Recently I had the opportunity to speak with both Emily Levitt and Andy Bargende of Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet, designer and manufacturer of fine custom cabinetry. Based in Hingham, Massachusetts, they are as well known for creating kitchens that capture the New England look as they are for their family work ethic. Read what Emily and Andy have to say regarding such hot topics as mixing finishes in the kitchen as well as white kitchen trend. And do stop by their gallery to get better acquainted with their work and to maybe steal a few ideas for your own kitchen redesign!
Deva: I love that this is a family business, as is Horton Brasses. How does that affect the way you do business?
Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet: Most people like to deal with a family business because of a sense of stability and permanence. You know they have been around for years and will continue on in business because to them it is more than just a job- it’s the family too. That strong commitment to building a lasting family enterprise with shared and common values provides a stability you don’t always see everywhere. And that stability and family values threads its way through everything we do.
I see that many of your kitchens have been featured in a variety of high profile New England publications. Do you feel there is a distinctive New England kitchen style and if so, how would you define it?
There is definitely a distinctive New England kitchen style. Painted white beaded inset cabinets with a recessed door panel is the New England mainstay. New England style is clean, classic, and tailored. However, it does not have to be “stuffy.” A simple painted white cabinet can go from traditional to very contemporary depending on hardware selection, tile, countertop material, lighting fixtures, etc.
Without doubt, your design portfolio is very diverse, running from modern to traditional to transitional and your hardware choices perfectly complement the larger mise en place of the kitchen. What guidelines can you offer readers to make sure the cabinet style and the hardware coordinate?
The most important guideline is not necessarily the hardware style, but the overall look and feel of the kitchen. Is the client looking to achieve a transitional look, or an authentic period style? Horton Brasses is a great choice because the polished nickel bin pull can fit perfectly in a transitional kitchen, but there is a wide selection of period hardware as well. Many of our clients live in antique homes, or simply love that look, so this is very important for us.
The islands in the kitchens you’ve designed truly take the appearance of furniture. Many include turned legs, an expected feature. Your use of Horton Brasses Hepplewhite Pulls and Rosette Pulls really seem to accentuate that aesthetic, taking it to the next level. These style pulls are not usually seen in the kitchen and create a very distinctive look through an obviously conscious choice. What other small details differentiate your kitchens from the typical?
Every kitchen is different, just like every family and every cook uses the kitchen differently. I think the hallmark of a Faneuil kitchen is our attention to detail which begins when we measure the space. The details to me that are most imperceptible, but separate our kitchens from the rest, are symmetry and balance- designing the cabinetry to create frames that attract attention to the beautiful parts of a kitchen like a custom soapstone sink, and draw attention away from the less attractive or interesting aspects, such as the microwave.
Although I noticed a fair amount of nickel hardware on your white cabinets, the look of dark hardware on white painted wood really stands out amongst your kitchens. What are your favorite hardware finishes to work with?
Our favorite is antique brass, although we like Horton Brasses’ new light antique as well. Polished nickel is very popular at the moment.
Regarding hardware finishes, do you feel all the satin and polished nickel we are seeing right now is an enduring trend or an early 21st century fad?
We really love polished nickel- it can give a kitchen a very glamorous, high-end look. Many clients are at first drawn to satin nickel because they think it matches their stainless steel appliances. We usually tell our clients not to worry about matching hardware to their faucet or their oven- hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen and should be selected because the client loves it!
Many of your kitchens mix hardware styles and finishes. Can you give readers some tips on how to do that successfully?
Mixing finishes can be tricky- definitely stick with one hardware finish for each cabinetry finish, i.e. stained wood vs. painted. Choosing different hardware for a furniture-style island helps distinguish the piece from the other cabinetry. Pay attention to scale. In our showroom we used 1” Sheraton knobs on a bank of small drawers, and went up to 1 ½” knobs on the cabinet doors.
I know I keep asking about the islands you’ve created, but they really are centerpieces. Some are quite enormous. Are they constructed as one singular piece? Has there ever been trouble getting any through the homeowner’s front door?
No, we measure the doorways before we construct the islands- like I said we are very detail-oriented!
Your website shows a wonderful example of a butler’s pantry in quartersawn oak (Hingham). It is quite striking. Do you feel wood is bound to make a comeback against all the white we’ve been seeing?
Wood is very popular right now in islands, hutches and butler’s pantries, and also in wood countertops. White is always going to be a classic, but we are also seeing a lot of light neutral paint colors such as gray and khaki.
Finally, do you feel there are any hard and fast no-no’s in kitchen design or does everything differ from situation to situation, depending on the house and the family?
The best advice is to design the kitchen for yourself, and your family. Listen to what you want, and don’t be pressured by your neighbor, best friend, sister-in-law, etc. The greatest stress in a kitchen project is all of the voices that become involved. Listen to yourself, choose what you love, and it will be a successful project.