Feature > Company in the Kitchen

In most households, visitors fall into one of two categories: There are “living room guests”—the more formal, pinkies extended, feet-off -the-furniture type of visitors—and then there’s the category known as “kitchen company.”

John Tinios prefers those of the kitchen variety.

And does he ever have a kitchen to accommodate them.

It’s his favorite room in the modified Nantucket-cottage home— “modified,” as in bigger—he had built in stratham six years ago. The 4,800-square-foot home is located just off the seventeenth tee of the Golf Club of New england and, given Tinios’s passion for golf and entertaining, it should come as no surprise that the kitchen is no more than a ten-foot putt from the front door.

“I wanted it so that when you walked into my house, it would be warm and inviting from the get-go,” he says, “and to me, the kitchen is always the most inviting room in a home. The straightthrough view of the golf course doesn’t hurt, either.”

That view is one that Tinios enjoyed for years, long before he could enjoy it from inside his home. “I fell in love with this piece of land even before the golf course was here,” he says. “The view from this hill used to look out over a family farm that was here, and when I’d drive by, I always dreamed of having a home here.”

Tinios would drive by the site on his way to The Galley Hatch. The Tinios family restaurant in Hampton has been his professional home for thirty-eight years, and it is at The Galley Hatch where Tinios developed the considerable kitchen skills that are on display when he hosts his annual Thanksgiving Day dinner party at his home.

“The first year I was here,” he says, “I moved in on November 8, and I had twenty-eight people over for Thanksgiving. That’s why so much thought went into the kitchen.”

Creating the Ideal Entertaining Setup

Like so many productive brainstorming sessions, Tinios’s was conducted in a bar; the one at The Galley Hatch, as chance would have it. He was joined there by architect Lisa DeStefano of DeStefano Architects in Portsmouth, and by utilizing that most fundamental of drafting materials—an overturned restaurant placemat—the two were able to formulate a plan for his home.

“What came out of that bar session was John’s desire for a lot of entertaining space,” DeStefano says, “and when I say entertaining, I mean that in a couple of ways. There were some nights where he might be wearing his ‘golfing-with-his-buddies hat’ and other nights where he’d wear the ‘dad hat’ with his two daughters.

“Given his love for cooking, the kitchen was going to be at the heart of the home, so the adjacent living and dining areas were designed for maximum flexibility for entertaining, while also allowing us to take advantage of the views of the golf course,” DeStefano says.

The living and dining area—three steps down from the kitchen—are in the same great room with the same expansive views of the golf course. “The way we designed that space was to give John the flexibility so he could adjust the dining and living room furniture to accommodate a big event like his Thanksgiving gathering,” DeStefano says.

“John was a very involved client, and he’s very visual, so when we were speaking about something, we would look at images of things so we were speaking the same language,” DeStefano says. “That’s how we came up with the idea to put the fireplace in the dining area, not in the living area. That’s an extension of his passion for entertaining; sitting at the dining room table, breaking bread and enjoying the company of his guests by lingering at the table for a long, leisurely time. Simply by raising the fireplace three feet above the floor, it’s easily visible from the dining room table and very much a part of the dining experience.”


And as for those views of the golf course? We were enjoying them from Tinios’s deck off the living/dining room—the deck also is accessible from the groundlevel, hot-tub-and-grilling patio by way of a delightful, outdoor spiral staircase—when we took a short break from the walking tour of his home.

His sense of hospitality demanded that we take such a break, which is when he set out a plate of hors d’oeuvres that should have been photographed for posterity—in particular, the grilled eggplant, which was rolled and stuffed with roasted red peppers, prosciutto and a mild provolone, then drizzled with a balsamic glaze and topped with feathery curls of parmigiano reggiano.

“What I get the biggest kick out of,” Tinios says, “no matter the age group—whether it’s my daughters and their friends, or my golfing buddies or co-workers—is when people tell me how comfortable they feel when they’re here.

“The more relaxed you are, the more free-thinking you can be,” he continues. “That’s why Steve James, my partner at Popovers [meaning Popovers on the Square, a casual café and Galley Hatch spin-off located in the heart of Portsmouth’s historic Market Square, will come over here, and we’ll sit out on the deck, have a glass of wine and toss ideas around. This is a great place to kick back and think things out.”

Inside the ‘Man Cave’

If the ideas won’t come, Tinios has a fallback plan. It involves the game room, one level below the living/dining area. There’s a wet bar to inspire thought, plus an entertainment center, a pool table and a seven-player card table. If there’s no inspiration to be found at those many sites, there is always the adjoining wine cellar.

“That game room with that wine cellar? That’s what I call a ‘man cave,’” laughs Tim McGrail, whose contracting company, the Teleran Corporation in Hampton, built the Tinios home. “That’s a place where a bachelor could live out his whole life with a pool table, cigars and wine.”

Alas, there was little wine in the cellar that day, but Tinios has an intriguingly sunny mindset regarding the nearly empty racks that stared back at us. “I have a friend who was building a home, and I was storing 800 bottles of wine for him,” Tinios says, gesturing toward the shelves and bins that can accommodate 950 bottles. “We just got them back to him, so I’m looking a little depleted at the moment. “

On the plus side,” he says with a smile, “that means I have to restock. That’s always fun.”

Dancing in the Kitchen

The tour resumed with stops in the second-floor living space, which includes the master bedroom, a guest suite and bedrooms for his daughters, Jessica and Elena. Then we were back where it all begins and ends for John Tinios: the kitchen.

A green granite island dominates the center of the room, with appliances forming a roomy arc around it. Within a short reach and a quick side-step, there’s the modified, commercial-grade, Viking® stainless steel refrigerator— it’s size-and-a-half; a six-burner DCS propane range (with double oven); and an over-and-under convection oven and microwave.

“I’m a big believer that cooking is like dancing,” Tinios explains. “Once you get the steps down, that’s everything. Cooking is all about timing, and if you can generate economy of motion, the timing is that much easier to manage.”

Tinios has also managed to cultivate a robust indoor herb garden, made all the more accessible by the sliding copper tray that DeStefano designed and installed in the window bay above the kitchen sink.

“I had a women’s book club come over a little while ago, ”Tinios says with a slight smile, leaning back against the granite sink board. “They were reading books about the Mediterranean, and they wanted to have a meeting with food and a guest chef.

“Now, I’m not a classically trained chef, but I’ve been in the business for thirty-eight years, so I did a Mediterranean dinner for them. There were twelve of them, so I broke them into teams, gave them lists of ingredients and assigned them different dishes.

“We wound up doing Greek, Italian and Spanish dishes. I think everybody had a great time,” Tinios says. “For me, it was just one of those opportunities to entertain that I dreamed about when I dreamed about this house.”

Using the Site

Tinios left it to DeStefano and McGrail to dream up ways to contend with the grade changes and the differences in elevation on the site.

“His lot was pretty unique because it had that very unusual grade to it,” McGrail says. “So for us to set the foundation required a lot of site meetings. We call it ‘show and tell.’ We do markups so the owner can get an image of what they’ll be looking at from various points in the house, and for John, that meant the views of the golf course.”

“And I think one of the unique things about the house is the way it sits on the landscape,” DeStefano says. “In a typical home, you’d walk into the garage, then the mud room and then the main house. In this case, the garage was a half-level lower than the main house. So we used a wide staircase in connector form between the garage and main house, and we used oversized landings to help you traverse through the house in such a way that the garage being a half-level off the main floor still felt very inviting.

“Then you go from the main house, and it’s half a flight to the next level and you’re above the garage in a playroom for kids. Then half a flight up and you’re at the bedroom level. To me, the stairway works as more than just a connector. It’s almost part of the core of the house.

“We did a lot of pushing and pulling,” DeStefano says, “and in the end, we really ended up making this staircase more than simply functional. It’s a piece of art.”

The Soul of the House

And John Tinios has mastered the art of entertaining. “One of the joys of owning a home like this is being able to make people feel comfortable, right down to the furniture,” he says. “My criteria for furniture was simple: The chairs had to be wicked comfortable, and I wanted people to feel free to put their feet up on the coffee table.

“Good food, good wine, a good atmosphere. Those are things I treasure. I guess that’s what comes from having spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry. When you’re in that industry long enough, you come to learn that, for a restaurant to succeed, it has to have a soul.

“Before I ever set foot in this house,” he says with a smile, “I knew it was going to be a happy place. This home has a soul.”