Whitmore Farm's kitchen mixes rustic and modern

Over the years and more recently, the Home section and Local Living have featured a variety of kitchens in their respective pages. Here are some of our favorites; we hope you'll use them for inspiration, whether you're planning a complete renovation or just wish to change a thing or two about the kitchen you already have.
By Domenica Marchetti
Thursday, June 24, 2010

When William Morrow and Kent Ozkum bought their small farmhouse in rural Maryland in 2003, the kitchen was not the main draw. There was no running water, and the floor of the 16-by-17-foot room was plywood-covered dirt. The walls were painted a garish green, the sink was a plastic utility tub, and the counter space consisted of a formica-topped table.

Fast-forward seven years, and the transformation is remarkable. The garish walls are gone, the plaster stripped away to reveal gorgeous wood beams and stone. The plaster on the ceiling has been removed to raise the height of the room and expose even more beams. The floor is now a polished mosaic of reclaimed red bricks, each with its own alluring imperfections.

The kitchen renovation is just part of a larger restoration to the 1764 farmhouse and the surrounding 30 acres outside Emmitsburg in Frederick County, which had been a working farm but had not been cultivated in more than three decades, Morrow says. The house and the barn were dilapidated, the fields fallow. Now the couple grow organic vegetables and fruit and organically raise hogs, lambs, rabbits and chickens. They sell their goods at farmers markets and to restaurants. (Volt, in nearby Frederick, is among their biggest clients.) They have named the property Whitmore Farm, after the original owner.

Morrow, a landscape designer by profession, and Ozkum, an anesthesiologist, did not set out to become farmers. They were living in the District and wanted a country retreat.

"Then we realized we were looking at a potential business," Morrow says. "We had the land, we had the buildings. It seemed a waste not to put the farm into production." (Morrow has gradually been phasing out his landscape design business and works full time managing the farm. Ozkum continues to practice medicine while overseeing some livestock operations. Full-time employee Loran Shallenberger manages the day-to-day operations.)

The kitchen renovation presented a number of challenges, not the least of which was a lack of wall space. "The room has five doors, three windows and a [4 1/2 -by-5-foot] fireplace, so we had to figure out where to put things," Morrow says.

The other major challenge was an aesthetic one: coming up with a design that would look at home in a 246-year-old house but would meet the couple's 21st-century technology needs, as both are avid cooks.

To make the room seem larger, they lowered the floor by eight inches and installed subfloor heating and air conditioning. They bought 19th-century bricks from a Baltimore company that sells salvaged and reclaimed materials.

To create storage and prep space, the couple installed a row of pine cabinets topped with soapstone countertops that runs the length of the room. It separates the cooking area from an eating area outfitted with a rustic wooden table with chairs on one side and, on the other, a sofa.

"My advice to anyone redoing a kitchen is to make room for a sofa," Morrow says. "It's so comfortable. People spend so much time in the kitchen. This gives your friends a place to hang out and drink a glass of wine while you're cooking."

The cabinets are painted a warm country blue and feature X-pattern paneling that echoes the pattern on the barn doors. Two mismatched hutches, one painted Pepto-Bismol pink and the other pale mint green, stand side by side along one wall.

Other touches further illustrate the couple's attention to detail and to keeping the look of the kitchen authentic. Behind the counter is a Dutch door fabricated from antique wood and outfitted with custom iron strap hinges. (It opens onto a screened-in porch with a long table for entertaining.) The hinges on the door were modeled after a rusty hinge that was found on an old barn door on the property. Wood paneling installed along one wall was custom milled to match the beading on the original wood doors.

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