Room With a View

Designer Julie Ann Stoner received this request from her Main Line client: Design a kitchen that’s all about the garden

With a garden this wonderful, it’s easy to see why you’d want to bring the outside in. Low beds of flowers stretch across the lawn. Small fountains patter among box-hedged parterres. Faux-bois chairs and tables are arranged for outdoor tête-à-têtes. And the house is always filled with fresh flowers.

“This project came from a whole different design angle,” says Stoner, “taking the client’s personal


With a garden this wonderful, it’s easy to see why you’d want to bring the outside in. Low beds of flowers stretch across the lawn. Small fountains patter among box-hedged parterres. Faux-bois chairs and tables are arranged for outdoor tête-à-têtes. And the house is always filled with fresh flowers.

“This project came from a whole different design angle,” says Stoner, “taking the client’s personal interests, her love for florals and botanicals and the garden, and trying to create a space that would set a backdrop for the thing that was so important to her.”

The updated kitchen and breakfast room are wonderfully successful at doing just that. The old kitchen was small, and attached to a large butler’s pantry. At the time they were built, these rooms were hardworking, prosaic spaces. “But now,” says Stoner, “the kitchen is more of a hearth room, a living space, so this kitchen needed to look just as elegant as the rest of the house.”

Stoner and her Wayne firm, the Rutt Studio on the Main Line, started work by reconfiguring the kitchen, removing an old peninsula and replacing it with a large center island to work around. To fit it in, she says, “We robbed space from the butler’s pantry.”

Still, Stoner found many creative places to add space. “There are a lot of storage features: pullout spice columns, rollout mullioned-glass doors, compartmentalized drawers, wastebasket pullouts,” she says. A new arched entrance from the dining room is lined on both sides with full-size cabinets.

“We chose to keep the cabinetry in the butler’s pantry for the charm and the character of the old cabinets,” says Stoner. “We updated it with new countertops of Corian and mullioned-glass cabinet fronts, and put in a beautiful antique copper farm sink.”

Aside from traditional storage for pots, pans and dishes, this kitchen needed room for vases, cachepots and other tools for the fresh flower arrangements that are a hallmark of the house.

While laying out the storage, Stoner consulted with Valley Forge Flowers at Spread Eagle Village in Strafford. “Sometimes they will go in and stage the home with floral arrangements, so working with them was a big help,” she says. Stoner also worked closely with designers from the Little House Shop, also at Spread Eagle Village in Strafford.

The new, multiuse kitchen accommodates more than just cooking, Stoner says. “One of the corner pantries was large enough to house the laundry, an area for ironing, and an area for bathing the dog with bins for grooming accessories,” she says. “And then, of course, coat closets, a back-entrance bathroom and luggage storage. This project encompassed about four different rooms.”

Getting it all done required the help of a “phenomenal builder,” Stoner says of Scott Dunn, owner of Dunn’s Construction in Devon. “This was a blending of the old home with the new home.”

For his part, Dunn says the project “just flowed.” His job included some structural updates as well as reconfiguring the spaces within the kitchen. “It all came through beautifully. It’s part of having the right designer, like Julie,” he says.

Choosing the right finishes was key to bringing the garden feeling inside. The floors are walnut. The ceiling is covered with Anaglypta, an embossed paper that looks like pressed tin. “It simulates an old-time ceiling,” says Stoner.

The Rutt Studio built the new cab­inetry. “We wanted a very clean look,” says Stoner. “We used a full-overlay cabinet style with very clean lines, embellished with the tile backsplash.” The tile came from Devon Tile & Design Studio in Devon. The cabinets sport buttercream paint that highlights their crisp lines.

Topping the kitchen island is warm-toned iroko wood, a tropical African hardwood that complements the greens of the outdoors. In addition to its good looks, iroko is a very tough surface. “We wanted people to be able to chop and prep in that space,” says Stoner. Durable Macadam Corian tops the other counters. Appliances include two Fisher & Paykel DishDrawers paneled to blend into the cabinetry, a Sub-Zero refrigerator that hides in an armoire, a pair of Wolf wall ovens and warming drawer, and a built-in coffee center—a specific request from the homeowner.

“Creating this space, we didn’t focus on any one major focal point,” says Stoner. “It’s simply stated, yet elegant, so that no matter where you stand or pass from room to room, it integrates. The richness of the walnut, the depth of the colors of the Corian and the tile backsplash, the ceiling detail—it’s all the elements in the space.”

The reconfigured rooms offer vistas that bring the garden close to the rest of the house. From the dining room, “You literally can stand in that archway and look out that big, beautiful window” over the breakfast table, says Stoner. “That archway frames the view to her back
garden, and it’s inviting.”