The open layout encourages guests and hosts to mingle more at parties.

The open layout encourages guests and hosts to mingle more at parties.

Jennifer and David Jansen, with the space and light and storage they craved.

Jennifer and David Jansen, with the space and light and storage they craved.
The Inquirer

Sunday, Feb. 11, 2002

Home cooking
Two pros get a kitchen that suits their wants -- and a young family's needs.

By Judy West | Photography by Catherine Tighe

David Jansen knows a good kitchen when he sees one. As restaurant chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, he works in one of the very best. Until recently, though, his home kitchen was so far from ideal that he and his wife, Jennifer, toyed with the idea of moving.

"We were looking at houses for $400,000 or more that still needed a lot of work," he says. "And we love this house, and we love the neighborhood. So we decided to fix up the kitchen so we could stay here for another five or six years."

Jennifer Jansen, also a trained chef, with her own catering and floral-design business, had a vision. It involved knocking down the wall that separated the cramped, awkward kitchen from the dining room of their 100-year-old Mount Airy twin.

For design advice and heavy labor, she chose Myers Constructs, a general-contracting company in Germantown.

Jennifer knew she wanted cheerful, sunny colors, good appliances, and plenty of space to work in. And while an efficient layout was vital, she wanted to avoid the austere look of a commercial kitchen.

Tamara Myers, the principal designer on the job, grilled the couple about their cooking and living habits and came up with several solutions. One was raising the two windows, which extended so low that the wall was functionally useless. Reclaiming that wall created the perfect venue for a stainless-steel sink (with views out to the sunny side yard) and a countertop that turns the corner to become a peninsula where the wall once stood.

Now, at the Jansens' frequent dinner parties, guests and hosts mingle comfortably, chatting across the open peninsula. It works well for the family, too. Hannah, 5, and Jimmy, 7, often pull up stools while Mom fixes dinner.

The Jansens kept a close eye on the budget. The yellow countertops are a laminate with the intriguing texture of rice paper. The professional-style stainless-steel DCS range is good quality, but not as pricey as a commercial model. "It's not the absolute best stove you can get, but it's really all about heat, and this one kicks off a good amount," David says. "You can't ask for much more unless you want to spend $10,000."

Double-height maple cabinets reach to the ceiling, supplying much-needed storage in the still modestly sized kitchen. None of the space is wasted. "We use every single thing in the kitchen," David says. "We max it out." And everywhere there are little touches that tell you this is a chef's kitchen. "This pullout drawer next to the stove is actually for two-liter soda bottles," Jennifer says. "But it fits a gallon olive-oil can perfectly, so I can just grab it when I'm cooking."

The choice of flooring - old-fashioned linoleum in a saturated sunflower yellow - was dictated less by economy than by the realities of daily life with two boisterous children, and a third one on the way. "It doesn't show any dirt," Jennifer marvels.

With David working nights, breakfast is the big meal of the day. "It's like our dinnertime," he says. "Dad makes breakfast, Mom packs the lunches, and we talk about homework and what's going on at school."

On Sundays and Mondays, David's days off, the kitchen sees more culinary action. "I really go to town," he says. "And if I don't do an appetizer, the kids are like, 'Dad, where's the soppressata? Where's the goat cheese?' I think they're the only kids on the block who eat Pont L'Eveque."