The designer difference in a chef’s home kitchenPublished on October 13, 2015


  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

Built in the 1950s and 1960s, the leafy enclave of Whitehaven is among Ottawa’s most eclectic yet charming residential communities. Michael Sobcov and Jennifer Frankland have lived there for over a decade, but only recently undertook a renovation which transformed their original custom-built kitchen into a stunning and highly functional hub. Having a designer to help make the perfect choices in terms of layout, appliances and finishes was extremely important, given the volume of cooking that happens daily.

Michael is currently Chef at the residence of the Irish Ambassador to Canada, as well as teaching in the culinary program at Algonquin College. Jennifer is leveraging her own career in the restaurant business to represent international housewares importing companies. The entire family, including their 18 and 19 year-old children, loves to cook and entertain, so their home is a very busy place.

“We were quite attached to the original kitchen,” admits Jennifer, “but it was time for a change. It was crafted by a Dutch carpenter in solid cherry which had since been painted many times. The wood-edged laminate counters were wearing thin, and the lighting was problematic. Probably the worst feature was the 1980s Marmoleum flooring.”

Michael and Jennifer enlisted the services of Lisa Poirier at Louis L’artisan after meeting her at the cabinet makers’ Bourget showroom. “She is phenomenally experienced and while we had already done tons of research, we needed her to translate our vision into a logical plan,” explains Jennifer. “She is a spectacular listener and we wanted the advice and expertise of someone who had done countless kitchens.”

Lisa, a freelance interior designer, particularly enjoyed the couple’s openness to mixing different elements to create something out of the ordinary that still blended well with the rest of the home. “We had a lot of fun working together to come up with a gorgeous design that met their specific objectives,” she says. “This is definitely not a cookie cutter kitchen.”

One of the key criteria outlined for Lisa was that function and layout always had to come first. “Lisa genuinely respected our opinions and ideas and was willing to investigate anything we presented,” says Michael. “She became an equal voice as we worked through details – she was a great collaborator.”

Jennifer suggests the aesthetic of their new kitchen is New York meets Berlin. “We like how it’s kind of timeless. It could be contemporary or 1950s and we feel it’s a space that both a 19 year-old and a 60 year-old would think is very cool.”

Matte black granite counters unify the space and provide an attractive visual counterpoint to the octagonal grey floor tiles and white apron-front sink. A large walnut butcher-block island provides both eating and work space and blends nicely with the room’s lower bank of dark oak cupboards. Above, white cupboards serve to brighten the space, helped significantly by efficient lighting and a large window overlooking the spacious back yard. Understated hardware keeps the lines clean throughout. Cupboard doors conceal the generously-sized, separated Thermidor refrigerator and freezer, with loads of cleverly-designed storage for their many kitchen tools, serving pieces and cookbooks.

The one treasured feature of the original kitchen which Jennifer and Michael chose to honour was a huge floor-to-ceiling china cabinet which has been recreated in a new location, offering ample room for dishes, flatware, linens and more. Space for a convenient breakfast station is tucked into the centre.

“We loved our previous kitchen but this one is fantastic,” enthuses Michael. “As I work in other kitchens it makes me appreciate this space even more. I love the surfaces, the new stove is amazing and I am so grateful to have so much prep and plating space. I really appreciate how I’ve now got all the functionality and durability of a good commercial kitchen here at home.”

Paula Roy

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