Architecture & Design

How Does a Kitchen Designer Outfit His Own Space?

With simple, beautiful touches and not a single digital clock in sight.

Morgan and Ben Block went with blue-black Shaker-style cabinets crowned with a pecan countertop in their kitchen

From our Summer 2021 issue

You must have an amazing kitchen,” clients would always say to cabinetmaker and kitchen designer Ben Block, who has worked on numerous high-end homes. And he would laugh. Because at the end of the day, he returned to a cramped old cook space he shared with his now-wife, Morgan, in a house his parents built in Monroe.

That was until 2017, when the couple finally got to end what Morgan calls their kitchen “dreaming phase.” They bought a 2,000-square-foot former woodshop with a studio apartment in Morrill with 10-foot-tall ceilings, six-foot-tall windows, and, on the first floor, not much else. Ben, who owns Northport’s Block Brothers Custom Cabinets, drew up a kitchen plan before they’d even closed.

ABOVE “We wanted the kitchen to feel like a collection of furniture,” says Ben Block, who designed and built the Shaker-style china cabinet and base cabinets (finished in Farrow & Ball’s Light Gray and Railings, respectively,) pecan table, and ash pot rack in his Morrill home. The rack dangles from rigging from Southport’s Maloney Marine Rigging; pendants assembled with shades from Olde Brick Lighting echo the vertical lines.

Mostly finished last fall, the space is spa-like in its simplicity (though the Blocks admit their 2-year-old, Andrew, does his best to clutter it up). Unadorned walls in Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White blend into trim, a V-groove pine ceiling, and a single open shelf in the same hue. A smoke-gray china cabinet (made with 25-year-old quarter-sawn red birch from Ben’s father’s sawmill) displays tidy stacks of dinnerware. A Shaker-style table in Texas pecan is an airier stand-in for an island. And the fridge is tucked under a staircase across the room. “There are no buttons, no flashing lights anywhere,” Ben says.

Centered on a stretch of blue-black Shaker-style cabinets crowned with a pecan countertop, a retractable vent hood for the Lacanche range the Blocks had coveted for years and a custom pot rack suspended from marine rigging slide out of the way when the couple is not cooking, preserving the white space. “What I’ve learned is that the value of a kitchen is in creating a beautiful space that you can run your hand over and love every detail,” Ben says. “This is not a perfect kitchen for everyone. Most people wouldn’t want a shelf just for pretty things. But for us, it turned into the perfect space.”