Even with all the activity that takes plасе here, it never feels busy.
“MY CITY KITCHEN IS SMALL and halfway underground,” Manhattan-based interior designer Leslie Rylee says. “It’s what Realtors euphemistically call ‘English-style,’ but that just means it’s dark.” It’s no wonder, then, that Leslie designed the kitchen in her family’s Connecticut country home to be a bright and airy contrast. “I wanted it to be full of light and free of clutter,” she says. “It had to pack a lot of function, a lot of storage, and a lot of style.”
Along with architect Dennis Fisher, who’s also her business partner, Leslie created what’s turned out to be her family’s favorite gathering spot. “This is where we pretty much spend our weekends,” Leslie says, noting that she, her husband, Robert, and their two young daughters “have been known to leave this room only when it’s time to go to bed.” Whether the Rylees are entertaining frequent guests, whiling away a Saturday afternoon baking, or crafting at the breakfast table, the kitchen is where the action is.
Still, Leslie says, “It’s a calming space. I like things to be sleek and simple, so even with all the activity that takes place here, it never feels busy.” A workhorse island accommodates food prep and offers a wealth of storage. What it doesn’t have, though, is space for stools, and that’s on purpose.
“We spent 10 years in New York eating at an island, and we really craved a proper dining table,” she says. The island also separates the cook—usually Leslie, who enjoys spending leisurely country weekends preparing large family meals—from children and guests, even as it allows everyone to enjoy each other’s company.
The kitchen feels both timeworn and fresh. Like an old scullery, it has white subway tile climbing the walls and richly veined marble atop most counters. Yet it also displays a cool, retro-chic attitude thanks to Leslie’s deft addition of quirky vintage elements. She culled an assortment of vintage hardware at area antiques malls and unearthed some steel cabinets “buried under piles of stuff” at a friend’s salvage shop. “I’d been planning to install open shelves instead of upper cabinets,” Leslie says, “but when I found these steel cabinets, I just had to buy them.” She visually aged creamy new cabinets elsewhere in the kitchen by fitting their doors with milk-glass panes, and she advanced the room’s old-school style by incorporating a zinc countertop on the sink wall.
Its streamlined sensibility, however, is purely present-day. Drawers, rather than base cabinets, stow nearly everything in easy-access style; cutouts further their sleek aesthetic. “Big, heavy drawers like these are easier to pull open if you can grab a cutout, rather than a handle,” Leslie says. At least that’s the case for the humans in the house. “They’re just about the only thing our Labrador retriever, George, can’t get into!”
Wood cutting boards pull out from beneath the counters beside the pro-style eight-burner range. ABOVE LEFT: Windows are undressed to welcome light and views into the kitchen, ABOVE MIDDLE: UI cook a lot of soup and pasta,” Leslie says, “so I really appreciate the convenience of a pot filler faucet.” The subway tile backsplash received gray grout to minimize the appearance of cooking stains and discoloration, ABOVE RIGHT: Leslie uses the small island sink when preparing fruits and vegetables.
A pullout pantry beside the refrigerator is among Leslie’s favorite features, ABOVE MIDDLE: Leslie commissioned a local fabricator to make decorative scalloped crowns for these steel cabinets, salvaged from a bank, ABOVE: Mahogany counters and wallpaper with a whimsical pattern add charm in the butler’s pantry between the kitchen and the formal dining room, OPPOSITE: The upper cabinets are fitted with retro milk glass to hide their contents while keeping the look open. Using cutouts on the drawers rather than pulls makes them easier to access.