.”

The builder declares that “we wanted to break the mold a bit with this kitchen.” The credit for doing so, he says, really belongs to the quartet of his wife, Carol, his gerneral foreman, Scott Summa, architect Jim Tuttle of Wolcott and Agapiou from the Kitchen Factor. One unusual choice is that the stove top is not on a wall, but directly overlooks the family room (which is two steps lower), with a dramatic Viking hood (it vents through the attic above) as a focal point. The granite backsplash is just high enough for any pileup of cooking pots to be hidden from the family room.

Nowadays, not only the great room, but dining areas and even patios are considered extensions of the kitchen. The Strachans’ kitchen is flanked, for and aft, by a formal dining room (“we hardly ever use it”) and a family eating area that’s equipped with its own sink and cupboards. It even has a small condiments fridge, so the kids aren’t always running back to the main refrigerator for ketchup and strawberry jam. Both dining rooms have a lovely barrel-vaulted ceilings a bit lower that the kitchen’s, lending a more intimate feeling. The barrel-arch motif is carried right on out to the patio, where it shelters an outdoor grill.

Come to think of it, even if Carol were not a great cook, even if–heaven forbid–nary a meal were to come forth from this splendid kitchen, it would still be a space of visual beauty and balance.




Eric Strachan Incorporated Custom Home Builders 203.509.2064