lance odonnell

Halfway There

Neither exposed to the great room nor completely shut in, this kitchen whips up a brilliant compromise.

Lisa Marie Hart Interior Design

lance odonnell
The new kitchen opens to the backyard yet remains unseen from the living and dining areas. Strategic lighting on the beams and Santos Dark Blue Glossy tile by Design and Direct Source are some favorite details.

Your grandmother might balk at this kitchen. She would have preferred the one the homeowners demolished.

Built in 1956, the closed-off kitchen was dated and obsolete. It had sunshine yellow tile countertops and a wall-oven the size of a meatloaf. “Everyone walked in and said. ‘I love that oven!’ And I said, ‘Do you want it?’ ” recalls homeowner Mark Fichandler. The kitschy details guests found novel only unnerved Fichandler and his partner, Paul Travis.

The kitchen came to represent everything that was wrong with their “undistinguished, sad little ranch house — nothing glamorous or midcentury about it,” says Fichandler. Even the kitchen window, which faced the street, was ill-placed for modern living. “People would walk up and wave to me while I was doing the dishes,” he recalls. “But the home was on a great piece of property in a beautiful neighborhood.”

When their retro abode became unserviceable beyond the realm of a remodel, the couple hired Lance O’Donnell of o2 Architecture to design a new one.

“We had to find a way to provide both detachment and connection,” O’Donnell explains about reconfiguring the kitchen. It might sound like psychobabble, but it makes perfect sense. As chef de maison, Fichandler had made it known: an open kitchen was not on his menu. “After I cook, I don’t want to sit in the dining room and look at dirty dishes. If we have a dinner party, I don’t want to stare back into the kitchen while we entertain,” he says. “I’ve never really liked the open kitchen idea.”

O’Donnell’s well-balanced solution is both private and integrated. A partial wall separates the space from the dining room, but the areas share the same ceiling. The kitchen maintains expansive sightlines and a landscape view, but the meal prep stays hidden from dinner guests.

“It’s the stone on the ring,” O’Donnell says. “The ring being the great room, and the kitchen being the gem on top.” His design uses subtlety to make a smart, practical statement.


The eating counter in O’ Donnell’s “box within a box” 
kitchen serves as the owners’ breakfast bar. In the far corner, 
a sliding door hides the juicer and toaster.

Fichandler, who has done interior design work, and Travis, a builder and real estate developer, had a clear sense of spatial planning. Their ideas and O’Donnell’s innovation made a successful team effort. Fichandler appreciates the generous scale that is “not too big to be functional.” Everything he needs is within reach, well-lit, and never an eyesore for guests.

“Lance took my very simple request to an architectural level,” Fichandler says. “He created something much more sophisticated than just ‘not an open kitchen.’ ”

“It’s no longer Mom at the kitchen sink watching the kids play in the yard,” O’Donnell adds. “It’s grown-ups making dinner, mixing drinks, and entertaining in the rear yard with proximity to the pool.”

Sorry, Grandma.