Lake Effect

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Traditional beauty with a beachy undertow surfaces in an All-American kitchen.

Story by Andrea Darr    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

When you own a kitchen design company, the world of goods is available at your fingertips. But for Classic Kitchens Design Studio owner Esther Tantillo, close to home was just right.

Her personal kitchen recently underwent major reconstruction from the best in the biz. “The main elements — cabinetry, appliances, countertops and sink — all happen to be made in America,” Tantillo says.

That result wasn’t so much a requirement but a happenstance of selecting high-quality subcontractors with whom she often partners. These decisions have lifelong effects on Tantillo and her husband, Charlie, who bought their Lenexa home to live in for the rest of their lives. “This is where we’ll be when we’re 80 years old,” she says.

The house, which the Tantillos bought two years ago, is only 10 years old. “My husband thought we could buy it and have nothing done to it, but I knew immediately it needed work,” Tantillo says.

Designer Lisa Otterness got the job of designing her boss’ dream kitchen. “She gave me a lot of freedom to design the layout,” Lisa says. “We treated this just like any of our other client relationships so she’d get the full experience.”

Otterness’ biggest challenge was addressing an awkward V-shaped wall jutting into the kitchen. She used 3-D software to play with different options — should it have a peninsula or island? — until determining that a central, straight-edged island would normalize the cooking side of the space, and the opposite, angled side could be used as more of a bar.

A wine cooler and beverage fridge are directly behind the island. “We used to have to run to the basement for wine, now it’s right here,” Tantillo says. Convenience is also ready early in the a.m. — at a dedicated espresso bar cleverly situated in an otherwise nonfunctional triangular corner.

While the Tantillos both like to stay home and cook, they are regular entertainers and constantly book the guest rooms in their house. Guests can sit on barstools outside of the work space, but they just as often get involved in cooking tasks. “There is always a lot of storytelling and fun going on in their house,” Otterness says. “I wanted to honor that in the design.”

Otterness also gave the space a real focal point with the 48-inch Wolf range and vent hood. “We really upped the game as far as appliances,” Otterness says, “and we decided we’re not hiding the appliances, we’re going for industrial.”

Even so, the kitchen is traditionally beautiful, contrasting in walnut and white cabinets with a nautical hint in the room. The Tantillos are sailors and bought the house based on its proximity to the lake. Their love of the water manifests itself subtly in the space. “It has a bit of a nautical theme, but not anchors and seashells,” Tantillo notes. Rather, the quartz counters are reminiscent of a sandy beach, and the pendants are hung with rope.

This is all part of honing in on the Tantillos’ long-term vision of a home they will love for decades to come. When it came to selecting materials, that theme kept Tantillo grounded and helped her avoid choosing anything too trendy. “I might like sunflowers today but maybe not always,” she says. “I need things that will pass the test of time.”

She’s sure the biggest players in the room will earn their keep. Cambria countertops are virtually indestructible, and The Galley sink handily features a colander and slides that make it do a disappearing act. “It functions really well as a service element for entertaining,” Tantillo says.

Wood-Mode cabinets also serve an astonishing array of functions, including a trash cabinet that opens with a push, a bottom drawer in the sink cabinet, a drawer behind a drawer to add storage but maintain the visual of a three-drawer cabinet, spice and towel pullouts on both sides of the range, and a variety of interior organizations inside every drawer.

Amid all this is the coolest innovation in the home industry: a merging of cabinets and LED lighting. Recessed channels now light up Lazy Susans, appliance garages, pantries and glassware cabinets.

From these small details to the overall picture, Tantillo is thrilled with her new kitchen. “It has a real wow factor,” she smiled.


Kitchen Company: Classic Kitchens Design Studio

Contractor: Bob Altenhofen

Appliance Brand: Sub-Zero Wolf

Appliance Installation: Factory Direct Appliance

Appliances: Roth Living

Cabinets: Wood-Mode

Countertops: Trendstone – Cambria

Hardware: Top Knobs

Kitchen Sink: The Galley by Kitchens & Baths by Briggs

Plumbing Fixtures/Sink: Kitchens & Baths by Briggs

Range Hood: Factory Direct Appliance

Tile: Sunderland Brothers Co. and International Materials of Design

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