Beverly and Tom Porter purchased their dream home on Longboat Key two years before Tom planned to retire, then handed interior designer John Hargreaves a long list of requirements. This would be a home for comfort and laid-back entertaining, set amid an eclectic blend of elegant French antiques. And it would have no formal dining room; everyone would eat in the kitchen. When Tom stepped down as chief technical officer for Seagate Technology, a lifetime of business travel and restaurant meals would give way to the simple pleasures of home cooking. (And drinking fine wine-the Porters recently purchased their own vineyard in Napa Valley.)
Hargreaves met the Porters’ challenges head-on, creating a charming Country French setting. The kitchen is practical and efficient, with high-tech amenities deftly hidden behind a decidedly low-tech façade.
"Bev and Tom like to cook together with guests right in the kitchen, so we created an open plan," Hargreaves says. "Because they work independently, pullouts like a spice rack, wastebasket and staple pantry are accessible from both sides."
"John spent a lot of time getting to know us, what we like and how we entertain," Beverly says. The effort paid off: "When people come in," she says, "They feel at home."
Hargreaves designed cabinetry in French blue and antique ivory with a hint of taupe to pick up tones in the living room’s French fabrics and Aubusson rug. Filigrees add authenticity and charm.
A seven-foot-round walnut table (Southard, the DKOTA), a dozen 19th-century French chairs (Coco Palm Gallery), and hand-painted Ulla Darni chandelier (Galleria Silecchia) formalize the dining experience.
The designer chose Sonoma tile from Southwest Tile & Design to create a one-off backsplash and range hood using purposely unmatched, custom-colored tiles in fleur de lis, quilted squares and floral motifs that appear to be antiques collected over time.
To further the Country French ambiance, Hargreaves selected a farm sink and old-fashioned spigot-style faucet, bumping out the backsplash for proper water flow directly over the center of the sink.
For practicality, top-quality porcelain stone was used in two tones in a ratio of two-thirds cream to one-third beige. A complete layout was rendered, depicting the kitchen’s random border and checkerboard diagonal design.
A custom-designed pineapple motif, the symbol of hospitality popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, was filigreed to allow air circulation in the wooden housing for a microwave at the end of a work counter/bar.