“It’s an exciting time, because we can get our clients to look at the kitchen in a new way as part of a movement towards more sustainable lifestyles—from supporting organics, cooking together as a family, to reclaiming the table. I fundamentally believe we can get life back to the kitchen table.”
Lisa Wilson-Wirth, CKD, President & Owner, Arclinea San Diego
Italians are to high design what the French are to fine cuisine, and as the president and owner of a high-end kitchen-and-bath showroom, Lisa Wilson-Wirth works in a field that takes cues from both cultures.
Her California-based company, Cucinarte, Inc., operates under the DBA Arclinea San Diego, the city’s exclusive distributor of contemporary cabinetry from The Arclinea Collection. Arclinea is a third-generation family business from Vincenza, Italy. Using Arclinea’s inventive cabinetry designed by renowned architect Antonio Citterio, from pull-out systems to toe-kick drawers, Wilson-Wirth can dramatically increase available kitchen storage for her clients, even within a preexisting footprint.
“We consider ourselves a design firm first, cabinetry dealer second,” Wilson-Wirth says. With her insight, Cucinarte’s projects are a smooth blend of new-wave technology and artistry.
Wilson-Wirth decided to sell Arclinea after reaching a climax to her corporate marketing career. On business in Europe, she kept spotting “European design solutions for the kitchen and home that we didn’t have in the United States,” she recalls. A bell went off, and when she redirected her life’s path it included becoming a certified kitchen designer. “This was a great fit with my love for cooking and the home,” she says, and she selected Arclinea for its “timeless and highly livable modernism, where function and form were equally addressed.”
As it turns out, her business mindset was the perfect prelude to selling fantasy kitchens. Cucinarte, Inc. has earned several awards, including being one of the top-designed showrooms (Kitchen + Bath Business magazine) in the country.
“In my previous role as a marketer, we worked with our clients to tell their story, and now working as a designer, it’s the same thing,” Wilson-Wirth says. “We conduct a detailed intake process, interviewing clients… understanding how they want to live in the home and sometimes even creating aspirations that they haven’t thought of yet.”
Since opening in 2005, Wilson-Wirth has expanded to whole-house interiors, including bathrooms, media rooms, and more. “Our firm’s designs are integrally linked to the overall architecture of the home, and have been successfully integrated into many different living environments,” she says.
She continually references her European travels for inspiration. “I think this understanding of how design can enhance our lives and our homes is an emerging concept in the United States,” she says. “As consumers, it’s dawning on us to expect more and expect better.”
Given her diverse design concepts, she sources products from a long roster of manufacturers. For fixtures, Foster and Dornbracht are some of her favorites; for appliances, she often uses Gaggenau and Sub-Zero/Wolf; and for lighting, Flos, Artemide, and Tom Dixon are on her radar.
In effect, Wilson-Wirth’s creativity serves a higher good: to make cooking and eating at home an everyday pleasure. “Many clients may not have the luxury to work with an architect to create their dream home,” she says, “but working with our office, we help them realize a highly personal living space that really works for how they cook and live.”
For a bright-red Victorian home, Wilson-Wirth designed an eye-popping kitchen in papaya yellow, with four distinct work zones. The wet work zone contains a stainless-steel countertop and backsplash, paired with upper wall units in acid-etched glass. Its welded sink boasts drop-in accessories, like a chopping board and colander, and a fully integrated dishwasher makes for efficient cleanup. The storage and pantry zone features a fully integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator-freezer and tall pantries with expansive storage, including deep drawers and Arclinea’s “Magic Corner,” a base cabinet that features a double-tier, pull-out basket. In the cooking zone, a built-in European espresso machine, Teppan Yaki griddle, and combo steam and convection wall oven—all by Gaggenau—are a modern cook’s dream. In the dining zone, Arclinea’s Convivium stainless-steel legs and top in CaesarStone Quartz Surfaces [Misty Carrera] offers the “perfect perch to see what’s cooking,” Wilson-Wirth says.
With environmentally conscious clients, Cucinarte explores trends in sustainability. For one “green by design” kitchen, Wilson-Wirth created a sleek “eco” chef’s kitchen in rich, natural tones. She pored over every niche to maximize utility. “Instead of a six-burner cooktop, we’ve created a custom cooking zone, tailored to [the clients’] preferences with modular units that support what this couple likes to cook,” she says.
Another goal in the project was to move away from the microwave. A combination steam-and-convection oven did the trick. “You can steam fish, vegetables, and rice all at once,” Wilson-Wirth points out. The homeowners, who are boutique hotel owners, even use the oven to make strawberry jam for their hotel guests.
In addition, energy-efficient fluorescent task lighting and LED greenhouses facilitate the growth of herbs at home, for the most local brand of food-sourcing, and solar light-tubes around the center island provide natural daylighting.
All these endeavors make the kitchen industry part of a meaningful movement, Wilson-Worth explains. “It’s an exciting time, because we can get our clients to look at the kitchen in a new way as part of movement towards more sustainable lifestyles—from supporting organics, cooking together as a family, to reclaiming the table,” she says. “I fundamentally believe we can get life back to the kitchen table.”
Lisa’s recommendations for microwave alternatives
Many clients are forgoing the microwave in favor of equipment that supports a healthier lifestyle. There are a number of alternatives to the built-in microwave that also enable quick and easy meal planning, with the added bonus of enhancing the health-giving properties of the foods being cooked. At the top of the short list, in-counter steamers and built-in steam ovens offer the best microwave alternatives. Preferred models:
- Gaggenau Combi-Steam Oven, gaggenau.com
- Miele Steam Oven, mieleusa.com
- In-counter models by Gaggenau, Miele, and Wolf, wolfappliance.com
From task and undercabinet lighting to internal-shelf lighting to greenhouses, LEDs continue to transform the kitchen. Arclinea’s LED greenhouse is based on NASA-developed technologies that mimic the rising and settling of the sun, enabling herbs to grow two to three times faster than by traditional sunlight alone. Arclinea integrates these greenhouse elements into stainless-steel shelving and island hoods.
Lisa Wilson-Wirth, CKD, pictured in her award-winning studio Arclinea San Diego (Cucinarte, Inc.), named one of the top-designed showrooms in the country by K+BB magazine.
Intelligent by Design
The clients sought a kitchen with chef-quality features that could host warm family gatherings and entertaining-a sophisticated but accessible design. Balancing affection for European craftsmanship with a passion for cooking, this sleek chef’s kitchen offers a fully capable culinary environment-where technology is in service to the needs of the everyday. The design, featuring the Artusi line from The Arclinea Collection, created an open, contemporary plan, in which living, dining, cooking, and socializing coexist in a continual interlacing of relationships and activities. Conveniences of the professional kitchen (ample storage, professional cooking setup, high-performance appliances) were incorporated-as was an eye to integration and furniture-like details.
CABINETRY: The Arclinea Collection, cabinets in medium gray oak, with Artusi handles in stainless steel
COUNTERS: Black Forest granite, honed surface
BARSTOOLS: Calligaris, calligaris.us
Top Design Trends
The Artusi-Scholtès stainless-steel worktop by Scholtès for Arclinea features a recessed surface and welded sinks, providing a seamless work area that is hygienic and high-functioning. With sliding chopping boards and a built-in anti-drip edge, washing and prepping vegetables is easy work. Built from a single piece of stainless steel, the worktop is fabricated from partially recycled steel and is fully recyclable.
With the ability to eliminate the “faucet” and enhance available countertop space, the discreet In-Shelf Faucet by Arclinea features an extractable shower faucet and touch controls for opening and closing the drain, as well as dispensing kitchen and hand soaps. The product serves as the perfect solution for butlers’ pantries and wet bars.
LED Task Lighting
LED lights aid productivity, and are featured in the KWC Eve faucet. Arclinea’s Kizoku faucet’s water-temp lighting, and the basin lighting of Arclinea’s Lignum et Lapis marble sink.
Solid Ray, a 100% homogenous, solid acrylic panel that is UV- and scratch-resistant, in a 2-cm thickness exclusive to Arclinea, is a favored material for finishing cabinets in homes and more exotic locations like yachts or spas. Perfect for urban settings and coastal conditions, these sleek mirror-finish doors offer picture-perfect reflections of their surroundings, as well as an ever-changing point of view for the homeowner. The kitchen or bath comes to life with energy and light, constantly connected to the rhythms of family life, mirroring the activities and actions of those who engage within and around it.
Arclinea’s uniquely designed kitchens vary according to need and are highly customizable by the user. Such personalization offers an advantage in improving usability and accessibility, and enhancing the overall ergonomics of a project. Arclinea offers its Convivium dining table, embedded with hidden technology, which is easily enjoyed in home kitchens. Hydraulics-based technology changes the functional makeup of the island with its integrated “Up-Down” table that adapts on demand, depending on the user. The elegantly planked wooden table easily rises from dining-table height to counter height (or anywhere in between), allowing users of different heights and abilities to easily switch from a lowered dining table to ergonomic work surface, with a single press of a button.
The design for this 1898 historic Victorian home in San Diego’s Sherman Heights historic district won Wilson-Wirth a Grand Award in Remodeling magazine’s 2008 Design Awards. The clients embraced a bold use of color throughout the project, appropriate to the home’s Victorian sensibilities. The selection of Papaya Giallo cabinetry from The Arclinea Collection in laminate, with Arclinea’s Artusi handle in stainless steel, makes a culinary-inspired statement. The cabinetry is paired with wall units and a tall double pantry in acid-etched glass with an anodized aluminum frame, also by Arclinea. The kitchen also features a roll-up small-appliance garage in anodized aluminum by Arclinea to provide a pull-out breakfast bar, additional work surface, and storage drawers for pots, pans, tools, and equipment.
Other features and amenities include an integrated Gaggenau espresso-system (gaggenau.com); professional-grade, easy-to-clean stainless-steel countertops by Arclinea, with energy-efficient lighting profiles in anodized aluminum; and anti-drip edge, single-piece construction; and a welded sink by Foster, which is accessorized with chopping boards and other service accessories. Also, Gaggenau’s 27” convection wall oven and 27” combi-oven (combining steam and convection) satisfy the demands of the most passionate home chefs.