Reprinted from Hook Magazine 2015, by Mary Ellen Marks
Maggie McManus says, “You don’t change your kitchen or bathroom the way you change your sofa. These rooms are part of the permanent architecture of the building.”
A Certified Kitchen Designer and member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, she’s a seasoned professional with a Nyack-based business since 1995. The McManus Group remodels spaces to fit the needs of clients while maintaining a respect for the structural design of the home. No matter what style dwelling people have, Maggie’s designs integrate some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian lifestyle concepts and building techniques. This is a precise, streamlined approach that focuses on simplicity and function.
“I like as much natural light as possible. My designs have a high regard for the natural world and sight lines to it. I use high-function materials that endure the test of time and fashion.”
In order to get a result that really reflects the homeowner, a collaborative approach is used. Like a “midwife” Maggie guides her clients from the conception of the ideas to the final stage of the project. She develops a high level of trust and understanding with people. An ad-hoc team is formed consisting of her organization, the customer and eventually a general contractor. She has design specialists and an architect on staff for more involved work. “You hire us to put your space together for you, to do drawings of how it’s going to be, to whittle the world of all these things down to a few choices that are right for you.”
The company’s beliefs are based upon the theory that if the function is not built in, it doesn’t matter how the space looks. So individual home life patterns are studied and specific suggestions are made based on activities such as a corner with softer lighting to enjoy a cup of tea or a table to spread out the crossword puzzle or a place for children to do homework or a spot for the family pet to eat. Designs are very current with the way people use their kitchens today. Contemporary notions in kitchen principles have changed to center around three work areas—the cooking station, the prep station and the cleanup station.
Project Manager Sean Conway notes that the general trend has moved away from formal to more casual entertaining for family and friends. Dining often takes place in a multipurpose space. “But we’re very sensitive to the social life of each household. One person’s idea of dining may be having the entire family around the island and somebody else may want a china closet where they can fit glassware for 100 people. To accommodate the catering crew requires a much different demand than having your grandmother come over for dinner.” A current project involves almost eighty percent of the first floor of a home—all focussed around the kitchen. “When you are looking into other rooms, you want it to make sense from a design perspective. You are opening up these sight lines. It should be something that enhances the space and does not detract from the standpoints of usability and aesthetics. You can incorporate cabinetry in a dining room or storage in a family room that falls back to the kitchen.”
Customized designs include laundry rooms, mudrooms, hand washing stations for children, libraries and built-ins for games. Whether it’s a reading nook in a high-style Victorian, a bar area in a contemporary home or reclaimed wood on the oven hood of an 18th Century farmhouse, each renovation is unique. In a Tudor Revival kitchen, a handmade door found in the basement is used as a top for the island. For one client originally from Holland, the “cool, serene cold palette of the kitchen is inspired by the Dutch canal and seaside towns of her youth.”
The firm also helps people transition from houses into condominiums. “We inventory, take photographs and record dimensions of the most important things you own and then curate how to use them in the new space so that when you walk in, it’s still home. You are surrounded by all the things that you’ve loved throughout your life.”
The birth of a new kitchen or bath is a complex and individualized process. Maggie’s favorite thing about what she does is being able to improve people’s home life conditions. She enjoys jobs where she can engage with professionals to make a difference. “It’s the highest honor when someone retains us. People meet with me, check out my organization and say, ‘I want these people in my home’. It’s a pretty darn intimate thing. People’s homes are their ‘everything’. That’s where they come at the end of the day.”