Amazing Spaces: Scene Stealer

A red-hot, ultra-sleek kitchen is the center of attention inside Michael Kelly's penthouse condominium.

Look skyward on a nighttime drive along the West Shoreway and you'll see a brilliant beacon, glowing faintly red, atop the Warehouse District's Pinnacle Building.

The source is Michael Kelly's 3,300-square-foot, ultramodern condominium, walled on three sides with floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic lake and city views. At its center is the home's beating heart, an ellipse-shaped kitchen dripping with glossy ruby-red finishes, sandwiched between an oval marble floor and oval light-studded drop ceiling.

This $1.5 million penthouse is a second home for Kelly, now retired after selling his insurance and financial planning firm and medical consulting businesses in Franklin, Tenn., a town of 59,000 just south of Nashville.

That's where this Cleveland native still keeps his primary residence, a farmhouse circa 1815 located on a 50-acre horse farm and loaded with antiques.

"I live in a museum," Kelly says. "So for this home, I wanted something ultramodern."

He turned to Aaron Hill of Richard Fleischman and Partners Architects, who created a design with minimal walls, permitting unobstructed views from every room. Elements such as a snakelike curving couch create a flowing path through the wide-open space, with the kitchen as its centerpiece.

"We talked about it as a jewel box, surrounded by glass, and the kitchen was the jewel," says Hill. "It's all white walls and dark wood floor, and we wanted one simple move that would make a bold statement."

Every kitchen surface is sparse and high-gloss red. The refrigerator, oven and dishwasher are cleverly hidden behind the same red finish, with no overhead cabinetry to block the view.

"I wanted a space that would be light and airy, where people would immediately gravitate to the kitchen and living room," says Kelly. "There is nothing cluttered in this space."

Kelly does cook here when entertaining small groups of family and friends, so the kitchen design required practicality as well as aesthetics. Hill designed the kitchen to maximize storage space, adding deep rollout shelves to the few cabinets, and mounting glass shelving into wall cutouts as both storage and wall art for plates and glassware.

Kelly moved into the penthouse in 2009 and spends about 20 weekends a year here, visiting family and indulging in his love of Cleveland's theater, sporting events and cultural attractions. His kitchen is more than the center of his home's architecture — it's the center of his life here.

"It's a space that's colorful and creates an incredible amount of energy," says Kelly. "If you're sad, you can't be sad anymore here. The kitchen makes you happy. The view makes you happy."

Spare Spaces

"The perfect contemporary kitchen is one that's barely there," says Aaron Hill of Richard Fleischman and Partners Architects. "The great appeal of minimalism is removing the visual clutter from your hectic life." Avoid overhead cabinets and be creative in using remaining storage space. Keep counters bare, using wide cabinet units under the counter with pull-out drawers to store pots, pans and small appliances. Choose cabinetry with flat fronts, tight seams and minimal hardware to complete the modern look. Look to art galleries for inspiration — clean and simple floors and walls with recessed lighting — to make your contemporary kitchen the center of attention. "We don't want to highlight objects," he says. "We want the space itself to feel open and empty, to let the people inside and the art on display be the focus."

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