Nearly 20 years ago, Cheryl and Thomas George had an epiphany. The couple, who own deme cosmetic in Philadelphia, got rid of everything (including antiques collected during their marriage) and decided minimalism was their new aesthetic.
“What changed us was he [Thomas] started to paint abstract on huge canvases,” explains Cheryl. “We started going to MOMA in New York and it was just, ‘Oh my gosh. This is what we love.’”
In 1999, they bought a 5,500-square-foot house in Allentown that amalgamates glass, concrete, and steel for a sharp, clean look. After a lifetime of eating out, last year Cheryl discovered a passion for cooking and decided the previously non-functional kitchen needed a remodel.
Like any true minimalist, she didn’t want anything to clutter the counters and decided to install an appliance garage, which is exactly what it sounds like.
“It’s great to look at and hides everything,” Cheryl says.
She chose Miele for the dishwasher, cooktop, and oven. Her real splurge, though, came in the form of a Gaggenau refrigerator, complete with shelves that slide up and down electronically to accommodate say, a magnum of Dom Perignon. Fiercely opposed to granite countertops, Cheryl went to bulthaup studio, inc. in Philadelphia looking for something unique. In the showroom, she was awed by a twelve-foot-long island that looked like a “beautiful black matte cube,” made of laminate.
The George’s pantry is always stocked with Indian staples like turmeric, cumin, coriander, saffron, cinnamon, and Himalayan salt. When their 4-year-old grandson visits, however, lentils and chicken masala are lovingly replaced by macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and broccoli.
The Blairs are the Lehigh Valley’s version of Chip and Joanna Gaines (of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame). Susan is a realtor for Berkshire Hathaway and John owns Blair Custom Homes, Inc. Along with building, remodeling, and selling houses, the duo has acquired a fourth talent: packing. They have lived in several of John’s new builds, including one renovated barn.
Three years ago, they moved into an open concept, 6,400 square-foot house in Lower Saucon Valley. With essentially no walls or separation through the first floor, the kitchen shares a 1,600-square-foot main area with a family room, lounge, and dining room, which works well for the couple when they entertain.
Noting how guests always end up in the kitchen to socialize while she does the dishes, Susan wanted them to be comfortable and had a very specific request for this house: “I’ve learned from doing this so many times I wanted the biggest island I could possibly get,” she says.
John listened. Their 10.5-by-6.5-foot island provides seating for six and includes a sink, a built-in paper towel holder, and a raised Sapele mahogany butcher block, made locally by Grothouse.
Susan also knew she wanted lots of natural light in the kitchen. To achieve that, John used the space typically reserved for upper cabinets for a large window along the wall. The couple’s style is “industrial farmhouse,” combining brick walls, wrought iron accents, wide plank floors, and sliding mahogany barn doors. To maintain an industrial look, concrete was chosen for the countertops, poured specifically to fit their kitchen, by Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville.