Opening Up to Open Concept Living in Downtown Portsmouth
A suburban couple downsizes to a perfect urban condo
“We moved to Portsmouth because of the close proximity to restaurants, yet we find ourselves cooking at home more often than not because we love our kitchen,” says Frank Firicano, whose kitchen was featured on the 2019 Music Hall Kitchen Tour. In 2016, Frank and his wife Anne moved from a 4,200-square-foot colonial in Andover, Massachusetts, to a 2,100-square-foot open concept condo at Parkside on State Street. “When it was time for Frank to retire, we wanted to downsize…and we wanted a downtown location,” Anne says. “Portsmouth was a perfect fit.”
“We moved to Portsmouth because of the close proximity to restaurants, yet we find ourselves cooking at home more often than not because we love our kitchen,” says Frank Firicano.
Designed to resemble a grand hotel, the five-story Parkside has 12 residential condos and two ground-level commercial tenants. “The Firicanos’ condo is unique in terms of its orientation,” says project architect Jennifer Ramsey of SOMMA Studios. “The main living space is commanded by a wall of windows facing the Memorial Bridge, Piscataqua River, and Prescott Park. In contrast, its more private quarters, like the bedrooms and a small office, are intentionally located toward the back of the building with more privacy.” The open concept space is dominated by the kitchen, which is “centralized like a ship’s helm and unabashedly so,” Ramsey says. “This kitchen’s bold yet intentional placement means you cannot hide a pot boiling over or a stack of dishes waiting to be cleaned. This is a kitchen without any secrets. To offset this, stylistically, it is simple, elegant, and subdued in nature.”
The Firicanos worked closely with kitchen designer Scott Purswell of Dovetailed Kitchens to maximize the minimalist style. “The design is contemporary with a subtle nod to an Italian modern style featuring both gloss white and gray laminate, clean lines, and minimum detail with gentle textures in ribbed glass and the wood floors,” Purswell says. In addition to style, the homeowners wanted a kitchen with maintenance-free substance. “The high-gloss Thermofoil cabinets are easily cleaned with water and require little or no maintenance,” Anne says. “The quartz countertops are maintenance-free care.”
One of the couple’s favorite parts of the kitchen is its ample storage. “I hate clutter!” Anne says. “The kitchen is chock-full of cabinets, which enables us to hide most appliances, glasses, liquor and wine bottles, et cetera.” A design that allows the couple to comfortably cook together is another highlight of the kitchen. “Since Anne and I prepare meals together, we were particularly careful to plan the workspace so that we could both work simultaneously,” Frank says. “For the most part, each of us tends to have our own space to prepare meals.”
While cooking together, the Firicanos enjoy taking in the view, especially the boat traffic. “We have an app on our phone/tablet called Marine Traffic that identifies the ship, its cargo, where it came from, and its destination after Portsmouth,” Frank says. Beyond meal prep, the stunning view is a major part of the condo’s overall experience. “The Firicanos were keenly aware of wanting to make an impression when visitors came in,” Ramsey says. “With that came a degree of excitement to hide that view, initially. Bringing guests through a formal foyer and then around the corner makes the reveal of the spacious open concept living area and views beyond more of a thrill.”
Just as thrilling is the condo’s decor. The couple brought a few pieces of furniture from their home in Andover, including a dining set imported from Italy in Italian cherry with a high-gloss lacquered finish, and much of the rest was added with the guidance of Margo Villandry of Weekender House. “The homeowners were downsizing and living in open concept living for the first time,” Villandry says. “They have a very eclectic and irreverent eye when curating their art and furnishing, and, as a designer, I felt it was imperative to pull it all together so the space felt cohesive, seamless, and complementary.” Villandry integrated the couple’s contemporary art collection and traditional Oriental rugs by adding select items to tie the styles together, like a uniquely curved sofa in the living area with bookcases instead of end tables.
“So many clients of all ages are interested but still apprehensive about how to pull off open concept living, especially when the kitchen is prominently placed in the design,” Villandry says. “The Firicano home showcases how to incorporate a kitchen into an overall open concept design and also shows how all the living spaces can be pulled together in a way that still feels very personalized and suited to who the clients are and how they live.”
Produced by: Marsha Jusczak