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Sometime in the late 1960s, New York Mayor John Lindsay made it legal to live in SoHo. The whole district was zoned “light industrial”, and the artists who occupied the upper story lofts had black-out curtains so nobody knew they were living there. NYC didn’t want to change the zoning, but Mayor Lindsay declared that in New York City, art was a light industry, and “artists have a need to live with their work”.  We’ve always wanted to live with our work, and so have renovated, restored, and actually built a series of living and work spaces.  It goes back to the Eliel Saarinen concept of designing things with the next larger context in mind.  Since the kind of products we design often revolve around the kitchen, kitchens have always been an important part of our workspaces, and since we love old buildings, we wound up becoming not only kitchen and interior designers, but architectural historians as well.

early 1980s:

Barn in Kintnersville PA, circa 1812, was the design headquarters for Corning Designs, and Later LeVan Design. The interior to the left was pictured in the Raymond Waites book “American View”.

The idea here was to take advantage of the soaring spaces in the barn and make the interior “livable” without destroying  any of the original fabric of the building.

The large Lord & Burnham greenhouse section sits in the opening of the original threshing door

The farmhouse was a classic c.1812 stone building with a summer kitchen, and some parts of the place were in bad condition.  The kitchen there was largely an attempt to integrate plumbing and modern appliances into the old space without ruining it.

Country Living magazine did a very popular article about the house in 1984. To the left is their center-spread picture of the kitchen with products we designed being displayed.

The house was featured on the Home Show, a TV precursor to the HGTV channel.

1986: We bought a property with a gristmill near Bethlehem PA and restored the house and mill, which became our home and studio.

The mill was started in 1744.

left: top- Ehrhart’s mill, 1744

center - Victorian feed store attached to the mill bottom - mill interior with original machinery.

The kitchen in the old miller’s house was in the cellar and had a dirt floor.  We wanted to bring it into the 20th century. Hope wanted to make it into an unfitted kitchen, which was a very new idea at that time, and so we built special pieces of furniture to contain the sink, the microwave and built lightweight cedar doors, which we screwed directly onto the regular refrigerator doors. Everything in the kitchen was made to not match.  The kitchen had a very cozy and intimate quality and we painted the beams to give it a little more airy feel

As a result of buying this property, we had to save a historic bridge at the mill from being demolished, got it listed on the National Register as a district, and were harassed by the local township who wanted it torn down and filed condemnation papers, we won that battle, but we eventually left, selling the property to a New York actress. The bridge survived, and we were recently invited by new, more friendly officials to speak at a re-dedication of it as a pedestrian-only bridge (Hope and I had been married on the bridge, as have been a number of other people since). We were invited into our old house by the new owners and the kitchen has been perfectly preserved, just as we left it in 1986.

1990s: We moved farther into the country and bought a rare German Palladian ironmaster’s mansion, built in 1750. This house had 7 fireplaces and was very Germanic and medieval, one of only two or three like it in the US.  It became culturally obsolete as the house of a wealthy ironmaster by the 1780s, and was used as the company store of the iron forge. It never had indoor plumbing until the 1970s. It had a remarkable amount of original fabric left despite a bad previous restoration.  Nonetheless, it met every National Register criteria.

We inadvertently became the protectors and stewards of the place, giving tours to busloads of ancestors of the ironmaster. It had a dungeon-like vaulted cellar and an incredible 1750 kitchen, which we wanted to preserve, so we built a kitchen wing to house a modern kitchen on the back side of the house, which you see in the picture to the right.

There is a lot of disagreement among architectural history scholars as to the use of the “raised hearth “ above are two pictures of German kitchens - 1618, and 1937.  We came to the conclusion, based on fragmentary and written evidence, that they used raised hearths in the German settled areas of Pennsylvania. Intact surviving examples are lost, but we can’t ignore history and culture.

Of course, the 1750 kitchen was great for roasting things over the fire, and we learned a lot about old cooking methods.

German kitchen, 1618 with a raised hearth

German kitchen, 1937 with a raised hearth

left: 1750 kitchen we restored, before and after, you can see where we are headed . The raised hearth is a very important concept. The kitchen is the most culturally important part of a house, and you cannot ever underestimate the significance of that. The raised hearth you see here is the prototype of the modern kitchen where you don’t cook on the floor. Somehow, historians always want to imagine that people in the colonial period did their cooking on their hands-and knees.

Home is where the hearth is, and that’s our philosophy. The kitchen is the next larger context from the things you use to cook., so if you are designing things that have to do with cooking, you have to understand how kitchens work.

In order to save the old kitchen, we ripped out the modern kitchen that had been put in the old one shown above, and built a wing in 1750 Pennsylvania German style on the foundation of an earlier structure - you can see what the back looked like here, before and after.   We built it - stones, bricks, and mortar. Hope’s “We Can Do It” T-shirt says it all.

We designed the modern kitchen with three different counter surfaces on three different stations: preparation, cooking, and clean-up.  Different materials, surfaces and work heights became a very important element of our kitchens designs

We built the modern kitchen on a foundation we discovered, and using an old photograph we built it to look like an extension of the old house, but new.

We used wood species that matched those in the old house and had to find someone with a sawmill that had a 20 foot carriage for the ceiling beams.  We made a brick floor with radiant heat and had the blacksmiths at Colonial Williamsburg make hardware that matched originals. (the chief architect of CW had been a house guest). 

A wonderful kitchen.

Here are pictures of the studio, which was a two story building behind the house. We had to add a concrete floored extension for the photo studio because we were using an 8x 10 view camera and the floor couldn’t bounce.

We did a lot of photography at this time and Baldwin Brass was an important client.

2000 - 2010: We Moved to Lewisburg, PA, a college town, (Bucknell U.) and set up a practice on Market St, the main street of town. We built a carriage house in the back for the photo studio, although digital photography was moving in.

The house was an architect designed 1916 Colonial Revival house with an Edwardian townhouse accent.

This was the first time we ever had an old house that had actually had plumbing and a  “modern” kitchen. We bought House & Garden magazines from 1916 on eBay in order to restore the kitchen, but in that era, kitchens were never shown in those magazines.  Finally, we found some references, and were able to restore the kitchen.  We bought a 6-burner vintage gas stove and found a sink at a salvage place that fitted the empty space where the old sink had been. We made a very large maple work table, which became the 1916 “kitchen island”.

We made period replacements for missing cabinets, and had counters made from Carrara marble (which the local marble suppliers called “Carrera, like the Porsche) to match the original ones.

The refrigerator was placed where an icebox had been, and we made oak doors for it, so it looked like an icebox.

Early kitchens used work tables, which were normal table height.The modern idea of 36 inch counter height had not yet been invented, and 36 inches, while a standard, doesn’t work for everyone in every case.

Our studio in this house was in a ballroom on the third floor, which was reputed to have been a “party place” during prohibition and we built oak cabinets and a heavy oak and chestnut conference/work table in period style.

We built everything from scratch to fit the space - flat-files in the style of an antique letter file we found, and built oak drafting tables in arts-and-crafts style with butterfly joints and wedged tenons. It was a great studio.  We still used the view camera at this time, so we hired a Mennonite crew to build a carriage house in back that had a large photo studio on the second floor.

Because Lewisburg is a historic district, the carriage house had to meet the Architectural Review Board standards. Ken became the chairman of that board and served for ten years.

2005: We owned a piece of property in the mountains in northern Pennsylvania, and built a cabin as a weekend retreat.  After 10 years in Lewisburg, we decided to move our design operation to the cabin, and we had to build a new studio.

This was interesting because we built it from scratch using maple and cherry trees that had been cut down by the power company.  We bought a small sawmill to make timbers for the frame.  We got the building permit a few months before the building code went in to effect in PA.  It took 10 years to build it based on a “5-year plan”

It took one full year to build the frame of the building and another year to make the trusses. We had to hire a crane and a crew of guys to put them up. All the lumber we didn’t saw ourselves, we bought from a local sawmill.

left: Ken by the sawmill

center: piles of sawn rough maple and cherry beams

right: Hope sanding beams

below: assembled cherry trusses

The studio floors are all concrete with a surface made from a special material we could dye or stain. We had to mix many  bags of this stuff in order to make the floor. The finished studio floor looks like polished stone.

left: Hope mixing cement with an electric drill.

Because of our ideas about proper human engineering, the kitchen has countertops at three different levels. 33”, 35” and 36”, so we had to build all the cabinets and countertops.  The cabinets are all wood from the property, much of it left over from the structural timbers,  The countertops are concrete.

above: looking from the studio to the kitchen - a clear communication.

left: The open plan, looking into the studio from the cooking end of the kitchen. There is an electric oven, a gas cooktop, an induction cooktop, and a teppan.

right: The prep area of the kitchen has a 40” diameter marble slab, a 26” x 40” end grain chopping block stepping up to a concrete cooktop area.

Directly behind the cooktop counter, there is a dining area that can seat 5 people with a cherry trestle table made to fit the space.


The clean-up area has a concrete counter, a sink, a dishwasher,

and open shelves behind it hold everyday dishes, easily put away.

This kitchen, somewhat unconventional because of the various cooktops and working counter heights, is extremely functional and efficient with direct communication to the rest of the studio.  3 cooks can work here together.

             All of our living and work spaces are laboratories for design exploration.

Our StoryOur_Story.html

above: barn interior - original threshing floor.  All woodwork was original

left: farmhouse and kitchen as shown in Country Living

above: rough interior of summer kitchen, which may have pre-dated the house

above: Hope parging the exterior wall of the miller’s house

right: Conference table in the studio, which was the Victorian era feed store attached to the mill

above left: the back end of the house in c.1975.  It had no indoor plumbing and  been abandoned and vandalized. It was locally believed to be haunted.  You can see the door that goes into the second floor of the kitchen addition, where we put bathrooms, moving all plumbing into the wing

above right: the finished addition.  We collected stones from local abandoned quarry-sites to match the stones in the original house.

right: we have gotten to the top of the gable and just finished the chimney. The oculus in the gable is an old grindstone found on the property

Lewisburg PA 1916 town house

above: crew setting 800 lb scissor trusses with a crane

right:  trusses in place and pine decking nailed on.  This was covered by stress-skin panels.

below: screeding concrete

above: walnut legged maple work table.

right: fanciful marble-topped pastry table using the top from a broken dresser.

above and right:  Here you see the three working heights:

the 33” marble slab for kneading and prep, the 35” chopping block, and the standard 36” for the cooktops and clean-up area.