NCSU chancellor's home earns high marks for stunning kitchen

Kitchen garners praise and national award

schandler@newsobserver.comJuly 26, 2013 

  • Heart of the home

    “In all homes, whether it’s an apartment or a house, the kitchen is the heart,” said Jon Rufty of Rufty Homes, builder of The Point at NCSU.

    While dedicated home cooks may want to improve the functionality of the space with upgraded appliances and better layout, others focus on aesthetics, Rufty said.

    Whatever your motivations, here are some things to consider when designing or redoing your kitchen:

    Let in the light, take in the views: “At every house, when you slow down, there are just certain views that are better than other views,” Rufty said. Even if it’s just a particularly nice perspective on a wooded back lot, make that part of your plan.

    Think about functionality: There are more drawers for dish storage than traditional cabinets with doors in the chancellor’s kitchen. A drawer is a one-step process, while cabinets require you to open a door, pull out a tray or extract something from a shelf, all while maneuvering around other objects. Drawers help maintain organization, Rufty said.

    Get the most out of lighting: Natural light is ideal during the day, but you’ll need something brighter at night. Consider LED lighting for long-term savings, and remember that a stylish fixture can be a real focal point of your kitchen’s design.

    Make it a social space: “All kitchens should be able to accommodate a couple different cooks in the family,” Rufty said. More people also increase the need for a workable floor plan. “When someone is cooking and someone else needs something out of the refrigerator, how do you handle the flow of people in and around a kitchen while a meal is being prepared?”

    Consider your lifestyle: Rufty describes two viewpoints on kitchen design. Some clients see the kitchen as potentially messy space, something they want to keep out of sight from the rest of the house. Others want the kitchen to open to adjoining living spaces in order to maximize socialization or allow parents to keep an eye on the kids while preparing dinner. Think carefully about your view of the kitchen’s role early in the design phase.

Technically, Randy and Susan Woodson share their home with tens of thousands of people.

They live in The Point, the chancellor’s residence at N.C. State University, a frequent gathering place for students, faculty, alumni, donors and others in the university community. These events include small groups that can be seated around the home’s long dining table or hundreds mingling in the large foyer or outside on the patio, just steps from Lake Raleigh.

The 9,000-square-foot home, completed in 2011, presented an unusual challenge for the construction and design team, which included NCSU College of Design Dean Marvin Malecha and the Carrboro firm Weinstein Friedlein Architects.

“It really is N.C. State’s house,” said Jon Rufty, president of Rufty Homes, which built The Point. “But it’s also where the chancellor lives, so it had a lot of interesting elements – from an entertaining viewpoint to how do you make it comfortable for the chancellor and his family.”

Whether the Woodsons are at home alone or joined by a crowd, the heart of The Point is the kitchen. Its peaked ceilings, natural light and balance of modern and traditional elements invite people to linger. Those features and more won attention recently from the National Association of Home Builders, which named the kitchen its Room of the Year and also gave it a platinum award for “Interior Design: Kitchen” in its 2012 Best in American Living Awards.

Although the home has a separate catering kitchen to accommodate large events, meals for smaller gatherings are prepared by chefs in the main kitchen, which is outfitted with two dishwashers, two ovens, warming drawers and refrigerated drawers.

“If there’s a small group and the chefs are cooking something nice, the crowd can kind of just flow into the kitchen and see them at work in a beautiful, normal type of kitchen,” Rufty said. “I think that adds a warmth quality to any entertaining environment to have your guests there and have that be part of the night’s event.”

The kitchen, which is open to the living room, also is the preferred gathering spot when the chancellor and his wife have an evening to themselves.

Chancellor Woodson is the cook in the family, his wife said.

“He plans the menu and goes to the grocery store and enjoys everything in here, and I sit at the bar stool with a glass of wine and visit with him while he cooks,” Susan Woodson said.

The space is filled by stainless steel Thermador appliances, including a professional range with a custom hood made by Comfort Engineers in Durham. White cabinets with Shaker-style doors by Thompson Custom Cabinets of Raleigh have concealed hinges, giving them an updated look. Sleek black granite countertops provide contrast to the elegant and traditional oak flooring.

The kitchen’s rectangular layout can easily accommodate one cook or several, with a long island in the center providing both visual and functional focus. The 16-by-18-foot kitchen opens fully to the home’s main living room, offering easy socialization and views of the wooded backyard. Tall windows provide drama and let in light. A cozy dining nook adjoins the kitchen, separated only by a counter and high-set cabinets with glass doors facing each room.

The design team refers to the overall look and feel of the home as “soft modern.”

The outside features interconnected rectangles of red brick topped by soaring peaked roofs and geometric metal chimney caps and is “more modernistic,” Rufty said.

Meanwhile, inside, the interior design specialists from Raleigh’s Design Lines Ltd. helped temper contemporary geometric elements with warm lighting and softer touches to emphasize charm and hospitality.

N.C. State’s College of Design, which includes the school of architecture, has long been known for cutting-edge styles, Rufty said.

“It was important to have architecture that was both forward-looking but at the same time embraces the roots of North Carolina and tradition,” he added.

Another priority throughout the construction and design process was ensuring that the house be as environmentally friendly as possible. In the kitchen, the large windows cut down on the electricity needed for artificial lighting. When the lights are on, LED bulbs do most of the work.

Stone, wood and other materials used in the LEED-certified home were locally sourced when possible, Rufty said, and the stainless steel appliances and water fixtures were chosen with energy efficiency and conservation in mind.

But even as all those details wowed the National Association of Home Builders, they are just icing on the cake for the Woodsons. Far more than the equipment in the kitchen, they value the space itself.

“My favorite thing about the kitchen is the openness of it,” Susan Woodson said. “When we have a crowd it is a fun place to gather, and it’s a very comfortable place for everybody.”

Chandler: 919-829-4830

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