How to Make Contemporary Kitchen

When Mass Design Group cofounder Alan Ricks decided to remodel his Boston apartment, he had a lucky head start: Ricks’s unit, on the top floor a charming 1850s brownstone, came chock-full of original architectural features. But there was still plenty of work to do, specifically in the kitchen; the dark exposed brick wall and wood trusses, previously stained a deep brown, didn’t jibe with Ricks’s dream of an airy gathering area where friends could mingle while a meal bubbled on the stove. Ricks promptly whitewashed those moody elements and stuck to a limited color and material palette, instantly brightening up the room and creating a simple backdrop for special elements to shine. “The idea that design affects behavior is true for the home as well,” he says. “Creating this open kitchen layout, for example, shapes the social dynamic and creates a bright, welcoming space that is great for entertaining.”

Mass Design Group has a “LoFab”—locally fabricated—approach to design, and Ricks applied the same philosophy to his personal project. “Design decisions were developed collaboratively with the craftsmen who would do the building, sourcing materials regionally wherever possible and taking opportunities to highlight the craft of construction.” Case in point: the kitchen’s custom stairwell. Another advantage of the apartment’s elevated perch—and what convinced Ricks to buy the home in the first place—was access to the rooftop. However, to appreciate the valuable outdoor space, you had to climb up a perilous folding ladder. No longer. Ricks worked with expert carpenters and metalworkers to create wood steps that rise from the floor to blend directly into the kitchen island, then curve up into a matte-white spiral stairway. “To achieve this in one piece, the stair had to be craned into place,” he says.

After three years of meticulous renovations, many mementos from Ricks’s trips to Africa, including masks from Sierra Leone and Liberia and a painting from Rwanda, became the finishing touches in the kitchen. There are surely many dinner parties in Ricks’s future, and we’re hoping for a citrus-yellow seat at the table.