Cabinet finishes are a mix of laminate and glass, matte and glossy textures. A countertop “bridge” connects the prep and cleanup island (left) to the bar area (right). “We wanted a seating area that was tablelike, with the family facing each other, rather than bar seating,” says homeowner Matt Mulvihill.
SIZE 350 square feet
It’s a familiar story. Two young marrieds living in the city have a baby. Suddenly amenities that didn’t matter when they were childless—such as backyards and local schools—begin to take on new importance. By the time the second baby comes along, they’ve made the decision: It’s time to move. But relocating to Elmhurst didn’t mean Matt and Leslie Mulvihill were willing to give up their urban-cool aesthetic. Their new house would be contemporary in style, energy efficient, and technologically cutting edge. At the center of it all would be a practical but eye-catching kitchen.
“We wanted a clean, symmetrical look with textures that matched and enhanced the rest of the home,” says Matt Mulvihill. “We wanted it to be very open and functional, with lots of countertop space for entertaining and cooking. Having abundant storage to hide everything was also important.”
The Mulvihills turned to Colette Rodon-Hornof and Kelly Brown at the kitchen design studio Vesta to make that vision a reality. “Our number one focus for each project is to find out how people are going to use their kitchen,” says Rodon-Hornof. In the case of the Mulvihills, the room had to transition easily from afterschool snacks and family dinners to evening cocktails with friends.
Architect Jeffrey Funke designed the crisply contemporary house.
To integrate these functions, Brown designed a nontraditional island as the room’s centerpiece. The section closest to the refrigerator, ovens, and cooktop was designated the prep and cleanup area. Another section, adjacent to the dining room, became a bar area with an icemaker and wine storage; glasses and liquor are within easy reach in a nearby cabinet. The countertop “bridge” connecting the two pieces adds a striking graphic element. “We like to think of different planes intersecting,” says Brown.
The Leicht cabinets were designed to keep clutter under control. A hood for the cooktop slides out of the way when not in use, and the microwave and coffeemaker are kept out of sight on their own designated shelves. “It’s great that we can just close the door and all that stuff disappears,” says Matt. There’s even a charging station where cell phones can be stashed overnight. “It’s the modern-day version of a junk drawer,” says Brown.
“Often the ceiling is forgotten,” says kitchen designer Kelly Brown. “In a big open space, a soffit can define the kitchen area without putting up walls.” The horizontal lines of the drawer pulls, side-by-side ovens, and above-cabinet windows continue in the family room as a mantel and a low built-in bench by the fireplace, integrating the two spaces visually.
Four different finishes, including back-painted glass and textured laminate, were used on the cabinets. “There’s a trend toward laminate these days,” says Rodon-Hornof, who notes that this is not the tacky laminate of decades past. Durable, good-looking, and easy to clean, it’s ideal for families with kids.
Interior designer Molly Ouradnik added a glossy glass-tile backsplash and hung a whimsical chandelier over the island. “Matt envisioned a Bauhaus look, with stark white and black brick and concrete,” she says. “Leslie’s aesthetic is much softer. I needed that softness to work with the spectacular volume of the rooms, bringing them to human scale.”
The homeowners’ daughters play near an ethanol-burning
Eco-Smart fireplace, one of the home’s many green features.
Part of the reason the kitchen is so successful, says Brown, is that the homeowners took the time to do it right. “This was almost a year-long process,” she says. During that time, “what started as a functional contemporary kitchen turned into a showstopper.”
As for the Mulvihills, they’ve achieved their goal: a family-friendly space in a high-style setting. Their two daughters have their own storage cabinet for coloring books and markers, and they regularly settle in at the central island with art projects as their parents prepare dinner.
“The kitchen works great for how we live,” says Matt, “and it looks incredible.”
Photography: Nathan Kirkman
Styling: Christina Dunne-Anderson
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Kitchen design: Kelly Brown and Colette Rodon Hornof, Vesta, 773-252-7300, vestachicago.com. Interior design: Molly Ouradnik, Madison Montgomery, Stillwater, Minnesota, 651-323-4000, madisonmontgomeryinteriors.com. Architecture: Jeffrey Funke, Funke Architects, 312-202-0586, funkearchitects.com. Builder: Mondo Builders, Elmhurst, 630-215-7000, mondobuilders.com. Counters: Cambria and Caesarstone, The Countertop Factory, Addison, 630-458-0474, thecountertopfactory.com. Cabinets: Leicht. Backsplash: Mandala tile in Silver Fox. Sinks: Kohler. Faucets: Dornbracht. Pot filler: Newport Brass. Cooktop and wall ovens: Wolf. Refrigerator, freezer, wine storage unit, and icemaker: Sub-Zero. Chandelier: Dandelion by Moooi. Chairs: Ikea, ikea.com.