The dressy new kitchen in the renovated getaway that once belonged to actress Katharine Hepburn,
When classic film star Katharine Hepburn died in 2003 at age 96, Fenwick, her 8000-square foot beach house on the Connecticut coast, came onto the real estate market for $12 million and sat there for a year. When the price was halved, a New York construction magnate and his wife purchased the local landmark and embarked on a renovation. The new kitchen [above] is emblematic of both the overall color scheme (mainly white) and the sense of simple luxury only top-quality materials can provide.
If the style looks familiar, there’s a reason. It falls into the realm of whitewashed English Victorian style kitchens (championed by Christopher Peacock) which has dominated the first decade of the 21st Century, right down to white subway tiles in a niche built for the Aga range. Cabinets with inset bead board doors and old-fashioned spring latches are elaborately worked with corbels, turned pilasters and posts. Additionally, a carved shell motif graces the center of arch features over the range and the sink. Also noteworthy is the enormous custom, Carrara farm sink with a lowered front that shows off the beautiful finished edge of the counter and makes it more accessible. A whitewashed wide-plank wood floor completes the look, which was based on the owner’s clippings but created by New York architect James D’Auria and designer Amy Seminiski.
A pizza oven is built into a corner, adjacent to a plate rack. The pair of paneled dish drawers in the base cabinet feel like a cursory nod to practicality.Carrara marble is lavishly used on counters and atop the large island, finished on one end by an English style pine serving “dresser” with bun feet. The pine piece, made to look old, is taller than the island and provides a stepped up surface that acts as a discreet screen. One side of the island also has seating.
Here is a rare (undated) photo of Hepburn near her vintage range, providing a glimpse of the kitchen “before.” (The ravages of salt air can be seen in the condition of the cabinet to the right of the stove). Hepburn’s father, a Hartford urologist, had rebuilt and expanded the home in 1939 following a famous hurricane in New England. Surprisingly few improvements had been made by the actress over the ensuing decades since she used the house on weekends.
Although the Katharine Hepburn house was not in good condition the new owners did save and renovated a pantry, restoring the antique cupboard. It holds china, vases and tableware. A vintage-style utility sink on legs has twin faucets and exposed plumbing. We imagine that Miss Hepburn would think this is all as “swell” as it appears.
(Source: Town & Country, Internet)
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Richard D says
I find Kate’s original kitchen welcoming, comfortable, efficient and inspiring. A place into which I would have loved to be invited.
The new look – well. Just one among very many nice looking kitchens into which someone had a lot of money to throw. Stylish, the work well done, impressive – yes. But pretentious and oh so lacking the class of the original.
I would have restored the kitchen, not redone it, and been inspired every day. The kitchen reflected the class of the owner Kate Hepburn. And who has more class than she?
I agree with you, Richard. And I would LOVE to have that old stove. It’s heartbreaking they destroyed it all. Just heartbreaking.
Jane F says
When I read about the Hepburn house it was clear that it wasn’t well maintained. It had belonged to her parents and had been in the family since the 1920s. I doubt she ever did much to it. But the property was amazing.
The people who bought the property own one of the major construction companies in NY. So they had the means to tackle this type of project plus the prestige of owning the Hepburn property. They have children, however, so I expect they wanted to make it their own and have it function for their life.
I think there’s always a pull with a “known” house between what’s kept and what goes.
Dallas Keffer says
The original Hepburn home was completely washed away during the 1938 hurricane. Nothing remained but the foundation, a bathtub, and a toilet. The current house was built all anew, on a higher foundation, though it was still prone to flooding in storms. Katharine shared the home with several family members for many decades. Aside from its great size, the house was nothing frivolous.