A Top Designer’s Recipe for the Classic Kitchen of Your Dreams
New York’s St. Charles—maker of coveted kitchens since the 1930s—has now branched out into a new world of customization thanks to the enduring vision of its principal, Karen Williams August 23, 2020
This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s lifestyle blog, Luxury Defined.
There are kitchens, and there are kitchens. There are kitchen designers, and there is St. Charles. The company, founded as cabinet makers in 1935 and renowned for its classic kitchen design, stands for taste, heritage—it was the choice of titan architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe—and commitment to innovation.
Chief among its innovations was the appointment of Karen Williams as creative director. The company’s youngest and first ever woman designer, she joined in 1979, and remains the driving force behind St. Charles’s continuing success and standing. “Kitchens have never been more relevant, we are valuing them more than ever,” she says. It was a different world when she joined St. Charles 40-plus years ago. Then “they were unknown as a designer space; they were simply a necessary space.”
Williams graduated in interior design from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and planned to “break new ground in design” but needed a job to pay the bills. She was hired by a kitchen firm. “I had originally wanted to be an architect, and with kitchens it was all about hard surfaces, precise spaces, fixed dimensions, and straight lines… I loved it.”
Having decided she wanted to stay in kitchen design, Williams did her research and knew there was only one place to be: St. Charles. “They brought design to kitchens. A St. Charles kitchen was defining, it didn’t refer to just an object but a complete package and that resonated,” she says.
Kitchens have never been more relevant, we are valuing them more than ever
Problem was, the company wasn’t hiring. “I pursued them,” she laughs. “I found out they needed cover as a receptionist so I did that for two weeks and got to know everybody. Once that was over, I kept stopping by until eventually they offered me a post.”
St. Charles was one of the first tenants in NYC’s Architects & Designers Building. In the 1950s, it was already incorporating style features such as under-the-counter lighting, linen, and silver storage. It offered a paint range and combinations of wood, metal, and steel.
Williams has drawn from this impressive history to launch an own-name collection, the first in the company’s history, of three designs numbered simply one to three. “It is a curated assembly of predetermined choices,” she says. “Our aim is to demystify—there is a lot of misinformation that can be overwhelming for clients. We want to make it simple without sacrificing quality.
The designs—STC No. 1, STC No. 2, and STC No. 3—are versatile and unique, tailored to fit into a range of architectural spaces. They echo the quality of masters Van de Rohe and Lloyd Wright, with customization for those seeking a more bespoke feel. “Collection one is a contemporary style with lots of glamour. The second leans toward the traditional with moldings and hinges that lends itself to architectural homes, and the third is more casual, chic, and timeless.”
Clients can choose from four palettes, five metal finishes, and four woods—walnut, paldao, oak, or eucalyptus. There are also upgrades, with interior lighting and accessories, such as an entertainer’s draw, baker’s drawer, or carver’s draw. “Clients are very involved and not locked into a particular style,” Williams says. “We’ve followed the idea of a complete kitchen that can be personally accessorized to the very highest quality.”
A St. Charles kitchen doesn’t refer to just an object but a complete package, and that resonates
She’s excited at the prospect of extending the concept, but plans will depend on feedback, particularly from architects. “We want the Frank Lloyd Wrights of today to want St. Charles kitchens.”
Williams’s enthusiasm and passion resonate when she speaks, her relish for her work palpable from the off. When she leaves the showroom and goes home, what kind of kitchen does she have? “I have two!” she admits. “A St. Charles new collection in Manhattan, and a bespoke design in the Hamptons. My lifestyles are different depending where I am, and a kitchen must be designed for the way we live 90 percent of the time.
“In the city, breakfast is quick, so I don’t need a bar or island there, but in The Hamptons it’s leisurely and the kitchen is where it must be comfortable for guests to hang. There I can have more fun things, such as a teppanyaki grill for entertaining.”
As a trailblazer, how does Williams see the future of kitchen design? “We’re designing new kitchens for the world as it is today. There’s been a change already with larger pantries and larders, and now clients want appliances for preserving, sealing, storing—for a healthier way of living. The challenge is, ‘How can I design a kitchen, a functioning kitchen in a beautiful envelope, with all this new information we have?’ It’s a wonderful opportunity.
“Oh,” she adds, “and outdoors. We’re spending more time at home so it makes sense. And I don’t just mean a grill!”
It’s no secret that green has been trending in a major way lately. Not only does the leafy shade conjure the sensation of being outdoors after two years cooped up at home, it also is a versatile (and welcome) alternative to traditional colors like white and gray.
Sweet 3 bedroom home that has a light and airy feel to the interior. Vaulted ceiling with open concept design creates a welcoming feel with plenty of natural sunlight all afternoon. Hardwood floors in bedrooms. Updated interior ready to be moved in to. It is a special place to call home or cottage.
Large wrap-around deck features West-facing views of 2-acre park of which you would be a 1/10th owner. Private dock for all park owners. Deeded Lake Simcoe access is rare to find. Very private setting with mature trees.
Message us today for more information or to book private showing.
staging by @chateau_designandstaging
photography by @ishutterphoto
20 Quiet Heights Lane, Georgina provides views of the lake from all spaces on the west side of them home, including the great room, kitchen, dining area, and primary bedroom.
You will enjoy the morning sunrise from the front covered porch and of course, sunset views from the lakeside. The natural sunlight fills the home with warmth and light all day long. It’s tranquil, serene, and welcoming.
In the design stages, the current owner had some important “must-have’s” including a Muskoka like feel, spaciousness, sun-filled rooms, and an “understated elegance“ carried throughout the home.
Some of the interior features include:
– 3 bedrooms on main level and 2 additional bedrooms on the lower level
– 3 full bathrooms plus powder room
– 10.9 ft ceiling height on the main level and 9 ft ceiling height on the lower level
– Great room includes custom millwork and 13 ft vaulted coffered ceiling
– Gourmet kitchen with upgraded appliances
– Spectacular light fixtures including ceiling fans in each bedroom
– Custom drapery and blinds
– Radiant heated floors in kitchen, primary ensuite and the entire lower level
– Surround sound system both indoors and outdoors
A full list of room features, additional images, virtual tour, and more can be found on our website (link in bio).
This listing is also available on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)
When you combine the attention to detail of a quality builder with the owner’s vision to create a sanctuary home, the result is spectacular.
This home offers a “Zen” feel immediately upon your arrival.
The landscaping is wonderfully appointed with a collection of perennial gardens, shrubs, mature trees and privacy hedges on both sides, which is home to many birds. There are several seating areas promote great conversation with family and friends or a place to enjoy some quiet time when you want to be alone and enjoy nature all around you.
This is a wonderful home to entertain in both indoors and outdoors. The raised balcony includes a covered area where you can enjoy a summer rain shower. The open area provides lots of space for your chaise loungers to get some sun and watch an array of boats on the lake.
The lower deck is covered and a perfect location for the 7-seater plus lounger hot tub along with another separate seating area to enjoy the lake views.
Listing Price: $1,935,000
DM us to book a private viewing.
The full listing can be found on our site & on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)
This charming 3+1 bedroom century home is located in an established area of Sarnia offering lovely streetscape, large mature trees, wide streets and boulevards.
The family have maintained the home and updated the interior features over their many years living here since 1975. The shingles were replaced in 2022. There were two additions including a a two-storey addition with a large family room, sun room and additional bedroom on the 2nd floor.
There is lots of space to entertain family and friends. The living room includes a gas fireplace and overlooks the formal dining room. The sun room includes a gas fireplace, large windows and double patio doors.
The oversized fully finished & insulated 3-car garage includes an upper level coach house which is completely finished. This is a great space for extended family and serves as an in-law suite or potential income if approved by the City as an auxiliary dwelling.
The mature front yard boasts beautiful mature trees, gardens and a seating area. The backyard has a large paved courtyard and provides parking for 3 vehicles.
PM is to book a showing today.
Staged by @chateau_designandstaging
Photos by @ishutterphoto