Step inside four dream kitchens to find out what's cooking.
Step inside four dream kitchens to find out what's cooking.
It’s so familiar as to be cliché: You’re with your group of friends, hosting a party at one of your houses, and inevitably the group drifts away from carefully decorated living rooms and tastefully lit formal dining rooms…to the kitchen. Filled with noise and light and fire and mistakes, any good kitchen is truly the heart of a home — whether you use your oven for frozen pizza or beef bourguignon is irrelevant. The four Austin kitchens featured here share a respect for that habit we all share, and an interest in tossing aside the formal for the comfortable. Go ahead; Pull up a barstool.
Tommy Moorman, partner in McGuire Moorman Hospitality and chef, and his wife, Lauren, knew they needed a kitchen that was both functional and open. But the house they bought in 2008 was just 900-square feet, and its kitchen, was anything but functional. (There was no disposal, no dishwasher, and no overhead hood.) “I really think it was just sort of a room that had appliances in it,” Lauren says with a laugh. But an extensive redesign changed all that, complete with custom-made hood that the couple caved on after going through three regular hoods due to the high heat Tommy likes to cook with.
“During dinner parties, our range is so hot that it would blow out the fan above,” Lauren says. In addition to their commercial ventilation, the kitchen also has a commercial refrigerator and an all-gas range. The couple worked on the design with architect Jaime Chioco. “Most kitchens are the focus of the home, but in our case it really is the first thing you see when you walk in,” says Lauren. “And we had really specific ideas about what we wanted even before we started designing the project.” Lauren had always wanted soapstone counters, for instance. But she says that Chioco brought novel ideas to the table, so to speak, as well: “He thought of having different levels for the counters. Some are bar height and some are counter height, and it not only means that you can work and sit at them, but you can also sort of hide your work.”
Proud parents of 15-month-old Paloma, Lauren and Tommy aren’t currently entertaining quite at their normal pace, but their dining room table is big enough to seat at least a dozen people. In fact, the table — from a family farm outside San Antonio — is so big that the couple literally made the house wide enough to accommodate it in the renovation process. Could there be a more charming example of form following function?
Barbecue is important to Katie Marye and her husband Drew in more ways than one. First, there is the couple’s appreciation of the brisket process — (Drew will often rise at 5 am to devote an entire Saturday to it) — but there’s a strong personal connection with barbecue as well. All of the men in Drew’s family cook, Katie explains, and take special pride in their barbecue. “Drew’s brother is a chef at a restaurant on Block Island, Rhode Island, and it is really sweet to hear him call his brother and describe how long the brisket has been smoking [or] which rub he used this time. He is slightly obsessed with beef, but that’s part of his charm.”
The couple also have barbecue to thank for bringing them together. During a barbecue Katie was hosting, Drew struck up a conversation. “I was making homemade barbecue sauce, and he began asking lots of questions about my sauce recipe,” Katie says. “We went on our first date the next night.”
Twenty years later, the couple continues cooking together in their 1950s Northwest Hills ranch-style home alongside their two sons, Jack and Graham. An interior designer, Katie says the home’s kitchen was “a constant frustration, with its dated finishes and poor layout.” So the couple set about a remodel, enlisting the help of Hello Kitchen, and Katie focused on the design elements, starting with a brass cabinet pull she’d fallen for. From there, the kitchen blossomed into countertops of honed Caesarstone quartz in Pebble, shiplap along the length of the wall behind the sink to contrast with the brass faucet, and a Fireclay Tile Paseo backsplash.
The reimagined kitchen, which now connects to the dining and living rooms, feels like the true heart of their home, Katie says. “Meals, homework, and Lego assembly all happen in there,” she says. “The house isn’t large, but the remodel provided us a much more efficient and enjoyable way to live within the same footprint.”
Working as a full-time consultant in finance for fifteen years meant a lot of meals eaten out for Andrew Sabola. So when he had saved enough, he and his husband, Esmaeil Khaksari, moved to Austin, built a house on the east side, and cooked at home constantly on the big grill beside their tiny pool.
Back in Boston, the couple had cooked together often, but at first, their attempts were more formal. “But it turned into fighting over cooking, like ‘You plated that wrong,’” Sabola says with a laugh. “We realized no one cares when they come over. It’s all about the social aspect.” Those social ties are strong for the couple here in Austin; Sabola says his group of friends often rotates hosting dinner parties that end in “going through way too many bottles of wine and breaking out into ‘80s power ballads.”
Sabola’s kitchen is perfectly suited to hosting such a get-together, from commercial pull-down faucets to two double-wide sinks. “We tried to pick materials that would be hard to destroy,” Sabola says. In stark contrast to the cramped, 1850s spaces of Boston, Sabola’s kitchen was made custom 42-inch counters, and tall ceilings. (Sabola and his husband are both about 6’4”.) “In the summer you can throw a bunch of stuff on the grill, get in the pool up to your neck in the water and have a margarita close by,” Sabola says.
Sabola’s love of food extends beyond his own kitchen, too, This spring, he opened Gelateria Gemelli on East Sixth with partner Meghan Erwin. On the heels of a trip to Italy to learn how to make gelato, the duo offer a simple, comforting menu (try the Vietnamese coffee gelato) — not unlike what Sabola loves cooking best in his own home.
Emily Ramshaw and David Hartstein’s chief motivation for the renovation of their home was entertaining. Ramshaw, editor of The Texas Tribune, and Hartstein, independent filmmaker, director and producer, have a big circle of overlapping friends — “in the film community and the media universe” — and wanted to create a space that was more open, “where we could eat and drink and work and cook and connect without all the walls in the way.”
So they did just that, knocking down all the walls in the main living area of the house, to create one open space. They also raised the ceilings by four feet and put in clerestory windows. And they established a kitchen that was more organically linked to their outdoor space, critical because Hartstein is serious about grilling and smoking. So serious, in fact, that he has a thermometer with an alarm that alerts him overnight when his 18-hour smoking projects are in danger of temperature change. Those nights, Ramshaw says, Hartstein sleeps on the couch and “the whole house smells like brisket.” The following day, the couple invites a crew over, who come with side dishes, and they light a fire pit and relax.
The kitchen itself boasts Minas soapstone counters, a Fireclay tile backsplash and “layers and layers of natural light,” Ramshaw says. The cabinets are painted in Sherwin Willliams Greenfield — a welcome pop of color among wood and stone and light. The design of the kitchen is critical, Ramshaw explains, because though the couple owns a beautiful dining room table, weeknights often find them in the kitchen, laptops open, working late into the evening. “One of us is often whipping up something while the other of us is finishing a story or pounding off an email about a location for a film,” Ramshaw says. “Then we find a half an hour to eat together and talk about the day.”
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