A Kitchen With a ViewThe view Donna Stavros enjoys when washing veggies from her kitchen sink in Huntington Beach, Calif., could grace travel brochures. Her luxurious custom-built kitchen is dominated by a sweeping view of the point where three channels merge before flowing into the Pacific.
When Donna and her husband, developer and entrepreneur George Stavros, designed and constructed their waterfront home, they built their kitchen on three principles: make the most of the water, allow for both behind-the-scenes and participatory food preparation and create these spaces with outdoor entertaining in mind. They hit three home runs.
George says the room's design leans heavily on the view in fact, the stove is the only place where the water's not visible to the cook. The kitchen also easily accesses the pool and patio areas, with a second butler's kitchen for use by caterers.
"There's something magnetic about the water," George contends. "It draws you to it no matter what part of the house you're in."
Surfaces CountWhether your home on the water is palatial like the Stavros' mansion or a tiny 800-square-foot condo, experts say to choose kitchen elements with both lifestyle and climate in mind. Waterside living brings lots of things to your table besides seafood. A casual lifestyle, not to mention dampness, salt air, sand and fishy smells, create different challenges in kitchen design.
Duval B. Acker, ASID, Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., near Charleston, says not to forget what inspired you to buy on the water in the first place.
"People are normally in a relaxation mode, and don't want to work too hard," says Duval. "Smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that don't show every little thing are best for counters, cabinets, floors and even walls."
Duval suggests avoiding materials that might rust or harbor dirt. This isn't the place for delicate wall coverings or care-intensive countertops. Flat paint, cabinets with intricate carving or door designs, grouted tile countertops and surfaces like marble that water spot don't belong in a seaside kitchen. Instead, opt for aluminum, laminates and man-made quartz. Glass rules as Duval's personal favorite. She recommends it for everything from tiles to backsplashes and says that a slab of thick, tempered glass at the breakfast bar or pass-through has a contemporary look that's both durable and easy to clean.
Also remember that hot summer months mean constant treks to the refrigerator. Invest in a top-of-the-line ice maker and consider a second fridge outdoors to cut down on trips inside.
Life Inside OutDeborah Krasner, Certified Culinary Professional and author of numerous kitchen design guides and cookbooks, including The New Outdoor Kitchen, says to stay connected with the sound of the surf, add outdoor cook surfaces. Extend that idea to your cooking cleanups with an outside sink for prepping seafood and scrubbing greasy grills. Or add a deck or lanai dining space adjacent to the kitchen and screen it to keep bugs out, allowing you to leave the kitchen door open for easy access.
As for materials, Deborah likes natural stone and ceramics, and says that they should be time-tested. One necessary splurge: a high-quality exhaust fan for the kitchen to channel fishy odors outside and keep the house smelling like the sea, not what's in it.
Duval advocates buying time-saving appliances like microwaves that speed- or steam-cook vegetables. A griddle also makes preparing the water's bounty a snap to keep both healthy and tasty. Look for one that features removable surfaces for easy cleanups.
"You may love your vacation home," says Deborah, "but the reason you really bought it was for the outdoors, so spend your time outside, not cleaning up the kitchen."
Living La Vida AquaSurround yourself with kitchen colors that play off nature. Dreamy pastels such as light coral and sand or vivid shades like turquoise and lemony yellow bring the sand and surf indoors.
To keep the real sand outside, install an outdoor shower (which can be luxurious or a simple stall with a showerhead) near the kitchen for beachgoers or boaters to rinse off before they enter.
If you use your home only during the warm weather, give the kitchen a good scrubbing before you close up for the season. But if you live there year-round, Acker suggests adding a few warming touches like heated floors under the tile in the kitchen to keep warm and toasty during midnight raids on the fridge.
And don't forget to relish that off-season solitude. It won't be long before the fish are biting and a crowd is standing in line for some of your famous fish stew.
Photos by George Stravos
Duval B. Acker