Written by Nancy A. Ruhling
Styled by Jen Everett
Photographed by Jeff McNamara
Gathering everyone to eat at the same time is difficult for most families, but when home is a Manhattan apartment whose kitchen barely accommodates a table, it’s all but impossible.
So when Michael and Sandy Richman bought the adjoining apartment in their Upper West Side prewar building, they enlarged their kitchen by a third, creating a 156-square-foot space that serves as a hub for them, their 14-year-old twins, Jake and Samantha, and their golden retriever, Oakley. “We had to wedge our foot into a loafer that was a tight fit,” says Michael, metaphorically, who enthusiastically describes himself as the family’s “prime cook and bottle washer.”
Architects Erika Belsey and Philip Mahla, of Belsey & Mahla Architects in New York City, created a family-friendly, industrial style chef’s kitchen that is lively and light. The enlarged space made room for a dishwasher, a six-burner cooktop, a pantry and a washer and dryer.
The design motif defies categorization. “We used a layering of textures and time periods, so it’s neither a museum nor a kitchen for the 21st century,” Belsey says. “You can’t pigeonhole the design.” The innovation starts with the choice of materials.The cabinets, laid out by kitchen designer Elsa Kessler to the architects’ specifications, are plywood encased in stainless steel, and the appliances have a white enamel finish. “We flipped the colors so they would not look so traditional,” Belsey says. “We wanted something that looked more industrial and was indestructible.” That theme is reinforced by the counter-height dining table, which doubles as a food-prep island. Bolted to the floor, the table’s stainless steel base is topped with extra-thick white Carrara marble to match the other 2-inch-thick countertops.
Old and new, warm and cool—everything blends beautifully: The white subway tiles in the backsplash have a classic New York accent, and the gridded, pressed-glass panels in the above-counter cabinets say high-tech.
The cork floor, which Michael loves because it’s easy on the feet—and dropped dishes—visually links the kitchen to the wood floors in the rest of the apartment.
Even when it isn’t meal time, the kitchen has become the family’s favorite room. “We have the Internet in there, and the kids bring their laptops to the table and do their homework,” Michael says. “They’re becoming interested in cooking, and the kitchen has provided a vehicle for Sandy and I to cook together. The old room was never big enough for us to do that.”