Dream Kitchens 2007: Culinary Masterpiece

Years of living in not-so-dreamy kitchens taught Lisa Cohen much of what she needed to know to plan the new culinary hub in her family’s Newton home. “I’m so glad we waited,” she says. “Before, I don’t know what I would have chosen. But now I really hope I picked a kitchen that will last.”

YEARS OF LIVING IN NOT-SO-DREAMY KITCHENS TAUGHT Lisa Cohen much of what she needed to know to plan the new culinary hub in her family’s Newton home. “I’m so glad we waited,” she says. “Before, I don’t know what I would have chosen. But now I really hope I picked a kitchen that will last.”

Lisa and her husband, David, lived in their 1920s, colonial-style house with their three children (ages 5, 9 and 11) for five years before hiring architect D. Michael Collins, principal of an architecture firm of the same name in South Natick, to design a 450-square-foot, kid-friendly kitchen that’s ideal for cooking (a passion of Lisa’s) and entertaining (they love to throw parties). So Collins set out to design a functional space where visitors could linger and kids could hang out without being underfoot.

“There were a lot of different iterations of the design because of space constraints,” says Collins. “Every inch counts. We were trying to fit in the island, a sit-down eating area and the bar area. It was a lot to pack into this space.”


WHILE SOME HOMEOWNERS PUT off a renovation for years because they fear the chaos that such a big project creates, the Cohens were prepared. David owns the Wayland-based Hampden Design & Construction and served as the project’s general contractor. “I had it easier than most people because Dave would tell me where to go. I shopped around to figure out my tastes and tore out pages of magazines,” says Lisa. “When you open the folder with my magazine clippings, you’ll see the same kitchen over and over again. I always leaned toward white.”

To break up the expanse of more traditional white cabinetry, Lisa selected modern, stainless-steel appliances, which she spent months researching. Never having bought a new kitchen appliance before, she had a lot to learn. “I went to Poirier on Needham Street and told them ‘I need you to educate me,’” Lisa says. “There’s a lot of information. I knew I really wanted a gas stove. I also wanted six burners.”

Instead of sticking with one manufacturer, Lisa looked at each appliance for unique selling points. She loved the quiet Thermador dishwasher—“Our old dishwasher sounded like a washing machine”—and the temperature probe setting on the Thermador oven that allowed her to toss her old meat thermometer.

A GE Profile microwave was set into the side of the kitchen island—placed at a low, kid-friendly level. Also designed with the kids in mind: floor-to-ceiling cabinets with pullout drawers and a snack shelf within their reach, and nonbreakable plates and cups stashed in the island so the Cohen children can help themselves at mealtimes.

Lisa made sure to include a few glass-front cabinets to show off display-worthy dishes and an eclectic collection of glassware that includes ice-cream-soda glasses her mother used when she was a child and cordial glasses that belonged to her grandmother.


THOUGH LISA DID A LOT OF RESEARCH, she says the project was a true collaboration—even when she wasn’t sure her husband was on the right track. David suggested the cherry island might be a nice diversion from Lisa’s white color scheme. “I was a little nervous, but Dave has an eye for color,” says Lisa, adding that she couldn’t imagine it any other way now.

“Dave thought we should do a marble island. But I was afraid it would be impractical. I heard that it stains,” Lisa says. So she ran a “test kitchen” of her own, spilling tomato sauce, vinegar and wine on marble samples to see what would stain. In the end, Lisa was satisfied with the stain resistance of a treated white Carrera marble from Olympia Marble & Granite in Needham, along with a helpful product. “About every six months, I re-treat it with this really good sealer called BulletProof,” she says.

The Cohens chose schoolhouse-style pendant lights over the island to keep with the home’s ’20s look. All kitchen lights are controlled with dimmer switches so they can set the mood to suit the circumstances, whether they’re preparing a feast or entertaining.

The Cohens frequently host gatherings, so the room’s flexible seating—up to 12 can sit at the table, plus six at the island—is often pressed into service. A bar area is one more thoughtful touch for visitors and kids alike. There’s a beverage refrigerator with two wine racks, and Lisa stocks the fridge with beer, wine and soda. “It’s really nice for people to be able to help themselves,” she says, speaking with the confidence of a hostess with a dream kitchen.