Case Study: Closets + Organized Spaces

Curated Style: A vibrant contemporary art collection takes center stage in a kitchen by Barbara Hawthorn

Longtime Potomac clients asked Barbara Hawthorn to renovate their mundane kitchen. Avid home chefs, they wanted an efficient, uncluttered space in which to work—and they specified a contemporary aesthetic. Most important, they wished to incorporate their extensive collection of contemporary art into the mix.

Collaborating with Ezio Mattiace of Arte Modus, Hawthorn selected Arclinea cabinetry and quartz countertops to neutralize the wife’s bold palette, then set about creating ways to showcase the couple’s art, which features contemporary and Pop Art pieces by icons such as Claes Oldenburg and Keith Haring.

“Their collection is very important to them,” Hawthorn observes. “And they wanted an element of fun in how we did it.

The house had art scattered all over; we took favorite pieces and what was appropriate for the kitchen.” Now, two glass-fronted cabinets display whimsical pieces on glass shelving, illuminated from above and below.

Reflecting the owners’ playful sensibility, Hawthorn created display shelves for useful items that double as art: bottles of sparkling water above the TV and dog food along with olive oil for dogs in the pantry—with a row of Campbell’s Soup cans in a nod to Andy Warhol. The glass-fronted Liebherr fridge reveals a Claes Oldenburg cake sculpture along with actual food.

Photos occupy a magnetic stainless-steel wall in the breakfast nook. And storage abounds, with stainless-steel shelves in the peninsula for cookbooks. A 3-D sculpture by Robert Indiana shares counters space with a top-of-the-line cooktop customized through Arclinea.

Interior Design & Contracting: Barbara Hawthorn, Barbara Hawthorn Interiors, Ltd., McLean, Virginia. Architecture & Kitchen Supplier: Ezio Mattiace, Arte Modus, Washington, DC. Photography: Kenneth M. Wyner.

Barbara Hawthorn’s Trade Secrets

  • When organizing a collection, group similar objects together—whether by subject, color, type, style, etc. Give them an organized space and their impact will be much greater.
  • Lighting is important. In this project, we lit the insides of each cabinet from both top and bottom. We also used glass shelving so as to illuminate every shelf.
  • Create work centers in your kitchen, considering what tools you’ll need to have handy in each area. Build space for those tools into the design.
  • Work with durable surfaces in the kitchen. We used a recyclable rubber floor in this project; it’s fun and attractive and will last forever.