This kitchen at The Luxe was designed by Rao Design Studio.
Photo: Jenni Girtman
Photo: Jenni Girtman

Design your own 'Top Chef' worthy kitchen at these Atlanta showrooms

It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s definitely where everyone wants to hang out at parties.

But current kitchens go far beyond areas for storing and preparing food and doing the dishes. They can be places to entertain, work and spend time with the family at any hour of the day. And with new appliances that offer restaurant-caliber techniques, they can be laboratories for serious home cooks to try out the latest tricks of the best chefs.

This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Living Intown magazine.

State-of-the-art appliances have become an integral part of custom building and remodeling projects. Today’s most up-to-date kitchens may include a 48-inch dual fuel range with a gas cooktop and electric convention oven, integrated refrigerators and dishwashers that seamlessly blend in with cabinetry, and little perks like built-in coffeemakers and fancy ice machines.

Guy Gunter Home

To equip your kitchen locally, consider Guy Gunter Home, a luxury appliance company with a showroom in northwest Atlanta.

President Theron Gunter’s grandfather founded the business, selling iconic brands such as Sub-Zero refrigerators in the 1950s, before they were well known in the Southeast.

For true culinary enthusiasts, Gunter recommends the “combi” — a combination convection and steam oven made by such companies as Gaggenau, Miele and Wolf. It offers a quick, precise and healthy way to cook and bake that seals in moisture, nutrients and flavor.

“They are the all-around most versatile cooking method out there,” Gunter says. “Once you cook with one, you never want to go back to anything else.”

Gunter’s other hot pick is the under-mount Galley Sink, which integrates a long, stainless-steel trough with sliding workstations that hold cutting boards, bowls, colanders and drain racks. Of course, that kind of sleek form does come at a price — in the $4,000-$6,000 range.

“This has been the single best product we’ve ever put on the showroom floor,” Gunter says. “We’ve sold so many of these sinks. People just fall in love with them. And if price is no object, this is it.”

Guy Gunter Home Showroom. 1610 Southland Circle. 404-874-7529.

RAO Design Studio

Educated in industrial design at Georgia Tech, kitchen designer Matthew Rao of Midtown’s RAO Design Studio includes the equipment as merely part of the overall vision for a kitchen.

“The process starts with a program that includes all the needs, wants and desires the clients have for a space,” says the award-winning designer. “And those are not limited to physical things. They’re about experiences, family, things they cook, budgets, visitors, lifetime expectations for the project.”

His recent clients, Adriana D’La Rotta and husband Albert Thumann, employed Rao to design an extensive kitchen renovation at their Midtown condo.

D’La Rotta and Thumann are art collectors and owners of Studio 905 art gallery on Juniper Street, near Rao’s studio. D’La Rotta is an architect and artist, as well as an avid home cook who had definite ideas about what she wanted in her kitchen, but needed someone to guide her through the design.

“When we met, she told me, ‘I am someone who loves to cook, but I can’t cook, because I don’t have enough room for anything’ ” Rao says. “She didn’t have space, she didn’t have storage, and she didn’t have the appliances she needed.”

When it came to choosing appliances, D’La Rotta fell in love with several items Rao showed her, including a Teppanyaki-style flattop grill; a combi-steam oven and matching microwave oven; and a modular integrated column refrigerator and freezer, all from Gaggenau.

“Most people in a condo setting cook a little,” Rao says. “Adriana cooks a lot — and not just for her and her husband, but for their friends. So everything was designed to go together to fit all of her cooking needs and save time. She also has a lot of gadgets and stuff that we needed to find a place for.”

For storage, which includes a pull-out pantry, Rao used high-end fitted kitchen cabinets from the German company SieMatic. “It’s a line that been around since the ’60s and offers many innovative features and quality finishes that will last forever,” Rao says.

As for the overall design, Rao calls it contemporary with a lot of attention to ergonomics. “It’s not a purely modern, minimal look,” he says. “It’s a little more eclectic. But it is very clean in its lines, and it’s not over-stylized.

“It was mainly Adriana’s sense of design and sense of style. So between me wanting the most minimal modern as possible, and her collection of things, we came up with these options together.”

D’La Rotta’s reaction to the finished kitchen and its new appliances is simple and emphatic: “Life-changing,” she says. “I love my kitchen. I always wanted a European-style kitchen. I use that steam oven almost every time I make a meal. That oven does everything. Because of the various racks, I can even make three things at a time.”

In contrast to the D’La Rotta and Thumann project, Rao recently completed another nearby Midtown condo project for Kevin and Vicky Kuo, a younger couple who recently moved into the city of Atlanta. Both designs ended up including many of the same elements and appliances, including a combi oven.

“Adriana and her husband are a mature couple who chose a city life for the ease, simplicity, culture and convenience, with Midtown right out the door,” Rao says. “The Kuos were just starting a family. They have a little 1-year-old. And Atlanta is new to them. They are, I think, the classic millennials. They chose an urban life in a different way, because it more appealing than living in the suburbs.

“So we remodeled a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at Colony Square with a much smaller kitchen, but with an eye to a couple who are both from Taiwan and are going to cook at home in the style they enjoy. They use the combi oven to cook baby food and sterilize things in there. I’d never heard of that before.”

The Kuos’ narrow, modern galley kitchen, which flows into the dining room, has become the multi-purpose hub of the condo, and the place where family and friends gather. The built-in equipment fits the tight space and syncs with the Kuos’ adopted city lifestyle.

“We didn’t really need the big refrigerator or the double ovens,” Kevin says. “We were more focused on what we would use the most. It was an exercise in balancing the space and the different appliances.

“As it turned out, the steam oven was this really amazing thing. We use it for everything from cooking baby food to making awesome steak. We also got a built-in espresso machine, which saved us a lot of trips to Starbucks and has probably paid for itself already, given how expensive a latte is now.”

RAO Design Studio Inc. 905 Juniper St. Suite CU-B. 404-815-5655.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.