In April of 2001, Clarke opened its South Norwalk (SoNo), Connecticut showroom, the second in New England to inspire jaw-dropping visits from designers and homeowners alike. Fans visited from all over Fairfield County and beyond, and the area that garnered the most comments inside the 10,000-square-foot showroom was the English Country kitchen right inside the entrance. With its extraordinary cabinetry, hand-painted tile, massive granite-topped island, three cooktop options and revolutionary cabinet-clad Sub-Zero refrigeration, homeowners came from far and wide to study the elements they wanted to incorporate into their own homes.
The classic design elements and quality materials stood the test of time, as Clarke remodeled areas throughout the showroom over the past 15 years, but left the English Country kitchen in tact for all to see...until now.
In 2016, Clarke SoNo has unveiled a stunning replacement for that iconic kitchen. Vincent Cappello of Putnam Kitchens worked with Clarke Showroom Manager Marco Barallon to create a new magnet for all who want to explore the latest in kitchen design and technology. The result is a stunning transitional expression of Dutch Made cabinetry, Sub-Zero food preservation, the latest in cooking technology from Wolf, Wenge wood accents and so much more.
In 2001, visitors often used the phrase "a feast for the eyes" as their immediate reaction to entering the SoNo space and laying eyes on the first kitchen. "Our recent visitors are even more entranced now," said Barallon, who reports dozens of designers are already escorting clients in to demonstrate elements they plan to incorporate into designs. In fact, in an unprecedented moment, Clarke CEO Tom Clarke recently saw the new kitchen for the first time and said, "This is what I want, wrap it up," referring to his intent to replicate the entire design in his own new home in Massachusetts.
"I wanted the custom cabinetry to reflect the newest thinking in design and engineering," said Cappello."It needed to complement the new technology being employed by Sub-Zero and Wolf in their iconic appliances. Together they needed to make a bold new statement."
In a style Clarke customers have already dubbed as "Understated Elegance," Cappello selected luxurious finishes that are subtle at the same time.
"We worked with Dutch Made to design a custom door and drawer just for Clarke," said Cappello. "If you look closely, the drawer head is part of the door design. They are not designed to look as if they are two different design elements."
The cabinet facades are painted a soft custom grey and each offers surprises when opened. Special lighting illuminates the fine walnut interiors, a detail that adds a level of elegance and sophistication that is unexpected, yet perfect in this kitchen. All drawers employ a special mechanism, which allows the homeowner to simply touch any drawer, as well as the hidden pantry columns, to open them automatically. For those who do not want to utilize handles or knobs in their design, this is a perfect solution.
When replacing the stone of the original massive English Country kitchen island, Clarke knew they needed a new level of extraordinary to greet visitors. The new stone island and countertops, by Infinity Stone Inc., have provided the requisite "wow factor." Stone artisans have mitered every exposed edge. The stone was meticulously seamed in a book match pattern on the island and the full-height backsplash. This means the pattern and grain on the left side mirror the image on the right. In addition, in a Herculean effort of fabrication, a niche was carved out of the thick quartzite backsplash over the range to create a focal point.
"We also added drama by framing the elevations with high-gloss Wenge veneer," explained Cappello. "These are complemented by the radius ends of the island, which are also finished is solid Wenge wood fabricated by Raging River Counterworks."
One end of the island was designed for seating, with an overhang that is also lit beneath to show the detailed under panels. On the other end, wood top artisans at Raging River Counter Works crafted a solid Wenge wood prep center with a solid wood sink and chopping space with built-in knife slots. Their proprietary "Watershed Finish" is designed to provide years of use, and the gleaming Waterstone faucet sits like a jewel atop this part of the island.
The appliances are both luxurious and subtle as well, with Sub-Zero's 30" integrated column refrigerator and matching 30" integrated column freezer appearing to be more like mirror-clad armoires than appliances, accurately reflecting Cappello's need to be both elegant and understated. The integrated refrigerator drawers are more undetectable than ever, with the cabinet door design deceiving the eye.
To keep the subtle grey, white and stainless pallet in tact, Cappello opted for the stainless knobs (as opposed to the iconic red) on the