A kitchen renovation that fosters healthful living
As the youngest of six children of Italian immigrant parents, Sandy Kline (née Bongianino) grew up with garden-fresh home-cooked meals in a cozy, crowded kitchen. Every day on her way home from school in a small town near Pittsburgh, she picked up loaves of fresh bread baked in wood-fired ovens at her uncle’s Italian bakery.
“It was the most amazing place to grow up,” Sandy recalls. “We had a lady who delivered eggs, the milkman who brought milk from a dairy in the next town, and someone who came with a fresh chicken each week.” That exposure and a lifelong love of cooking made Sandy an easy convert to the Slow Food Movement. The grassroots organization began in Italy as a reaction against processed fast foods and mega-sized agribusinesses. Slow Food members encourage locally produced, regional cuisine; sustainable agriculture; and small food-related enterprises.
“I’ve always had an organic garden, been aware of environmental challenges, and read a lot on the subject,” Sandy says. Those issues came into play when Sandy and her husband, Matt, renovated their home just outside Alexandria, Virginia. Sandy had seen plenty of contemporary eco interiors, but that was not the right aesthetic for the Klines’ house in a historic area near the Potomac River. “My challenge was to do a traditional, old-world kitchen but make it green. I wanted to show people that you can do green in any style,” she says.
That started with the demolition, where the Klines worked with the contractor to limit environmental damage. Metal and cardboard waste was recycled rather than thrown in a landfill, and exterior bricks removed for the renovation were cleaned and reused on the addition. The old wood cabinets, appliances, and a bay window were donated for resale. French drains were installed to carry rainwater from the gutters to plantings at the edge of the property, and dirt removed for the new foundation was used to regrade the yard.
Although the new kitchen is bigger, efficiency was Sandy’s guiding principle as she laid out the space. A table-style island divides the kitchen into work zones, with the cooktop and refrigerator on one wall opposite the built-in coffeemaker and ovens. Sandy evaluated her cookware and kept only those things she regularly used. “I really simplified. How many pots and pans does a person need? The more stuff you have, the harder it is to find what you need.”
The layout allows for several cooks to work at once, and glass-front cabinets and open shelves make it easy for guests to see where things are and pitch in. “We have a lot of young people in our family, and they want to come on the weekends and cook, too,” Sandy says.
Energy efficiency was the watchword for appliances, and Energy Star-rated windows and two skylights maximize natural light. New recessed-panel cabinets were custom-built using formaldehyde-free plywood and sustainable FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified plywood finished with a low-VOC water-based lacquer. A zero-VOC paint was used for interior walls.
A focal-point wood-fired oven on a wall of handmade blue-and-white tiles is traditional all the way, but it’s more than a decorative statement. Sandy bakes in the old-world oven regularly, she says, preparing roasts, desserts, fish, and--of course—Italian bread.
Photography: Gordon Beall
Produced by Eileen A. Deymier
Kitchen design: Sandy Kline, Matt Kline Assoc. LLC, 1109 Waynewood Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22308; 703/786-8808 and 703/862-6785, mattklineassoc.com.
Builder: Boucher Building Corp., 8405C Richmond Hwy., Alexandria, VA 22309; 703/721-9831.
Tile designs on the cooktop backsplash are based on antique European drawings. Sandy Kline designs tile, stone, and other hard surfaces. An induction cooktop like this one heats by creating magnetic reactions between pans and the coils under the ceramic top. Sandy loves the precise calibrations (from super hot to barely warm) and that the top is 30 percent more efficient than gas.
Energy-efficient products like the Miele cooking appliances won Sandy Kline’s approval. The coffeemaker starts from scratch with a built-in grinder, and it has a calibrated water dispenser and high-tech frothing features. The speed oven combines a microwave and convection oven in a compact size. “We use that oven on a daily basis,” Sandy says. The single convection wall oven has pro features with sleek styling, and the steam oven uses heat and moisture, making it ideal for asparagus, broccoli, and shrimp.
Carved corbels accent the marble-topped dining island.
A Harbor Breeze double ceiling fan efficiently cools the room.
The Klines often cook during cool seasons in the heavily insulated wood-fired oven.
Blue-and-white custom tiling around the oven matches the cooktop backsplash and gives the kitchen a friendly, old-world look.
Materials used are eco-sensitive and traditional in style, like cabinets and architectural details finished with waterborne lacquer.
The Klines bumped out an exterior wall to enlarge and update their kitchen. The custom table-style island with turned legs by Matthew Burak divides the kitchen into work zones.
Homeowners Matt and Sandy Kline.