Keeping It Casual

Entertaining is easy, thanks to this thoughtfully designed and decorated kitchen space.



The warm whites of this room range from Benjamin Moore & Co.’s Dove White in various finishes to Benjamin Moore & Co.’s White Sand. 
The countertops are Cambria Tourquay Quartz. The couch fabric is Sunbrella, and the color is Salt. 

What is white? What is simple? If you’re invited to dinner here, you enter, feel at home and get to know people. After a wonderful meal, you help clean up and fill the dishwasher; it all seems effortless. It feels as if you intuitively know where everything goes. Hey, you’ve had a great time. You may not think about why it works.

But this is all by design. This homeowner knows her stuff. She’s been schooled on two previous houses and has consulted on the homes of many friends. With this house, she says simply: “I knew exactly what I wanted. My goal is always, ‘Everything you need and nothing you don’t.’ I have a lot of opinions. Plus, my husband and I worked with a great group of people.”

An intentional kitchen design

First, the homeowner consulted with designer Linda Banks, of Banks Design Associates Ltd./Simply Home in Falmouth, Maine. A longtime fan of Banks’s elegant spare design, the homeowner sensed she could integrate Banks’s ideas with her own.

“We laid out the kitchen with my signature ‘twin’ cabinets,” Banks says. “I am not a fan of kitchens that look like a showroom with lots of little doors dotted all over the place. I prefer as few cabinets as possible. I like it open and happy. I am not a big fan of upper cabinets, which you have to play hide and seek to find anything. I like open, walk-in, closet-type pantries. This kitchen has a perfect layout—one side of the stove is for the refrigerator and freezer, the other side is the food and dish pantry. I love the tall units. The most valuable real estate in the kitchen is waist height to eye-level storage.”

As for the homeowner, she couldn’t agree more. And like Banks, she thinks the “work triangle” (the imaginary lines drawn between the stove, sink and refrigerator to determine efficiency for kitchen work) is a bit overrated.

“Life is more casual now,” the homeowner says. “Entertaining has evolved—whether it’s a pool party or a book group. We had a pop-up party the other night—just burgers on the grill, a salad and dessert. No fuss.

“Throughout the house, I have private and public spaces,” she continues. “In the kitchen, I call my private space ‘command central.’ It

has easy access to everything I need to keep things running smoothly while entertaining. On its periphery, guests who want to help can access the bar fridge, wine cooler and glasses in the open pantry, along with the refrigerator and serving platters. After a meal or party, I can clean up command central quickly since it’s small. If anyone wants to help clean up, and they always do, there’s plenty of room by the sink and dishwasher.”

A coffee station, a bar fridge, a wine cooler, glasses and serving platters are all easily accessible in this butler’s pantry. 

The room is wide-open with a large kitchen island, which can comfortably accommodate a lot of people. Friends and family can relax in the living room area or be in the kitchen space. The home is near the beach, so in the warmer months, most of the entertaining is on the porch or near the pool.

To achieve this final design, the homeowner fine-tuned her ideas in consultation with Linda Cloutier, an award-winning kitchen and bath designer who owns Linda Cloutier Kitchens & Baths in Greenland, and Jake Sullivan, project manager with Robert W. Gray Construction, LLC in Rye.

Lighting choices

Working with Cindy Milne, a lighting designer at The Lighting Center at Rockingham Electric in Newington, the homeowner picked out variety of fixtures and opted for halogen bulbs. The lighting has a bright, clean look that’s both dramatic and warm; it also has options for the precise angle of the light.

“I like halogen lights both for the quality of light and because they work well on dimmers,” the homeowner says. “Generally I opt for 40 watts. My electric bill is really low. I must have been a farmer in a previous life, because when it’s dark outside, I like it to be dark inside.”

As Milne says, the lighting plan was critical because all the wiring had to be in place before the shiplap siding was installed. In particular, the halogen lights that up-light the high ceiling had to be placed precisely along with the modern low-voltage halogen “art” light. Yet, the under-cabinet lights are dimmable LEDs.

For impressive style and to work with the ceiling height, the homeowner chose seeded glass pendent lights, which have soft, rounded edges and an organic feel. To coordinate with the stainless-steel work surfaces, she chose Boston Library sconces, which created task lighting. All these fixtures were from Rockingham Electric.

The technical work

Installing the shiplap—which has a textured, old-fashioned New England look—was a careful and innovative process. Sullivan used medium density fiberboard (MDF), a green product.

“Wood shiplap has a lot of expansion and contraction with our changing seasons,” Sullivan says. “The consequent plumb and level changes can be quite substantial. But MDF stays very stable.”

Working with Jackson Lumber and Millwork in Raymond, Sullivan designed and manufactured a shiplap corner system. This system decreased air penetration and facilitated the addition of dormers. “It’s almost too tight,” Sullivan says. “We also used an outside membrane and foam insulation. Of course, we have air exchangers and do humidity control, which keeps the house at between 25 percent and 35 percent relative humidity inside.”

Design details

This is a white kitchen. More accurately, this kitchen is many shades of white. The effect is subtle, yet gives the room depth and character. The room is basically Dove White by Benjamin Moore & Co., applied in a variety of finishes. The cabinets—manufactured by Brookhaven Cabinetry—are a shade of white called Lace. The kitchen countertops are Cambria Tourquay Quartz and, at the end of the kitchen island, the decorative “X” is painted White Sand by Benjamin Moore & Co. The homeowner found the coffee table with its “X” motif online. It was a chalky white. So, the homeowner painted it White Dove in a pearl finish to match the walls. The couch fabric is Salt by Sunbrella.

Other design touches denote a sense of place. The “X” and shiplap walls reference the rural character of an historic town. The flooring—by Carlisle Wide Plank Floor & Rugs in Stoddard—is the color of beach sand. The wood is wide-planked wire-brushed white oak. The finish color is Weekend Cottage.

In cooler weather, the floors are warm, thanks to radiant-floor heating.

The cabinets are a Shaker design. “I always use a Shaker design, but add contemporary hardware for a modern look,” says the homeowner. Cloutier—whose showroom features Brook- haven Cabinetry, which has a lifetime warranty—agrees that the Shaker design can accommodate a range of styles from country and contemporary, to retro and transitional.

There are touches of black and other textures, such as the rush seats on the island stools. “A bit of black anchors a room,” the homeowner says. But the media screen with its shiny black, high-tech surface is not one of those touches. Rather a “barn-style” door slides over the screen when it’s not in use.

Above the fireplace is a painting by Ruth Hamill, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, from her Water’s Edge project. Hamill’s work—which explores change and transiency—captures some of the homeowner’s own philosophy.

What’s missing? Just the clutter. The homeowner is clear that this did not happen overnight or by any secret formula. “Moving is a great cleansing experience,” she says. “Yes, I did cry when we left that first house where our kids grew up. But they love this new house, and now they have their own places. This is our Zen place.”


The homeowner’s “command central,” between the prep sink and range, is a place to chat, cook and direct. Tall twin cabinets provide a dish pantry near the sink as well as a food pantry close to the range and main appliances. 


The design team includes, from the left, project manager Jake Sullivan, of Robert W. Gray Construction, LLC, in Rye; Linda Cloutier, of Linda Cloutier Kitchens & Baths, LLC, in Greenland; and Robert Gray III, of Robert W. Gray Construction, LLC. 


Boston Library sconces provide classic, task, over-the-sink (and stove) lighting. 


Clean lines—from the four-paned transom windows to the horizontal lines of shiplap siding—add fine detailing to this room. Pendent lights over the island, under-cabinet lights and track lighting on the beams create a soft, balanced ambience.

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