I recently dropped in on our Brooklyn Heights friend David Stark (NYC’s event planner extraordinaire) to check out his kitchen and sleuth out some design tips from the entertaining pro. David is known for his expertly choreographed parties and galas; he makes it look effortless, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
David and his husband, Migguel Anggelo, worked with Ben Bischoff of Red Hook–based architectural design firm MADE and Jane Schulak, a designer and the founder of design advocacy group Culture Lab Detroit. “Together we came up with a lot of strategies for the apartment, including the idea that every room should have a minimum of one old thing. So in the kitchen that means lots of vintage dishware and pots and baskets. We also decided to tile the whole apartment in easy-to-care-for cement tiles in the
3-D pattern from Cuban Tropical Tile in Miami, a much less expensive alternative to Ann Sacks.”
Join us for a tour and for 11 takeaways from David and Migguel’s kitchen.
Heidi’s Bridge for Remodelista. 1. Use freestanding components and treat your kitchen as living space. Above: “I’m not a fan of the built-in kitchen; we wanted the space to look like it’s composed of freestanding pieces of furniture. The island was designed to be a piece of furniture; it’s made out of spalted maple; a variety of wood that has rotted a bit and is then preserved; it gets this incredible marbelized texture. The fridge is hidden behind ash wood cabinetry to the right of the sink. Ben designed two freestanding cabinets made from Richlite [to learn more about this material, see Remodeling 101: Paper Composite Countertops for the Kitchen] that feel like pieces of furniture. Although it’s very durable, Richlite requires sealing every year. It’s not stainless steel; there’s no such thing as a kitchen surface that doesn’t require maintenance. I do believe in maintenance. “ 2. Make your washing-up area as efficient as possible. Above: “I am a perfectionist when it comes to picking out the right dustpan, the best broom, the perfect dish drainer (mine is from Home Basics; I wanted something clean-lined, not something that’s trying to be a spaceship). I keep a mesh basket in the secondary sink; I use it as an extra drainboard; it’s very useful, and it’s a good place to water plants. You use the drainboard all the time, you sweep every day. I’m against plastic throwaway stuff. Well-made, attractive utilitarian items contribute to the look of your home.” 3. Collect kitchen accoutrements on your travels. Above: David displays his finds on a freestanding metal shelf. On the top level, a basket from Japan holds a set of rolled up wicker placemats, the spatter teapot is from Merci in Paris, and a paper feather by Brussels-based artist Isabelle de Borchgrave adds a jaunty note. The stacks of bowls are by French ceramicist Sylvie Saint-Andre Perrin (available from John Derian in NYC). On the lower shelf, the metal pieces are from Turkey, and the Shaker onion basket is from the Cooper Hewitt shop. David mounted a wicker bull’s head—a prototype he designed for West Elm—above the shelf and draped it with a necklace he found in Colombia and a Japanese Yamako straw trivet. 4. Pay attention to the mundane details. Above: “Ben came up with the idea of tiling the rear wall in a mix of inexpensive four-by-four-inch white tiles, in subtly different shades, to create visual interest. And instead of installing intrusive vent covers, he drilled holes in the tile; it’s elegant details like this that he’s so good at.” 5. Protect your investments. Above: “My art, my work, my business is about chaos; setting up and breaking down, so when I’m home I want to feel calm and not transitory. I’m always looking for the perfect thing—whether handmade or otherwise—that I’m going to keep forever. I collect dinnerware by Parisian ceramicist Sylvie Saint-Andre Perrin; to protect them from chipping, I use gray Felt Plate Protectors.” 6. Use unexpected materials. Above: “The freestanding kitchen worktable was designed to be a piece of furniture; it’s made out of spalted maple; a variety of wood that has rotted a bit and is then preserved; it gets this incredible marbelized texture.” 7. Invest in statement flatware Above: “We spend too much time at a table set with subpar flatware and disposable napkins. Invest in beautiful flatware [David’s flatware is the verdite stone Meteorite Set designed for Nilufar Gallery] and linen napkins you’ll have for the rest of your life. To be able to enjoy handmade flatware is a nice nod to tradition to Old World. You can feel the heartbeat of the creator in the object.” 8. Store your candles in the freezer. Above: “I store my candles in the freezer; it prevents them from dripping wax.” 9. Label the serving platters the night before. Above: “We do this for big events; I started doing it when we began doing big events and had to set up giant buffets. It’s a great Thanksgiving trick; you’re not running and hunting and gathering platters at the last minute. It’s also a good task to assign to friends and family who want to help; it makes them feel like they’re contributing. Just make sure you clean the platters in advance if they’ve been gathering dust in the pantry.” 10. Mix and match. Above: “I tend to avoid sets of things—I’ll mix pillowcases with an unmatched pair of sheets, for instance (I’ll pick up two pillowcases in Paris and then I’ll find a sheet in San Francisco). For this table setting, everything is united palette-wise; I never want it to look like a circus. I aim to collect a variety of eclectic things that over time work together.” 11. Don’t be too serious. Above: “I’ve always felt that if you see something you really like, you always find a spot for it. This child’s chair was given to me by a friend; I’ve toted it around for a long time. I’ve perched a glass candleholder on top; I find it charming to mix in elements of different scales.”
For more kitchen ideas, see: