Wellesley Kitchens Sparkle on Annual Tour
Imagine designing your dream kitchen. You’d probably install the latest bells and whistles, like a built-in cappuccino machine, under-the-counter refrigerated drawers, and mahogany cabinets.
But would your dream include inviting 700 of your neighbors over to see it? Incredibly, six Wellesley families recently did exactly that—they completed months-long kitchen renovations, then celebrated by throwing their doors open to the community.
“It certainly is a big commitment to allow hundreds of people to walk through your house,” acknowledges Laurel Lyle, who chaired the 2007 Wellesley Hills Junior Woman’s Club (WHJWC) annual Kitchen Tour, a major fundraiser for the organization. “But we do everything we can to make it as painless as possible, such as positioning our members in the house to serve as staff during the tour.”
Each year, six local homes are selected to represent a variety of styles and concepts in current kitchen design, and proceeds from the tour go to local charities supported by WHJWC, as well as towards scholarships for Wellesley residents. WHJWC members are, at present, busy planning and securing homes for their tenth annual Kitchen Tour, sponsored by Tibma Design/Build, to be held this year on Saturday, May 17.
Fortunately, the families whose kitchens are featured on the tour are always accommodating. “Having scores of people walk through our house didn’t bother me at all,” says Janet Campbell who, along with husband Ian, opened their Tudor-style home to the public. “The WHJWC members did a great job of running the event, and I looked at the situation as a plus—it inspired me to buff up my house by putting a bit more thought into decorating.”
If guests of the 2007 Kitchen Tour were looking for kitchens with pizzazz, they got what they wanted. More than mere showpieces, the owners of the Wellesley kitchens baked functionality in right along with the sparkle, adapting their homes for active lives that include children, pets, neighbors, and extended family.
Walk this way
Campbell, who is controller at WCVB-TV in Needham, and her husband, CEO of Nucleus Research in Wellesley, moved into their Fairbanks Avenue residence in 1994. “We lived in the house almost ten years before we began renovations,” Janet says. “We wanted to get a good feel for it, because our goal for the renovation was to reflect the home’s Tudor character.”
The Campbells, in fact, overhauled the entire back half of their home. “It gave us a new kitchen and family room, as well as a master bedroom,” Janet says. “Before, we had a very small kitchen, but with this renovation we were able to add a center island.”
Their island, which is topped with black Uba Tuba granite, has become the focal point of the kitchen. “People congregate around it while we cook, and our 9-year-old son does his homework there,” Campbell says.
In keeping with the home’s Tudor characteristics, the new kitchen features dark cherry cabinets, accented with pewter hardware, while appliances like the Sub-Zero refrigerator are also covered with the same cherry wood panels. Above the island is a grand black wrought-iron pendant chandelier, which Campbell terms “a lovely little find,” while embedded underneath the island is a microwave at knee level. “We put it there because we didn’t want to see it from the family room,” Campbell explains.
Perhaps the owners’ favorite aspect of the renovation is a new butler’s pantry. “We use it as a bar, and our prized possession there is a Scotsman Ice Maker, which makes perfect ice every time,” Campbell says.
The Campbells chose to go with a hardwood kitchen floor. “My husband and I like the warmth of hardwood—in fact, we installed radiant heat underneath it, because I like to go barefoot all year round,” Janet laughs. “Plus, it’s easier to clean than tile, and it’s more forgiving if you drop something on it.”
Neighbors Deb and Mark Hermann, who also opened their Fairbanks Avenue home to the Kitchen Tour, agree wholeheartedly. “Tile can be pretty cold underfoot, so we chose wood because it doesn’t get as cold,” Deb explains.
Although the Hermanns also live in a Tudor, their renovations took on a very different slant. For starters, the family underwent the renovation phase before they moved in, working with architect Ralph Kilfoyle of RDK Associates, and contractor Jim Cram.
Secondly, the team of client, architect, and contractor eschewed the traditionally darker hues of a Tudor by incorporating an aqua-themed palette in their kitchen.
“We installed off-white cabinetry and jade green granite countertops, called ‘Costa Esmerelda,’” Deb says. For the backsplash, marble and glass mosaic tiles serve as a counterpoint to the granite and stainless steel appliances. “We wanted a different texture,” she points out.
A farmhouse sink sits under a bank of sunny windows, and the grand centerpiece is a 9-foot long mahogany island. “There is seating for four stools, and some under cabinets for storage,” Deb says. “During the design phase, we made sure the kitchen layout and storage made sense for us—we now have tons of storage space that’s easy to work with.”
The kitchen boasts a Viking professional range with a center griddle, which Deb says is used often. Their favorite aspect of their home renovation is the attached breakfast room with 10-foot high coffered ceilings and bay windows that look into the back yard.
Each of the Kitchen Tour homeowners worked as part of a team, whether with architects, contractors, or interior designers. Seasoned professionals offered their advice, like the contractor who worked with the Campbells: “In the construction business, an open line of communication is essential to problem-solving,” says John Wardwall, owner of JW Construction, Inc., in Waltham. “Customers should engage a contractor early in the process so they can participate in the design. Janet and Ian brought us in quite early, so it was a real collaboration,” he explains.
The advantage of getting the builder involved up front helps meet the client’s needs within a budget they’ve established. “It works so much better when all parties are involved from the get-go,” Wardwall adds.
Not to mention that when everyone is involved, it’s a faster journey to the final blueprints. “Spend the time and money on a detailed set of plans,” advises Peter Holland, who is both builder and homeowner on the center hall Colonial he and his wife, Laura, call home.
The Hollands’ game plan included a state-of-the-art “Mom Command Center” that includes a computer and satellite audio center, allowing the family to organize their busy lives from one location.
Guests on the Kitchen Tour were also wowed by another surprise detail found in the Holland kitchen: sliding corbels in ornamental pillars near the stove that hold spices.
The focal point of the kitchen is the oversized mahogany island and three leather barstools, while surrounding countertops glimmer thanks to Verde Butterfly granite with detailed ogee edging.
Clearly, the Hollands believe in function. “My favorite aspect of the kitchen is the look and functionality of the desk area,” Peter says. “There are two large file cabinets, lots of drawer space, and glass display cabinets.”
Martin and Terri Levin, whose Colonial also has a modern open feel, moved from Cambridge to Wellesley almost three years ago, and brought their Cambridge-based designer, Heidi Pribell, with them.
“While Heidi guided us in choices for countertops and tile, she was truly able to incorporate items from our Cambridge house, including wallpaper, into this one,” Terri says.
The Levins didn’t undergo a renovation at their Whiting Road residence in Wellesley; rather, they bought it as a spec home, customizing it with cherry cabinets, French Country hardware, and small, jewel-like backsplash tiles punctuated by vibrant Delft accents.
The pièce de résistance of the Levins’ home, however, is the breakfast room, which is accented with a chinoiserie wallpaper pattern of fluttering ginkgo leaves identical to the one found in the sunroom of the family’s Cambridge house.
“Do your research on your materials, because there are so many products out there,” Terri suggests. “And know what your color scheme is before you choose, because once it’s installed, you have to live with it.”
Levin says her interior designer was invaluable in helping her make choices that would flow together, from the kitchen sink (“I had to choose between farmhouse style, porcelain, and stainless”) to the countertops and tiles.
Together in spirit
In the truest display of community character, those who made their homes available for the Kitchen Tour didn’t seem bothered by the fact that hundreds of people would be traipsing through their homes.
“I really didn’t mind visitors coming through our house,” Deb Hermann explains. “We’re proud of what we did, and I was happy to show others.” In fact, Hermann says she was honored that she was approached by the WHJWC. “I took it as a compliment!”
The Kitchen Tour is just one of WHJWC’s three major annual fundraisers. The other two include the highly anticipated Wellesley Phone Book, which the organization has published for 40 years running, and the autumn Wellesley Marketplace Craft Festival at Wellesley High School, featuring over 120 New England artisans. “Our fundraising efforts allowed us to give away over $170,000 in donations and scholarships in 2007,” notes Erika Redmond, president of the 80-member organization.
The volunteer group, which is dedicated to community service, was founded in 1944, and is still going strong today. “Women in Wellesley are attracted to [WHJWC] because we offer them an opportunity to get involved right here in their community, and have a very significant, local impact,” Redmond says. “Our focus on Wellesley has helped us uncover much need right here within our own town, and gives us the opportunity to have a direct impact in meeting those needs.”
Typical beneficiaries of WHJWC’s generosity include municipal organizations such as the town’s fire department, library, recreation department, community center, and historical society. Other recipients are South Middlesex Legal Services, to fund attorneys representing low-income petitioners, and the Visiting Nurse Association, to fund 20 home visits in the town.
Perhaps one of the nicest neighborhood stories that emerged during the Kitchen Tour is the side effect of the Campbell family’s nine-month displacement from their home. “We moved out and rented a house on Bow Street, about a half mile away, so we could visit our own place every day and check on construction,” Janet recalls. “But another great, unexpected benefit was all the new neighbors we met in that area. I’m thrilled to call them my friends now!”