Kitchen designer Chuck Wheelock crafts uniquely personalized kitchens

After joining forces with Mark Maidique in 2006, Chuck and Mark later opened their showroom in Old Greenwich. Wheelock Maidique will be launching new kitchen cabinetry style ranges this new year. Think modern Mediterranean.

photographs by Michael Biondo (left); ; Anton Kisselgoff (right)

With a degree in architecture from the University of Colorado, you then moved to Rhode Island. How did you start designing kitchens? When I decided to make kitchen design a career path, I approached the “best” company at the time, Smallbone. At first, they weren’t interested in my designs, but hired me to do sales. The company continued to grow, and I ran the Greenwich office. After Smallbone was sold in 1992, I worked with Christopher Peacock. What was unique about your kitchen crafting there? We used a centuries-old woodworking method—a framed cabinet with an inset drawer and door. Fine antique furniture is made this way. Then they were hand-painted and finished on site. You became an American liaison to English designer Johnny Grey in 1998. What attracted you to his work? He may be the world’s greatest kitchen designer. Instead of the stark white monochromatic rooms popular at that time, he was doing things that were more colorful, using freestanding furniture, innovating kitchens that were more like furnished living rooms. How did you join forces with Mark Maidique in 2006? Working together on a project in Larchmont, I discovered his skill, accuracy and speed at computer drawing, and his knowledge of how cabinetry fits together. In 2012, we opened our showroom in Old Greenwich. What is the trick of good kitchen design? You have to understand the interactions of opening doors and drawers, and you have to keep on top of appliance specs. You really need to use your imagination to drill down to details. There may be room for the fridge door to open, but it needs to swing to the full angle in order for the drawers to open fully.

photograph by Chris Winget

Explain what you call the kitchen “sweet spot.” Instead of proceeding with old concepts like the work triangle or thinking about a certain look, we initially try to find the space where you’re most comfortable—you can have eye contact with everyone who comes in, you might have a nice view out the window. If we can put the major cooking function in that sweet spot, we tend to have a much happier client. How are clients different these days? Today’s clients are more educated and sophisticated, and men are apt to be more involved. Also we’re more of a food nation. The idea of “fresh” is catching on, so we don’t do big walk-in pantries or two huge refrigerators anymore. What are some kitchen tips? A fireplace can have a relaxing effect. But a wood-fired pizza oven generates a lot of heat and requires commercial ventilation. Marble counters are okay in a kitchen that doesn’t get heavy use. But Neolith is the best surface: It’s thin and doesn’t burn, stain or watermark. And we’re cautious about built-in electronics because technology changes so quickly. Why are clients cautious about kitchen design? Kitchens are more “eternal.” In other rooms, if you don’t like a set of drapes, a chair or a rug, you can change it easily. It’s not as final as selecting the color on cabinets and countertops. And there’s concern about the future resale buyer. We help people try to design for themselves and not an imaginary person who may come shopping in the future. Anything new on the horizon? In 2013, we are launching new kitchen cabinetry style ranges for Wheelock Maidique (Modern Mediterranean) and Johnny Grey (New Unfitted).