Redesigning a kitchen around a sensational view
They bought their house in Westwood because of the beautiful yard, so they added a big window and made everything work around it.
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Kate and Dave Lefcourt bought their home in Westwood because of the yard. While house hunting four years ago, they walked in the front door and went straight out the back, lured by the landscape. “It’s got a beautiful, very private backyard,” says Kate Lefcourt.
The trouble was, they couldn’t see it clearly from the kitchen, which dated to the 1960s. “There’s this gorgeous view out back, but they had this rinky-dink window over the sink,” says designer Sarah Scales. What’s more, the Cape had undergone a “hodgepodge of additions” over the previous 50 years as earlier homeowners appended and converted two garages.
“We always knew the kitchen would be a project,” Lefcourt says. After living with its quirks for 2½ years, they turned to a uniquely qualified candidate to lead the renovation: Scales is Lefcourt’s sister.
The first order of business was opening up the view to the backyard, which measures just under 2½ acres. “We added a large picture window in the middle and two flanking windows,” Scales says. That meant losing all of the upper cabinets, and with them, a lot of storage. But Lefcourt was reluctant to futz with the floor plan or pour a new foundation to gain square footage. “They didn’t want to take down every wall and make this giant kitchen — they wanted to have the new space feel in proportion with the house,” Scales says. “So we were kind of limited to the existing walls, which can be a challenge.”
She made up for the lack of upper cabinets with tricks like hanging pot racks to hold pans and cooking utensils, a storage solution that also looks great. But her most crucial move was to steal 24 inches from the adjacent dining room to free up enough room for an island and easy circulation around it. The refrigerator sits in the stolen space, flanked by 12-inch-deep pantry cabinets that back up to a pair of handsome new built-ins in the dining room.
In the original layout, an awkward peninsula separated the cooking area from the breakfast table but mostly just got in the way, Scales says. “You could only really get from the kitchen to the breakfast [area] by one little pathway, so when it was busy or around the holidays, there was always a bottleneck there.”
Now an island with seating for three and a prep sink offers plenty of room to roam or gather. “I like to call it island life,” she says. “People like to perch and hang out there.”
Because acids from food can etch and stain marble, Scales used the stone only for the island top and its waterfall-style edges. “On the right and left of the sink, we used a manmade quartz, which is basically indestructible,” she says. “It’s really pretty” and allows for worry-free food prep.
The walls are covered in elongated subway tile — 2 by 9 inches instead of the typical 3 by 6 — which was made to order with no perfect edges. “There’s a real artisan feel to it when you see it in person, but it reads really classic,” Scales says. “And because they had no uppers, it was a nice design element to take that tile to the ceiling.”
Scales also had to blend the couple’s divergent design sensibilities. “I’m very traditional and he’s super contemporary, so she really helped us meld the two,” Lefcourt says. The lighting fixtures, from Visual Comfort, strike the right balance of classic and not too fussy, Scales says. More modern touches are the Kohler faucets and Buster + Punch cabinet pulls. “I think the homeowners appreciated having a cool look for those elements,” she says.
But Lefcourt’s favorite part of the renovation didn’t come from a supplier and will never go out of style. “When we looked at the house that first day, we were like, ‘We need a view of this,’ ” she says. “It gave us our view.”