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A Sensual Design for the Serious Cook

Function is first, beauty a close second in this lavish pro-style kitchen, created with the cook in mind by designer Michael Schwartz.

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Michael Schwartz knows all about the trend of homeowners demanding professional quality appliances and kitchen design — he and his wife are enthusiastic participants. "I'm a serious cook myself, so when I design a cooking space, I'm thinking, 'What would I like? What would help me?' and it really helps me with ideas for my clients."

Keeping the cook's needs in mind led Schwartz to design this space with lavish storage, warm and attractive counters and distinct, separate areas so more than one cook can work at a time. "The clients, who were both avid cooks and love to entertain, gave me a lot of creative license," he says.

Schwartz, who works for Grayslake, Ill.-based 2S Designs, shares these strategies from his standout design:

The biggest design challenge: "This was a very long space and the homeowners cook — they really use this kitchen! It had to be beautiful and functional."

Schwartz created well-defined work areas, warmth and beauty by employing three different counter materials in different areas: two granites and a maple butcher block. "The granite counter on the cook center is pulled forward a bit, which helps delineate the space," he says. "Since the baking center is a focal point at one of the entries to the room, I used maple butcher block to make it softer, along with the maple cabinetry. As you're walking in you're not being hit with hard surfaces."

Wood counters: "I love wood tops in kitchen design and I love them even more when they've been used for a while and have nicks," says Schwartz. "One client of mine had a 90-year-old chopping block that came with her house and was showing its character, and I made that the focal point of her kitchen island. Aging wood shows that a place has been lived in, which is wonderful — the wear and tear adds character. The only time I wouldn't recommend using wood tops is if someone said they always wanted their kitchen to look pristine."

"The existing kitchen island included structural columns that needed to be addressed," says Schwartz. "Rather than having them just hold up the ceiling, I used the columns to turn the backside of the island into a countertop bookcase. That gives more display space and also breaks up the long space and makes it look nicer."

Try this at home: More and more clients are opting for multiple ovens, says Schwartz, particularly for those few times each year when the extended family comes together for a lavish meal and they need extra units for warming, reheating and baking. He also estimates that 50 percent of his new clients' designs include warming drawers for the same reason.

But you can and should apply this idea of multiple cooking spaces to everyday use, says Schwartz. "You can split the range and the oven to multi-task or so more than one person can cook at a time," he says. "Even just moving the microwave away from the main cooking spot lets kids get involved in food preparation without being in the main traffic or cooking pattern."

Meet the designer: As part of 2S Designs, Michael Schwartz has been creating highly personal interiors since 1987. "Our goal is to create beautiful spaces that work even better than they look," he says.

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