Nina Tinari and Michael Schulson know a successful kitchen-after all, they run several of them. Michael, a chef, has overseen the Philadelphia-based Schulson Collective of restaurants since opening his first, Izakaya, at the Borgata Resort in Atlantic City-where the likes of Geoffery Zakarian, Bobby Flay, Michael Simon, and Wolfgang Puck also had restaurants ("I was like, 'ok that’s a pretty good crowd,' Michael quips).
Nina joined the business as a partner in 2016 after a career in politics. Since then, the group has grown from four restaurants to 14. "The combination of Michael’s skill set and mine has allowed us to grow in a unique way because we’re both not from the same industry, we have different perspectives, which is cool," Nina explains.
It was that same partnership that allowed them to collaborate on their own kitchen. "Nina had the attention to detail and the eye for the finishing, but the spacial understanding is what I’m really better at," explains Michael, who spent a few years in school for architectural engineering before diving into the culinary world.
But, the two quickly found that such a personal project was very different than working on a restaurant. "Restaurants are easy because it’s kind of like ok, this is our vision, you give them a few pictures, you tell the contractor the feel," Michael says. "The house was a little more difficult because it’s our vision, not one you can cut out."
Plus, both would consent they're sticklers for details. "Literally every square inch was considered," Michael stresses. For proof, look no further than the fact that the couple spent days tracking down a specific style of round outlet (Bocci) to avoid the look of a rectangular cutout in the backsplash. They also created custom storage spaces to hide all small appliances, coffee making supplies, built-in fruit baskets, and even a kitty litter bin.
"Everything has a space in our house," Nina explains. So yes, the ceiling-height cabinets are all full to the brim, with the higher ones accessible by the ladder, a solution infinitely preferable than countertop clutter. As Michael says, "We don’t like stuff. We don’t have stuff on the counters, we don’t like it out."
With that said, though, the couple was careful to ensure the kitchen didn't feel like a model unit. "When everything has a place, you often go into a house and it feels sterile, and it was important that it felt like we live here, it’s not just a show piece," Micheal explains. So, on the shelves above the banquette, Schulson and Tinari put more personal items, like Michael's favorite cookbooks.
But perhaps the kitchen's most unusual, personal detail is its undisputed centerpiece, a jaw-dropping mirrored glass bar. "We wanted to do a bar, a big bar that was not in-your-face crazy but was just beautiful and elegant," Michael says. With its iridescent back and brass counter (a single piece, including the sink, made in California) lit by antique theater lights found at Brimfield antiques show, this surely fits the bill.
As passionate entertainers, the couple was mindful about the positioning of the bar within the kitchen. "I’m always cooking, so I wanted it to be so that Nina could be making cocktails, I could be cooking, and we could all be hanging out," Michael explains. "In our old place, we had a little kitchen and a dining room and everyone was always leaving the dining room to come to the kitchen to watch the chef."
Plus, Nina adds, "we wanted the focal point of a great bar." Because after all, "this is where we spend the majority of our time." Who can blame them?
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