Four regional architects renovate five outdated kitchens, taking the hub of the home from domestic drab to designer fab.
Photography by Laura Petrilla and Ed Massery
They’ve designed more than 100 projects combined. From commercial and retail to multifamily residential and industrial, these architects have expertise in all things design, including one of the most personal projects: the kitchen. Architects Mary Cerrone, Fred M. Fargotstein, Paul J. Levine and Gerald Lee Morosco use their vast knowledge and experience to transform these ho-hum hubs into kickin’ designer kitchens.
This Squirrel Hill home boasts a 320-square-foot kitchen renovation and deck addition as part of a series of house-wide transformations that have improved the home’s functional layout, increased natural light and views and aesthetically enlivened its interior. “The kitchen combines durable materials,” says Cerrone, “including a vibrant color palette, linoleum over radiant floor heat, stainless steel and engineered stone counter tops, stained maple cabinets and doors, porcelain tiles, and a deck that perches over the backyard and surrounding hillside.” A new Amana refrigerator, GE Café gas range and range hood, Sharp microwave drawer and Kitchenaid dishwasher drawer were installed.
The Efficient Kitchen
The efficient galley configuration was built-in to this compact home’s layout. Cerrone maximized the kitchen’s size by eliminating a wall to combine it with a small pantry, while adding a glass door to connect to a new deck and expand the kitchen’s views and natural light.
Cerrone built out over the basement stair, capturing additional floor space for a recessed refrigerator. “We also eliminated door swings in the work space by swinging the door to the deck out and tucking a sliding screen door into a slot alongside the refrigerator,” says Cerrone.
- General Contractor: Fisher Renovation (412/828-9131)
- Casework: Jerry Fink (since retired)
- Stainless-steel top: Bishop Metals 412/481-5501, bishopmetals.com)
Meet the Architect
“Because most people spend a lot of their ‘home time’ in the kitchen, the space should take advantage of natural light and views,” says Mary Cerrone, a licensed architect in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Cerrone received her B.S. in architecture from The University of Virginia and her masters of architecture from Yale University. She serves on the board of AIA’s Pittsburgh chapter and is a member of the advisory board (as well as a volunteer for) the Pittsburgh Community Design Center RenPlan program; additionally, Cerrone is a committee member of the AIA Custom Residential Architect Network (CRAN). She taught drawing and design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and at Carnegie Mellon University. Her architecture and interiors firm provides creative solutions that integrate architecture and interior design.
“I collaborate closely with my client to identify their values and goals early in the design process in order to develop an architectural solution that is unique and appropriate to the site, the program and the budget,” says Cerrone. This teamwork continues — incorporating the builder throughout the project’s construction phase. “Kitchens should integrate attractively with the surrounding rooms while also functioning as honest working spaces,” she adds. “As such, their design should take into account the placement of key components relative to one another and to the larger surroundings.”
Mary Cerrone, AIA
1056 S. Negley Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/362-0768, marycerrone.com
This 1,000-square-foot first floor makeover of an Upper Saint Clair home transformed a typical “builder-style” kitchen into a streamlined, contemporary space infused with natural light and views. “We redefined the connections between the kitchen, eating area, laundry and family room by adding exterior and interior windows, and by reorienting the kitchen work space and its connection to the front of the house,” says Cerrone. The homeowner worked closely with Cerrone to select end-matched walnut cabinets coupled with aluminum and glass pieces; also, the plumbing fixtures, appliances, Cambria tops, coordinating glass and stone wall tile and cork floor were carefully selected.
To maximize storage to suit her clients needs, Cerrone made a switch.“We traded wall cabinet space for windows; however, the storage space was more than recouped with an 8-foot length of full-height cabinets.”
The Efficient Kitchen
The homeowner did not keep the home’s formal dining room; instead, the space was converted to a living room (and the formal living room was converted to an office). The generous eat-in area accommodates an expandable 48-inch round table and can seat 12 people. “When we reoriented the kitchen’s work space, we removed it from the main circulation connecting the laundry and family room. The bank of cabinets under the new windows serves both the kitchen and the eating area,” says Cerrone.
- General contractor: Fisher Renovation (412/828-9131)
- Cabinets: O’Neil’s Custom Cabinets (724/695-7117)
- Stainless-steel island top with integrated sink: Bishop Metals (412/481-5501, bishopmetals.com)
Turn Up the Heat
A well-designed kitchen isn’t overdone; a talented designer can bring in subtle form with maximum function. “There are few things sweeter than tackling Sunday dinner with a beautiful, highly functional kitchen around you,” says Kathy Cvetkovich of Willowbrook Design in Venetia. Here are her three suggestions for improving your cooking space:
1. Music is a Must
Be sure to include a music source. The entire sensory experience is what makes a new kitchen design a successful project.
2. Form Over Functionality
When there’s the question of function versus form, the efficiency details should be skillfully tucked away so that the form may shine.
3. Less is More
It’s been said that you should always think about resale — but it’s your place. Simply put, don’t overbuild, and avoid trends — go classic if in doubt.
Kathy Cvetkovich, Willowbrook Design, 807 E. McMurray Road, Venetia; 724/941-9777, willowbrookdesign.com.
Food + Function
“While the exterior of this house is simple in form,” says Fargotstein, “like many Pittsburgh homes of the 1920s, it reflects the influence of a number of different architectural styles that were popular at the time — including Tudor, Colonial Revival and Craftsman.” This renovation can best be described as a change from modern (circa 1970s remodeling by a previous owner) to a traditional style more in keeping with the overall character of the house. “The design avoids the pitfall of being falsely historical, however, as it incorporates contemporary products and details – such as laminated bamboo flooring, recessed lighting, engineered stone countertops and appliances installed without applied paneling intended to disguise them as cabinetry.”
Before renovations, the kitchen was approximately 150 square feet — and 36 square feet was added with the removal of a seldom-used servants’ stair. “The strikingly colorful cast iron of this English import range strongly evokes the iconic kitchen hearth, and it serves as a powerful focal point in the composition. It was a fundamental requirement in the owners’ program — being a slightly scaled-down version of the traditional ovens they became fond of during their travels in Great Britain,” says Fargotstein. This modern model features five commercial-style burners, two convection ovens, a separate broiling compartment and electronic controls.
The Efficient Kitchen
In the kitchen, work space and efficiency were each significantly increased through the elimination of the existing servants’ stair. According to Fargotstein, the existing layout left much to be desired. The stair also created an unnecessary traffic pattern, cutting through the heart of the work zone, and it precluded a contiguous countertop work area.
“The range, located on a peninsula, not only lacked an exhaust hood, but it imposed itself rather unpleasantly — and somewhat dangerously — on an already constricted eating counter,” recalls Fargotstein. The dishwasher door completely obstructed access in and out of the work zone whenever it was open. A great deal of space was wasted in the layout of the existing pantry, yet it lacked sufficient storage capacity and practical work surfaces. A separate, fully functional work zone was incorporated in the pantry, and includes a prep sink and a hot beverage station. “The band of three new windows now provides a bright, cheery vantage point; the view of the garden makes this the owners’ favorite spot to sip their morning coffee,” adds Fargotstein.
“Storage capacity was significantly increased by extending the wall cabinets to the ceiling in both the kitchen and pantry, and existing plaster bulkheads that wasted valuable space were demolished in both areas,” explains Fargotstein. The transparency and lightness afforded by glass doors on selected wall cabinets enhanced the space’s sense of openness.
Additional cabinetry and countertops were installed in the pantry to take advantage of all usable space for both storage and to create a secondary work area. “Custom modifications included stock cabinet units throughout, but they were customized in several areas in order to make the most efficient use of available space,” says Fargotstein. These special features include a message center, open shelving for cookbooks under the island, shallow display shelving on a wall near the pantry and even an out-of-harm’s-way nook for cat-food bowls.
- General contractor: Cummings Construction (412/821-2779)
- Cabinets: Merillat by Jacob Evans Kitchen & Bath (412/922-1200, jacobevans.com)
- Countertops: Vangura Surfacing Products (412/824-7777, vangura.com)
- Appliances: Hillmon Appliance Distributors (724/779-9393, hillmonappliance.com)
- Windows: Marvin, by Allegheny Millwork (412/431-4224, alleghenymillworklumber.com)
- Plumbing Fixtures & Fittings: Seymour’s Bath & Decorative Hardware (412/261-2050, seybath.com)
Meet the Architect
“I established my practice in 2004 to focus on my affinity for older homes,” recalls Fred M. Fargotstein, registered architect. He focuses on “working to preserve their character through well-crafted and stylistically appropriate restorations, renovations, and additions.”
Committed to crafting design solutions for his clients that are in harmony with the character and quality of their home, as well as with their own personality and style of living, Fargotstein admits that (in certain respects) the design of homes is often not conducive to 21st-century living. “With regard to kitchens in particular, lifestyles have changed so dramatically over the decades that we now have entirely different expectations as to what is required of them. But in adapting older homes to our present-day needs, we can do so in ways that are respectful of their style and character.”
While Fargotstein wouldn’t expect anybody to mistake one of his kitchen renovations for an old home’s original fabric, he’s frequently told that his designs “look as though they belong.” “My work in each kitchen project begins with listening carefully to my clients — endeavoring to distill the essence of their needs, wants, and dreams into a cogent and practical program for their specific project.”
Fred M. Fargotstein, Architect
This kitchen is in Levine’s 1920s French Tudor home, located in Point Breeze at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. The previous kitchen was a bland, almond-colored ’70s-style kitchen with plastic laminate cabinets and countertops, a white tiled backsplash, aging appliances and a steel replacement rear door. “The only redeeming value to the existing room was a beautiful Mexican Saltillo tile floor,” recalls Levine, who shares the home with his wife and daughter.
For the kitchen remodel, Levine had a few goals in mind: create a room that fit the home’s style, complemented the existing floor tile, increased the home’s value, and provided a comfortable (and environmentally friendly) space to work, hang out and (most importantly) eat.
The kitchen area itself is very small (8 feet by 15 feet), with minimal wall cabinets and a small pantry area. “The solution was to use the Craftsman style, which my wife and I both love; it’s appropriate to the era of the home’s construction,” says Levine. “So I maximized the island cabinet space and increased the island countertop surface to allow for a small bar-type eating area.” The refrigerator and dishwasher are by GE, and the oven is a dual fuel Jenn-Air Range with down-draft venting to keep the island area open to the eating area, avoiding the need for an overhead vent hood.
With the priority to maximize cabinet space in mind, Levine used a frameless cabinet construction to maximize interior cabinet space. Custom touches include: extending the wall cabinets to the ceiling with crown moldings at the ceiling line; using drawers for storage in lieu of cabinets with roll out shelves; adding a tray space above the refrigerator; and building a custom drawer designed specifically for flatware. The small cabinet pantry area was kept intact, but to save on the cabinet costs, Levine kept the existing cabinets in place and changed only the doors and frames from the plastic laminate to cherry to match the rest of the kitchen.
The Efficient Kitchen
Levine was able to perform all the construction in the kitchen remodel by himself. “Since I only worked on evenings and weekends, the remodel took longer than a project completed by a contractor — but I was able to keep the space intact for the majority of the time so that we were never without a kitchen,” says Levine. Because this kitchen is small with minimal cabinet space, maximizing the efficiency was very important.
Designing the cabinet configuration for the specific storage requirements, using the frameless or European-style cabinet, and providing minimal clearances made the best use of minimal space and created the most efficient work flow. “I also squeezed a row of cabinets into the backside of the island that opens into the breakfast area,” says Levine. Low VOC paint, water-saving fixtures and stainless-steel, energy star-rated appliances were used.
Levine substituted the old, drafty back door for a new energy-efficient wood door that looks original to the house, with a restored transom window that the previous kitchen hid. To get the microwave off of the countertop, Levine added a microwave wall space; plus, he installed an open shelf unit on the back. The extension of the island counter provided not only more seating as mentioned before, but also a longer work area. “I also added pendant lights over the counter as a design element — and to increase light in the area,” he says.
- Cabinets and countertops: Beahm & Son (724/538-3300)
- Tile backsplash: Trikeenan Tileworks through Ceramiche, Tile and Stone (412/922-5600, ceramichetile.com)
- Pendant lights: Tech Lighting with Lutron Controls through LaFace and McGovern Associates (412/854-3200, laface-mcgovern.com)
- Back door: Masonite (800/663-3667, masonite.com) through Adelman Lumber Co. (412/231-0770, adelmanlumber.com)
- Hardware: Emtek Products, Inc. (emtek.com). Paint by Benjamin Moore Paint Co., eco spec no VOC paint (855/724-6802, store.benjaminmoore.com)
Meet the Architect
Paul J. Levine, a native Pittsburgher and registered architect since 1982, is a graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture. He completed an architecture program at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has a diverse range of architectural design experience, having worked with small and large firms in addition to completing his own projects. He excels at building technologies, building codes and building accessibility, and focuses on sustainable design to enhance human comfort and building performance.
“My approach to designing kitchens is a combination of thoughtful design with no prescribed style,” says Levine. “Kitchens have become the central hub of the home, and the design should address the many functions that take place in and around the kitchen, and provide for a comfortable place that responds to the home owner’s lifestyle.”
Paul J. Levine, Architect
526 Edgerton Place, Point Breeze; 412/665-0392.
This kitchen remodel in Shadyside was undertaken as a part of a significant rehabilitation of a classic Pittsburgh four-square, Dutch Colonial-style home. The house had previously undergone a major “modern” remodeling in 1984, which was designed by Louis Sauer, then a noted Pittsburgh architect. “The kitchen had been remodeled out of what we surmised to have originally been a kitchen, butler’s pantry and servant’s stair, and was rendered in a distinctive 1960s-’70s modernist palette and proportion. All of the original historic details had been removed,” says Morosco.
“It’s typical in our kitchen projects to plan out the contents of each cabinet and drawer, working outward from those immediately adjacent to the primary cooking area to accommodate cooking utensils, pots and pans,” says Morosco. “In this kitchen, the lower cabinets conceal deep pull-out trays that make for easy storage of — and access to — large pots and pans. The island cabinets contain pull-out trash receptacles with individual bins for garbage and recyclables. The large pantry is divided vertically with a space for brooms and includes a full height set of pull-out shelves so that everything is immediately visible.”
The Efficient Kitchen
This kitchen is arranged into several functional areas: the primary cooking area, which forms a triangle anchored with the range and the island; a cleanup area anchored on the opposite side of the island, across from the cleanup sink with dual dishwashers; the pantry, which includes a cabinet, freezer and wine cabinet; and the breakfast space. The area adjacent to the breakfast table also functions as the rear entrance with a coat closet; nearby, there is a small planning desk — perfect for the organized chef.
“In addition to these areas, the non-working side of the island has pull-up stools that allow for family and friends to participate with the person cooking without getting in the way — how ideal!” says Morosco.
- General contractor: Carpenter Construction, Inc. (724/837-1155, carpenterconstruction.net)
- Plaster and painting sub-contractor: Century Interiors, Inc. (412/366-7720, centuryinteriorsinc.com)
- Electrical sub-contractor: EME Electric (412/963-7255)
- Flooring sub-contractor: Steven Kuhn Floor Refinishing (724/348-7400)
- Stone countertops sub-contractor: PATCO Industries (724/600-0114)
- Custom wood moulding and trim supplier: Bosewell Lumber Co. (814/629-5625, shorttreeproducts.com)
Meet the Architect
Architect, author and lecturer Gerald Lee Morosco is the founder and president of Gerald Lee Morosco Architects, a local preservation-based architectural firm. An honors graduate from Washington & Jefferson College, he holds B.A.s in Art and English; additionally, he pursued his education through a traditional apprenticeship at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
While at Taliesin, Morosco gained practical “hands-on” experience in both the art and practice of architecture, in construction. In 1994, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation recognized Morosco with an Award of Merit for his achievements in historic preservation and for increasing public knowledge of Pittsburgh heritage through restoration and rehabilitation of the East Carson Street National Register District. The award-winning row house — which he shares with his partner, Paul Ford, and their mixed Border Collies — features his design and received national recognition in 1999 as a finalist in Metropolitan magazine’s Met Home of the Year Contest.
Morosco has lectured on the topic of kitchen and bath design, and has been a frequent guest in The New York Times speaker series at the Architectural Digest Home Show in New York City. “My kitchen designs are [informed by] practical cooking experiences, which range from preparing large dinners for more than 100 people to intimate meals,” says Morosco.
Gerald Lee Morosco, AIA
Gerald Lee Morosco Architects, PC
1016 E. Carson St., South Side; 412/431-4347, glm-architects.com
Turn Up the Heat
Ida McConnell, owner of Cuvee Kitchen Designs in Glenshaw, offers three tips to make your kitchen “bright and welcoming.” This contemporary kitchen in Fox Chapel features three different exotic woods and counter top surfaces with a tremendous “Treetop” view.
1. Step Up the Prep
Include a second sink in the kitchen to use for prepping. If the space allows, add a set of refrigerator drawers on one side of the sink and a second dishwasher on the other; this provides the cook a great place for prepping and allows more than one cook in the kitchen at a time.
2. Let There be Light
Add as much natural light as possible and have proper artificial lighting. Options to increase natural lighting include: enlarging a main sink window by extending it down to the countertop, adding glass windows in a splash area, adding skylights and changing solid outside doors to glass doors.
3. Work in Wood
Don’t be afraid of using multiple woods or finishes with cabinetry and different counter surfaces; it adds interest and uniqueness to a kitchen.
Ida McConnell, Cuvee Kitchen Designs, 3179 Harts Run Road, Glenshaw; 412/486-0838.