Cookin’ Up Inspiration

Innovative storage on the Music Hall Kitchen Tour

MH Barton kitchen overall02Photographed by Greg West Bold pops of color add punch to the cool grays and whites of the overall color scheme. Note the
flooring, which looks like hardwood but is actually cork.

Gorgeous cabinets, efficient islands, amazing floor plans—inspiration awaits on the Music Hall’s 26th annual Kitchen Tour, which takes place May 13. This year’s tour takes guests to the Little Harbor area of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where homes ranging from historic to modern showcase kitchens to tempt every taste. Twelve kitchens are featured on this year’s tour, more than ever before, says Ashleigh Tucker Pollock, event coordinator. “We have four kitchens dating from before 1900 and one from 1900, as well as those of a more recent vintage,” she says. “Guests will love seeing the ways you can blend a modern, efficient kitchen with a centuries-old home.”

MH Barton 04The tree mural is a graphic wallpaper, which brings affordable interest
to the room.
Pollock notes that while all of the kitchens are different, there are recurring themes. “Because these spaces have unique requirements, we’ve noticed a trend toward custom ranges and funky storage options. You’ll see a lot of custom built-ins and interesting ideas for converting what might normally be wasted space into valuable storage. Subway tiles are also popular, especially in muted colors.”

The Music Hall Kitchen Tour is a self-guided walking tour. Guests receive an easy-to-follow map and can start or finish the tour wherever they like. A guidebook offers information on the craftsmen, artists, designers, and architects behind the kitchens. “The booklet provides valuable information for anyone hoping to revamp their kitchen,” Pollock says. “Whether you are renovating now or in the future, if you see something you like on the tour, you now have the resources to follow through.”


The tour route takes guests through some of the area’s most breathtaking scenery, as it winds along the Piscataqua waterfront between Portsmouth and New Castle. Tickets are $25 for Music Hall members in advance, $27 for nonmembers, and $30 if purchased the day of the tour. They are on sale now at the Music Hall box office, 28 Chestnut Street in Portsmouth, online at, or by phone at 603 436-2400.

MH Barton Shelves06Meanwhile, here is a sneak peek at one “kitchen that really cooks.”

Kirsten Barton needed a hardworking kitchen. With three kids ages 11, 13, and 15, who are all involved in numerous activities, plus one lively dog, she wanted a kitchen that was streamlined and durable yet also stylish. Thanks to some personal research and the aid of Portsmouth designer Mari Woods of Mari Woods Kitchen, Bath, Home, she achieved a modern kitchen with clean lines and cool hues that easily handles whatever family life dishes out.

When the Bartons purchased the 1940s home, it was chopped up into smaller rooms. Working with Jason Barton’s brother in England, and AdaptDESIGN in America, they came up with a plan to open the space. Now the kitchen flows into the dining room area, and from there down a single flight of stairs to the living room with its water views. To unify the spaces, they chose warm white walls, which also form a backdrop for the art the couple loves to collect. One exception is the far kitchen wall, which is papered with a graphic charcoal-gray and white illustration of trees. Kirsten found the image online; she liked the bold simplicity of the print and the idea of bringing a design from nature into the room.

Elsewhere in the kitchen, she and Woods steered the color palette toward beachy tones, adding blues, browns, and grays to echo the hues of the nearby waterfront. The central island is done in dark gray on three sides but with turquoise drawers on the fourth side. It serves as command central with space for eating, storage, food prep, and cleanup, and it even holds a dishwasher and recycling containers. Its smooth finish resembles granite, but it is actually made of Silestone. “I knew durability was important to Kirsten,” Woods says. “And so was keeping things natural. Silestone is man-made, but from natural materials. Rocks and resin are combined to create this material, which does not require sealing or maintenance and is extremely durable. We used this on the counters as well.”

MH Barton ovens 01 650x

The chairs around the island are graceful curves of wood mounted to stainless steel bases. Barton found them on, and their silvery gleam pairs well with the room’s cool tones.

Both Barton and Woods wanted to make sure the room did not look sterile, so brilliant pops of color were added in the form of bright orange pendant bubble lights from Ikea and a wall of cobalt blue that houses appliances and more storage.

MH Barton potsPans 07A pegboard wall and carefully planned built-ins maximize storage space.“Kirsten fell in love with the cobalt,” Woods says. “It creates a nice ‘wow’ factor without overpowering the room. The surface is actually laminate, and we used it to conceal the refrigerator, freezer, and more storage. It wraps around the stacked oven setup—one standard and one convection—so the whole space works together as one unit.”

Just beyond the appliance wall is an extended section of shelving, containing everything from snacks and paper goods to kids’ games and craft supplies. Purchased from the Container Store, it organizes a wealth of items in one place and the kids know this is the go-to area for many of their needs. The space is so popular that Alfie, the dog, has made the charcoal-gray chair next to this spot his favorite perch.

The dining area is defined by a massive wood and laminate table and a stunning chandelier that features a long rope of brass beads leading to a base with golden curlicues and pewter filigree, all dripping with crystal beads. A fuchsia rug under the table adds a vivid punch of color. The look is simple but elegant and melds well with both the adjacent kitchen and living room.

MH Barton Light05The elegant chandelier with its Indian-inspired
design helps define the dining area.
Underfoot throughout is a soft cork-based floor the color of winter wheat, which looks like textured wood. “Cork is great in the kitchen,” Woods says. “It’s cushioning so if you are on your feet a lot, it’s kind to your body. It also won’t weather or discolor and is very low maintenance. You’ll never have to restain as you would with traditional wood.”

The Bartons have lived with their kitchen for five years and Kirsten is very satisfied with how it works as well as how it looks. “It cleans up well, everything looks as good as the day it was installed, and there’s nothing here that the kids can’t touch or that we don’t use,” she says. “It really suits our lives and we love the clean, modern look.”


“What I love about this kitchen is that it is truly the heart of the home,” Woods says. “The family lives here. These three spaces are all perfectly connected and work together for this family. It’s not a show kitchen, it’s a real kitchen.”

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