A kitchen fit for entertaining a crowd is a common request. But where dinner parties are concerned, this kitchen has to work harder than most. In the chancellor’s residence at North Carolina State University, this room—and much of the house—was built for honoring visitors, students, faculty, and personnel, as well as for wooing donors. This space means business—literally.
Private funds were raised to build the residence, which had to be both up-to-date and timeless. “The kitchen needed to be one for the ages,” recalls interior designer Judy Pickett. “It had to look as good 20 years from now as it does today.” Pickett opted for off-white ceilings and glass-fronted cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, oak floors (like most of the wood used to build the house, it comes from North Carolina State’s research forest), and black countertops. Pickett was particular about speccing black granite—quieter than many other varieties, it’s “far less likely to look trendy five years from now.” Natural light streams into the kitchen from all four sides, and the shiny black work surfaces function like mirrors, bouncing light all over the room.
A peaked ceiling and tall windows provide the drama and grandeur that’s needed for important gatherings. But the kitchen also serves as a gathering place for the chancellor’s family; it had to feel cozy, too. Good lighting—a challenge in itself for any room with a soaring ceiling—went a long way. MR-16 LED spots on cables that are strung in line with the ceiling beams provide general lighting, while a glass globe pendant illuminates the island. For task lighting, there’s ample under-cabinet illumination, and for ambient light, the cabinets are lit from within. That sounds like a lot of switches to remember, but to simplify matters for the many caterers and chefs who come to work parties, switches have handy setting labels like “Arrival,” “Entertaining,” and “Dinner.”
The home was a collaboration involving Pickett and Marvin Malecha, dean of NC State’s design school, who served as the project’s design architect. Locals and alums worked on the home, too, including architect Ellen Weinstein of Weinstein Friedlein in Carrboro, N.C., and builder Jon Rufty of Rufty Homes in Raleigh. Almost all materials used were sourced in-state, and the home utilizes geothermal heating and cooling. Smarts, beauty, and green cred all add up: The kitchen nabbed Room of the Year at the NAHB’s 2013 Best in American Living Awards.