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    Your Home | Kitchens & Baths

    A Cook’s Illustrated editor gets the kitchen of his dreams

    The new kitchen at his Brookline home features a serious pantry and cookbooks galore.

    Sean litchfield for the boston globe
    Architect Susan Dunbar says of the Shaker-style cabinetry, “It has clean lines without seeming sleek.” The island is painted Benjamin Moore Sweatshirt Gray.

    As executive food editorof Cook’s Illustrated, a test cook on America’s Test Kitchen, and a Brookline homeowner, Keith Dresser was accustomed to cooking in cramped quarters. Then everything changed.

    In October 2017, the parent company of the magazine and TV show moved from Brookline into expansive new digs in the Seaport District. “The offices were small and crowded; now they’re almost larger than life,” Dresser says. “As is our new kitchen.” Exactly two years earlier, S + H Construction had completed a renovation of Dresser’s home designed by architect Susan Dunbar of Charles R. Myer & Partners.

    Dresser and his wife, law professor Jessica Silbey, their two daughters, and their black Labrador spend most of their time in the kitchen. The couple purchased the home in 2005 and lived on the top two floors, renting out the first-floor apartment, for 10 years. The nine-month renovation, which included absorbing the apartment into their living space, turned the 1895 residence back into a single-family home. Their original kitchen, on the second floor, became part of the master suite. The first floor gained the new eat-in kitchen, a service zone that includes a computer workstation, a pantry, a bath, a mudroom, laundry, and access to a new back dining deck.


    As the family’s sole cook (though their older daughter loves to bake), Dresser approached the project with a well-thought-out wish list. He wanted a comfortable, homey, utilitarian space. “They were dream clients,” says Dunbar. “They understood that researching and making decisions was crucial.”

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    The main directive was that the cooking and eating areas meld seamlessly. “I’m very conscious of the relationship between the front and the back of the house,” Dresser says, lapsing into restaurant lingo. “I don’t want to slave in back, make food appear at the table, and disappear again to make dessert. I want everyone to experience the process.”

    The airy new kitchen runs along the back and side of the house. The L-shaped counters that hug the perimeter have tops of honed Jet Mist granite, and the sink overlooks the backyard through a bank of large new windows. In the winter, Silbey grows herbs on the unusually spacious windowsills, a byproduct of building-code requirements. “It’s a big no-no to run water pipes up 4-inch-thick exterior walls, so we added another 2 inches in order to insulate the pipes,” says Sarah Lawson, owner of S + H Construction. “The added benefit was the ability to create extra-deep sills. I love when limitations generate a better design.”

    The Bianco Carrara marble top on the gray center island was another wish-list item. “I was afraid marble wasn’t a good idea with kids, but I love the look,” Dresser says. “After the first six months, I made my peace with it, realizing I wanted the kitchen to actually look like we use it.” A square auxiliary sink at one corner is accessible from two sides and serves as a bar sink when needed.

    The blue back-painted-glass backsplash behind the six-burner stove adds a shot of color, as do the copper pots peeking through the glass-front cabinets near the glossy white ceiling. Just beyond, a banquette stretches along the wall, surrounded by built-in bookshelves. Both cozy dining nook and cookbook library, it’s the most popular spot in the house. “My cookbooks were scattered through the house before; I really wanted to display them in a centralized location,” says Dresser. “It didn’t have to be in the kitchen, but it turned into a very cool design feature.”


    The crown jewel of the renovation, at least for Dresser, is the 40-square-foot walk-in pantry, accessed through an original swinging door with a glass window that the construction crew found in the basement and refurbished. The space stores small appliances that don’t get used daily, and floor-to-ceiling shelves hold canning jars containing pickles, jams, and the like. “It’s wonderful to give those beautiful jars pride of place rather than cramming them in a cupboard,” says Dunbar. “The pantry is Keith’s man cave.” 


    Sean litchfield for the boston globe
    Homeowner Keith Dresser organizes canning jars in the pantry.

    Sean litchfield for the boston globe
    Homeowners Jessica Silbey and Keith Dresser in the dining nook. They bought the reclaimed-barn-wood table years ago from a workshop in Fort Point.

    Jessica Delaney
    Glass-front cabinets displaying stemware and serving pieces flank a doorway across from the banquette.


     Architect: Susan Dunbar, Charles R. Myer & Partners, Cambridge,

     Contractor: S + H Construction, Cambridge,

    Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to Follow us on Instagram @BostonGlobeMag.

    Due to a reporting error, the width of a wall in the story “A cook’s Illustrated editor gets the kitchen of his dreams” in the October 14 issue of the magazine was incorrect. It is four inches thick and was expanded by two inches.