A kitchen is transformed into a bright, glamorous space
Days after having her third child, Cindy Razeghi faced the daunting task of designing a kitchen for the home that she and her husband, Andrew, were building in Winnetka, Illinois. “I was at that crazy phase of no sleep, and I knew the kitchen would be the most overwhelming area to plan,” she says. “I had no clue what to do.”
Cindy enrolled in a class taught by Chicago-based kitchen designer Mick De Giulio, hoping to pick up a few hints. Instead, she hired the teacher. “Mick mixes traditional and contemporary, and I knew my husband would love that,” Cindy says. “My husband leans toward the contemporary, and I pull toward the traditional. After seeing some of Mick’s work, I thought, ‘This guy is going to be able to make both of us happy.’ ”
Short on time (as well as sleep), Cindy was more than happy to turn over the bulk of the planning to De Giulio, who quickly sized up the family’s needs. “The general idea was to create a kitchen that would be central to everyday living,” De Giulio says. “They love cooking and having their family in the kitchen, so this is really the hub.”
With three children, who are now ages 8, 4, and 2, there is plenty of bustle in the room. While De Giulio factored in the demands the busy family would make on the kitchen, he didn’t sacrifice beauty or function. “Mick does a very good job of making things useful. Our kitchen looks elegant, but it’s definitely not dainty,” Cindy says, adding that storage is plentiful and thoughtfully placed so the kitchen functions efficiently.
There were some tough decisions along the way: Should they install marble countertops, which are inclined to stain? (“My older son is always concocting some potion out of seven different ingredients,” observes his mother.) How about full-length glass cabinet doors? (“I could just see a ball going through them.”)
In the end, the Razeghis followed their stylish instincts and trusted in De Giulio’s selection of durable materials. “We felt marble is more beautiful than anything else, so it would be worth the marks and stains,” Cindy says. And no ball has yet cracked the thick door-quality glass on the cabinets, where the Razeghis show off some of their favorite dishes and glassware.
De Giulio satisfied Andrew’s modernist preferences with a sculptural vent hood custom-crafted of polished stainless steel. Countertops on each side of the range are brushed stainless, which develops a warm patina with age. The countertops waterfall down cabinet side panels, also fabricated of stainless that is polished—not brushed—to a mirror finish. Some other cabinet bases are trimmed with strips of stainless steel for durable toekicks. “One of the most modern elements is the polished stainless steel, which is like the jewelry of the space,” notes De Giulio.
Cindy got her traditional fix with marble countertops, a vintage-style faucet, and a crystal chandelier in the window-lined breakfast nook. “It’s definitely a classical kitchen, but there’s an edginess to the design,” De Giulio says. “We wanted to think differently about the style and not do a typical traditional kitchen but rather one that really has a modern feel to it.”
The table in the breakfast nook is a good example of the kitchen’s modern-traditional mix. Cindy and Andrew ordered it after admiring a similar one in De Giulio’s showroom. (The handcrafted tables are favorites of the designer, who has one in his own home.)
The bronze base with its contemporary lines is topped with a handmade fired terra-cotta surface featuring an intricate compass-like design. “The method used to make the top is the same as that used by the Romans 2,000 years ago to make their aqueducts,” De Giulio explains. “The table has a really great texture and is finished with beeswax.” And like the aqueducts, it stands up to plenty of use. “We eat on it every day, and the kids sit there all the time to color and build things,” Cindy says.
While Cindy fussed about creating a kitchen that would accommodate her three youngsters, De Giulio reminded her about the importance of planning for the long term.
“We built the future into the kitchen, both stylistically and functionally,” De Giulio says. “From an everyday-living standpoint, that kitchen is a room they can morph into as their kids get older.”
Photography: Werner Straube
Produced by Hilary Rose
The kitchen has a sense of transparency thanks to tall windows that line the breakfast nook and flank the range from countertop to ceiling. To maximize light, kitchen designer Mick De Giulio added reflective surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and antique French mirror panels on the refrigerator.
Kitchen Island Detail
Insider tips from Mick De Giulio: “Picture-framing elements of stone is an ideal use for countertops to make them more artful. The border is created by cutting narrow pieces of the stone and laminating them around the perimeter with an opposing grain direction.”
Kitchen Island Sink
“Stone can be honed to a matte finish or flamed [roughened] to give it more texture. Mixing honed, flamed, and polished stone in the same kitchen can be wonderful,” says designer De Giulio.
“I pay particular attention to range hoods,” De Giulio says. “A custom-designed hood is a relatively small financial investment compared to the visual return it can provide. A unique hood creates an artful composition around the cooking area.”
Glass Door Detail
Mick De Giulio: “Glass can contribute to a spacious feeling. Clear or opaque glass-fronted doors on cabinets, sanded glass backsplashes and tabletops, and even glass-fronted or glass-paneled refrigerators are possibilities.”
“Stainless steel is never out,” De Giulio says. “It is practical—wipes clean, does not burn—and beautiful. It does scratch, but I consider that patina. Stainless also is the consummate neutral and an exemplary mixer. It pairs beautifully with other materials.”
Hideaway Spice Rack
“A kitchen needs to work,” De Giulio says. “That is the one hard-and-fast rule of good kitchen design. Each material, each object, each work zone must function extremely well, and the materials, in particular, must be durable.” In the range area, sliding panels reveal handy spices. When closed, it’s a sleek marble-tile backsplash.
Cindy and Andrew Razeghi with Ainslie, 2, and sons Matthew, 4, and Charlie, 8.
“I rarely install kitchen cabinets all the way up to the ceiling,” De Giulio says, “even in this butler’s pantry. It allows for some nice uplighting, and when the entire outline of a room (where the ceiling meets the wall) can be seen, the space feels airier and the cabinets appear sculptural.”
The breakfast table has a top made of a colored and fired terra-cotta that is finished with beeswax. “It has great texture and mixes well with other materials in the kitchen. The whole idea is to create warmth, personality, and mood,” says De Giulio.
Secondary Sink Station
Mick De Giulio: “The secondary sink zone is what I call the ‘la mattina’ [morning] area, which serves as a cleanup station so you can go directly from the table to the dishwasher and the sink. It’s the same idea you’ll find in commercial kitchens: Food prep never takes place in the same area as cleanup does.”
According to De Giulio, “Varying the shades of white within a kitchen gives depth and richness to the all white. I like playing with the variables—the walls, ceiling, floors, countertops—and making some or all of them white. An all-white kitchen with white cabinets and marble countertops is fantastic. The whiteness becomes dreamlike. Everything white sculpts together, which makes everything that is not white pop.”
De Giulio says, “I often use many types of woods, finishes, and countertop materials in one kitchen. I am frequently asked for the magic number: How much mixing is right? It is not about a number or mixing for the sake of mixing. It is about creating visual texture, and there is no formula for that but rather a feeling—one kitchen at a time.”
Light Fixture Detail
“A lot of this kitchen’s concept was built on the idea of transparency,” De Giulio says. “You can see the windows reflect off the range hood. Polished stainless steel melts into adjacent spaces. It’s not an added element, but rather it takes on its surroundings. The space itself has a real lightness.”