Old-Fashioned Charm

AS THE NAME IMPLIES, designer Joan Picone’s European Country Kitchens in Far Hills, New Jersey, is expert at creating the country look. When Tim O’Connor asked her to look at a 1920’s Federal-style house that he was considering purchasing, she looked beyond “the mishmash” of the existing space and envisioned a spacious kitchen with old-fashioned charm. According to O’Connor, “I wanted a sunroom, a big fireplace, and space to entertain my friends, but most of all a place to relax with my two children.”

Picone assured O’Connor that by annexing the adjacent two-car garage he could have the comfortable, informal kitchen he imagined, with room to spare for socializing. If the original kitchen’s size was deficient, its cabinetry and most of the appliances were just fine. Picone recycled the existing cabinets, rearranging them and adding matched units. “Because we manufacture our own cabinets, we were able to copy them exactly,” she says.

Picone’s recipe for a country kitchen is simple: a subtle mix of colors and textures, surfaces and objects that reveal the hands of their makers, and space for homeowners to display collectibles. “A country kitchen suggests a less ‘put-together’ look,” she notes. “Things should be simpler and more down to earth.”

In this kitchen texture abounds, not only in cabinet finishes, but also in the rough-hewn beams, knotty-pine ceiling, slate-like surfaces of Italian pietra stone, flagstone fireplace, and floor tiles that mimic antique bricks. Picone chose hand-molded ceramic tiles that depict animals and branches as a backsplash behind the primary sink. Companion tiles with a mottled, hand-applied ocher glaze add to the interplay of textures.

A country kitchen never screams that everything is new, says Picone; instead, it encourages people to reuse favorite collectibles. O’Connor brought many pieces from his previous home, including the breakfast table, chairs, and antique Irish dresser. To keep new pieces from looking raw, Picone relies on expert finishing. Existing beaded oak cabinets were painted a warm bisque and glazed to blend in with their newer companions. The sink cabinet base is framed by pilasters that match the legs on a counter-height table; both were painted green, then gently distressed.

“We look at where natural wear occurs and then copy it,” Picone explains. Even the maple butcher block did not escape unscathed: It was antiqued, oiled, and then sanded down in the middle to create the “belly” that suggests years of use. Handsome but practical, this new country kitchen already feels lived in.

What you have in your mind?