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An updated kitchen has a newfound flair for the dramatic-and a juicy handmade showpiece

WHEN SARA RITZ FIRST SET FOOT in her 1923 Tudor in Meadowbrook 10 years ago, she saw it as a fairy tale setting. “I said, 'Oh! A fairy princess could live here!'” she recalls. As it happens, she ended up with four sons — more soccer than make-believe — and spent most of her time in a cramped kitchen that had been added to the house in 1980 and that bore no resemblance to the Gothic details and carved paneling of the surrounding rooms.


WHEN SARA RITZ FIRST SET FOOT in her 1923 Tudor in Meadowbrook 10 years ago, she saw it as a fairy tale setting. “I said, 'Oh! A fairy princess could live here!'” she recalls. As it happens, she ended up with four sons — more soccer than make-believe — and spent most of her time in a cramped kitchen that had been added to the house in 1980 and that bore no resemblance to the Gothic details and carved paneling of the surrounding rooms. “We always knew the kitchen would have to go,” says Ritz. When she and her husband, Peter, decided to redesign the kitchen in the spring of 2006, the idea was to integrate as well as update. “I wanted the kitchen to be as theatrical, boisterous and energetic as the rest of the house,” says Ritz.

The former kitchen now holds a washer, dryer and powder room, and is still the house's most practical entryway for the family — everyone drops their stuff here. “It was a mudroom to begin with,” says Ritz. “We just happened to cook there.”

They expanded the space even farther into the woods behind the house and removed a wall that separated the dining area from the heart of the kitchen. Now the new kitchen opens into a cozy dining and seating area, looking out on the pool and woods beyond, and faces a fireplace built with rocks Ritz dug from the backyard. The same fieldstone surrounds the hood of a new Viking range and is incorporated into the kitchen's focal point: a colorful mosaic backsplash of a split pomegranate.

Ritz, who holds degrees from Moore College of Art & Design and Tyler School of Art, and frequently makes mosaics based on her own paintings, designed the backsplash herself. “Pomegranates are mentioned in several major religions as a symbol of righteousness or commandments,” says Ritz, who eats one every day when they are in season. “It's written in the Torah that a pomegranate has 613 seeds, symbolic of 613 positive deeds. It seemed like a good symbol for all of us to have around.”

She also created the whimsical, vine-covered chandelier that defines the central dining area of the 25-by-35-foot space. Steps leading down to the kitchen mirror those from foyer to grand room. “It's like a stage,” she says, “another big, colorful, dramatic space.” Limestone countertops appear to emerge from the original masonry wall and oak floors were installed to match the random-width, pegged planks in the rest of the house.

Original exterior windows, painted pomegranate red, became built-in china cabinets by installing glass-shelved boxes behind them. “We have these crude, rough walls and these old window frames lit up with my very delicate china inside,” she says. “It makes a great contrast.”

Behind the mullion windows of a freestanding cabinet, games are stacked and jars hold Magic Markers, Sharpies, tape and glue sticks. “It already has the patina of four boys living in it,” says Ritz. “We cook, we play, we do homework, we read. There is nothing fussy here. We just never leave this room now.”

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