The Gathering Room Kitchen

Warm, aged finishes and ample seating create a cozy feel reminiscent of a European bistro in this Birmingham kitchen.
Elizabeth Beeler

Inspired by a magazine photo, Rita and James Dixon looked to designer Melanie Pounds to help them create an equally appealing space for their family of four. With a functional plan, European flair, and a seat for everyone, the new room became the heart of the home—and the life of the party.

“We use this space more than any other room in the house,” says Rita. “Here, we do homework, read, cook, eat together, and drink morning coffee.” In addition to suiting their daily needs, the kitchen is ideal for hosting parties and neighborhood soirees. “The large island with comfortable stools and a nearby banquette seat up to 12, and I enjoy talking to guests right here while I cook,” says Rita.

The Look
Melanie and Rita chose wide-plank, reclaimed-oak flooring and repeated the durable wood on the island’s countertop. The thick butcher-block top and earth-toned base lend the central island the worn look of an old farm table, distinguishing it from surrounding off-white cabinetry topped in waxed limestone. To add an aged feel to the cabinetry, they had the lacquer stripped from the brass hardware and then aligned the knobs in the upper corners instead of centering them. A subway-tile backsplash streamlines the design, and its chocolate grout adds a graphic punch to the otherwise simple, soothing room. “It’s always important to warm up any space with layers of interest,” says Melanie.

In lieu of additional cabinetry, Melanie designed a deep niche to accommodate an antique cupboard. The freestanding hutch softens the room and allows Rita’s collections of stoneware and pewter to be on permanent display. The authentic French range, the tufted banquette seating, and a handcrafted marble-topped iron table offer the timeless artisanship of a European cafe. Salvaged beams inset into door casings, a porcelain farmhouse sink, and a glass cloche pendant further enhance the room’s old-world appeal.

The Layout
In collaboration with architect Chip Gardner and kitchen designer Cyndy Cantley, Rita and Melanie worked within the home’s existing footprint to design a kitchen with a focal point on each wall. The sink, range, banquette, and hutch all center on the room’s island. The gridlike approach separates task areas, permitting easy traffic flow. “All of the areas work together as part of the whole,” says Melanie. “It’s not a room where you walk in and say, ‘Wow, I love just this one thing!’ And that’s what makes it great.”

Source Guide
Interior designer: Melanie Pounds, Melanie Pounds Interior Design; 205/877-9771
Cabinet designer: Cyndy Cantley, Cantley & Company; 205/324-2400
Architect: Chip Gardner, Gardner Architects, LLC; gardnerarchitects.com or 205/871-7188
Wall and cabinet paint: Dimity (2008); farrow-ball.com
Island paint: Cromwell Gray (HC-103); benjaminmoore.com
Limestone countertops: Masonryarts Inc; masonryarts.com or 205/428-0780
Island countertop: Antique Oak by James and Company; jamesandcompany.com or 256/997-0703
Island seating: Counter Stool and Bench by Lee Industries; leeindustries.com
Island seating fabric: Nuance in Grouse by Softside (2468); mascofabrics.com
Antique oak flooring: James and Company; jamesandcompany.com or 256/997-0703
Area rug (discontinued), hutch, and pendant light: Circa Interiors and Antiques; circaonline.net or 205/868-9199
Subway tile: from Crossville Tile & Stone; crossvilletileandstone.com or 205/871-2619
Sink: Kohler Dickenson Apron-front sink; us.kohler.com
Range: Lacanche Cluny Classique range; frenchranges.com or 800/570-2433
Cabinet hardware: Whitechapel Ltd.; whitechapel-ltd.com or 800/468-5534
Pot filler: Pot and Kettle Filler in Nickel by Chicago Faucet Company; chicagofaucets.com
Custom table and banquette: Melanie Pounds Interior Design; 205/877-9771
Banquette fabric: Marrakesh in Mountain Pass by Great Plains from Holly Hunt; hollyhunt.com
Custom patterned pillows on banquette: Calais in Ming Blue on Sea Mist by Rose Tarlow Melrose House; rosetarlow.com
Custom brown mohair pillow on banquette: Nevada in Bitter Chocolate by Latimer Alexander; 800/654-2313
Antique stool (banquette area), horse heads (over cased openings), and antique wooden stool (near sink): Robert Hill Antiques; roberthillantiques.com or 205/326-0088
Original art (over hutch): by Michael Marlowe; marlowe.artdealers.com
Clamshell (on hutch): Cast Resin Giant Clamshell by Oly; olystudio.com
Vintage glass bottle (on hutch), wooden chopping board, glass cloches, framed art above stove, utility crock, and tureens: all from Henhouse Antiques; shophenhouseantiques.com or 205/918-0505
Busatti Brown Mirto Tea Towel (on dishwasher), Busatti Giglio Double Fringe Taupe Guest Towel (on dishwashers with fringe), Busatti Cream Checked Tea Towel (on range), Vagabond House Horn Rustic Steak Knives (on island), Mother Bowl in Waterfall (large bowl with pears in seating area), Cake Plate in Waterfall, Medium Porcelain Pebble Bowl in Safari by Mudd Australia (on table with popcorn), and stoneware in hutch: all from Table Elegance; tableelegance.com or 850/916-5105