The Gourmet's Kitchen

“I love all food-related things and am a total foodie, ” says homeowner Jill Evans. “The kitchen is usually my favorite place in a house.” But when she and husband Gary Crowder purchased an English Manor-style 1920 house on the crest of Red Mountain, that was not at all the case. “This kitchen felt dark, oppressive and pretty outdated, but more importantly, it wasn’t a space I wanted to spend any time in—ever, ” she says. “I would just sigh every time I walked into this one.” 

Jill called in her go-to designer, Cyndy Cantley, who has crafted kitchens in several of the couple’s homes over the past two decades. “Cyndy seamlessly integrates the materials I select into her designs and builds the kitchen around them, ” Jill says. “This time, it was a completely different look centered around a piece of onyx that I bought several years ago.”

“When Jill saw the fabulous slab of onyx at Triton, it became the driving force behind the kitchen’s overall color scheme and ultimately helped shape our vision for the space, ” Cyndy explains. That onyx slab, banded in marble for strength and fabricated by Birmingham Marble Works, is now the countertops of the two kitchen islands—just one of Cyndy’s ideas for making the space work well. The hard-working, storage-rich kitchen features a 60-inch range and a custom zinc-and-stainless steel hood situated between twin windows that were discovered during demolition. A built-in rotisserie and a convection oven help keep Jill’s culinary creativity satisfied. And a new built-in china cabinet makes for a beautiful transition between gathering and cooking spaces. 

“It is a beautiful room and I just really like being in it, ” Jill says. “It is pretty hard to believe that this is the same kitchen.” 

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The team discovered two windows that had been covered up during a 1980s renovation. The window over the sink had also been partially covered. They took every opening back to its original shape and size and installed leaded glass windows to match the originals. The 60-inch range and a custom hood cozy between the two discoveries. “The difference in light as a result of those changes was startling, ” Jill says.


1. Double Islands: Two islands offer a multitude of storage and countertop space. “We split them to create zones for people to work without being in each others’ way, ” Cyndy says. The longer island is actually a built-in and a table. Jill says, “The table masquerading as an island can be moved to function as a stand alone, which increases my options when entertaining.”

2. China Cabinet: Cyndy designed a new china cabinet to provide a division between the kitchen and dining room and to showcase Jill’s pretty collection of Anna Weatherly china. The glass keeps the kitchen light and airy. The cabinet’s doors reach to the 10-foot ceilings, and the inset design mimics the room’s new leaded glass windows. 

3. Appliances: Jill wanted to install a rotisserie with a marble surround as one of the kitchen’s cooking tools. “It was a big leap of faith, ” she says of what is now one of her favorite elements of the room. A 30-inch refrigerator and a 30-inch freezer are dressed with wood panels to match pantry doors. The outer island hosts refrigerator drawers, an icemaker, and a microwave.

4. Storage: “I needed lots of cabinets and storage space to accommodate all my kitchen paraphernalia, ” Jill says, “but I still wanted the overall feel to be open.” Together, Jill and Cyndy mapped out a storage plan for everything Jill wanted to keep in the kitchen. The final result was lower cabinets around the perimeter, storage in both islands, and upper cabinets on either side of the sink. A custom pot rack above the island keeps pots and pans close at hand. 

5. Cabinets: Custom cabinets, handmade in Cantley & Company’s shop, are in a simple, English style. “They are a backdrop for beautiful furniture and the owner’s art collection, ” Cyndy says. The hardware is from the French company, Bouvet, and is a mix of cabinet and exterior door hardware (used on the appliances for heft). “It is more interesting to mix the knobs and pulls so it doesn’t look so new, perfect, and planned, ” she says. 

Cyndy Cantley, CKD, Cantley & Company  2821 Second Avenue South, Birmingham 205.324.2400 Architect: Hank Long AIA, Henry Sprott Long & Associates  3016 Clairmont Ave S, Birmingham, AL 205.323.4564 Custom hood design and fabrication: Darren Hardman Studios, Irondale 205.276.3757 Countertop fabrication: Dan Weingarten at Birmingham Marble Works, 205.988.5585
Slab selection: Jonathan Lambert at Triton Stone, 205.592.0202 Plumbing fixtures and tile: Kenny and Company, 205.323.5616 Cabinet hardware: Bouvet in European Pewter, available at Cantley & Company Sconces: Cantley & Company

Text by Lacey Howard • Photos by Jean Allsopp

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