Cooking Light

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Take one modest ranch-style home with an unflattering 1960s image. Strip away dated layers and discard. Remove barriers and open walls. Expose to light and allow for expansion. Color with imagination and garnish to personal taste. Enjoy! The original kitchen in the Davies residence on Bird Key sported white Formica counters, a monstrous white refrigerator […]


Take one modest ranch-style home with an unflattering 1960s image. Strip away dated layers and discard. Remove barriers and open walls. Expose to light and allow for expansion. Color with imagination and garnish to personal taste. Enjoy!

The original kitchen in the Davies residence on Bird Key sported white Formica counters, a monstrous white refrigerator and white laminate cabinetry with a random spattering of gold sparkles. The plastic ceiling dome concealing fluorescent light tubes had originally been white, but had turned a dingy yellow with age and grime. With few windows, it was the darkest room in the house, and a poorly designed floor plan created a dead-end. Like the marching band in the movie Animal House, people could walk into the kitchen’s bottleneck but could not walk back out.

As if this weren’t bad enough, a sad little family room adjoined the horrible kitchen. Its lowlights included fake wood paneling, a wet bar fashioned of inexpensive laminate with a plastic top, and cheap flower petal light fixtures. Small fixed glass windows that were designed never to open shrunk the space, but the room’s most riveting element was the ultra-luxurious shag carpet in vivid lime green.

Yet the Bird Key home was appealing to the Davies, a Canadian couple seeking a winter home in the Sarasota sun. The house offered a superb location near Bird Key Yacht Club, a private back yard with lush tropical plantings and a lovely pool. All living areas were on a single level, storage space was ample, and the garage was more than adequate. In addition, friends from Canada had already discovered Bird Key and were singing the praises of this island neighborhood located just minutes from downtown, St. Armands and Longboat Key. So they purchased on potential and set about transforming the interior.

Large, cool squares of beige travertine replaced the dated kitchen floor, and smart gray berber carpeting created a neutral base in the room beyond. Walls were painted dove gray and accent areas were faux-painted with silver metallic paint for eye appeal and a contemporary edge. Pale maple cabinetry and black granite countertops, designed with graceful curved edges and long unbroken lines, expanded kitchen space, while a reconfigured island with sinks and good work space opened up the room for an excellent traffic flow. Mrs. Davies’ penchant for strong geometric shapes and her extensive collection of hand-blown and hand-painted glass drove the kitchen design, resulting in angled cabinets, unusual wall insets and interesting asymmetrical niches for display space.

Searching for solutions to brighten the space, architect Mark Smith created two skylights in the center of the ceiling and replaced one wall with a big panel of etched glass designed by the couple. Not only does the glass panel allow natural illumination from the dining room windows to flood the kitchen, but a strategically positioned ceiling eye-spot bounces light off the panel and reflects into the kitchen.

Hanging halogen lamps suspended from the ceiling are functional little works of art, with faceted crystal orbs encased within brushed nickel tongs. A beautiful glass shelf edging the work island in the kitchen was under-lit for even more light. And finally, the former family room’s functionless windows were replaced with wide glass doors that pocket all the way back into the wall and allow an unobstructed view of patio and pool.

The outdated oven and stove made way for Gaggenau appliances with a stainless steel finish and a sleek wine cooler trimmed in black. The 40-year-old laminate backsplash was ripped out and replaced with shimmering miniature glass tiles in colors of heather, lavender, cobalt, onyx and mauve. An original acrylic painting by Sarasota artist David Steiner entitled Coquinas reinforces those same shades and bridges the transition from kitchen to game room.

Here the centerpiece is a custom-designed Mitchell snooker table in purple felt and polished chrome with a handsome geometric base and under-mounted lighting. The new bar features a dappled gray-flecked granite and glass shelves to showcase artistic painted barware and crystal. A three-dimensional chess set and handsome carved wooden dart board amuse guests, and the displayed collection of model automobiles is a nod to Mr. Davies’ favorite hobby-racing vintage automobiles.

The finished result delights the couple as well as their guests, and entertaining has been made easy. "Our design team agreed that the secret to success in this case was opening up and letting the light shine in," says Mrs. Davies. "Now the kitchen and game room flow together beautifully, and the space seems twice as large."

Design Team

Architectural redesign by Mark Smith; interior design by Barbara Price; kitchen design and cabinetry by John Farmwald of J & M Builders; granite by Ruck Brick; tile by Alstrom & Associates; fixtures by Light Up Your Life; carpet by Chappie’s.