High Style in a High-End Kitchen

It's all about elegance in David McNulty's kitchen design for a sophisticated and expensive Chicago kitchen, from hand-carved friezes to fabulous freezers.

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Safety first with stove hoods: David executed a lavish frieze right on the stove hood in the kitchen, but he emphasizes that even the most creative kitchen implements have to be mechanically safe and sound. "The biggest thing with a decorative hood is making sure you have the right type of blower, the proper ventilation source," he says. "It also needs a liner big enough to support it. I tend to have the stove hood made first and then hire VentaHood to fabricate a custom liner and lighting for it. I would only rely on a company like VentaHood that specializes in that type of design."

You can't outdo Mother Nature: "I have never done a linoleum floor and rarely have I specified it," says David. "Instead I recommend mostly stone products, or wood because it's so seamless; anything that comes from God's green earth. Natural products are the key to creating an enjoyable space ... tranquil, no two pieces alike. I'm a believer in raw goods.

"You can do pretty amazing things with backsplashes these days; they're like a work of art," says David. "The trends I'm seeing are more metals and a lot more glass: tumbled, hand-painted, even crackle. You can really personalize. The clients for this kitchen weren't married yet when we completed the design and we did a Cupid tile for them in the backsplash in the butler's pantry."

You can also personalize by having an opening carved in the backsplash to insert an artifact or collector's item, notes David. "One of our clients had a brass bull's head they really liked, and we inserted that to make it look like the bull is coming out of the wall," he says.

One caution: Since it is an "artist thing," leave yourself the opportunity to change the backsplash design in the future, he says. "If you don't spend $5,000 personalizing the backsplash, you can have a new one in three or four years, if you feel like it."

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