Building the heart of a Home

The Paganos created a kitchen for the whole family.

By Tyler Bierman
Photography by Anne Matheis


One of Chris and Toni Pagano's oldest traditions is to get theirs sons and daughters-in-law together once a year to make classic Italian Scalili, a tradition that Toni has done every year of her life. It's a real family affair where they come together to cut and roll out the dough on Toni's heirloom cutting board and rolling pin, both of which have been in her family for more than 100 years. They laugh, they reminisce and they revel in their time spent together. That's how it's done at this home on The Hill, and it speaks volumes about the design of their kitchen. 

As the owners of Pagano Land Development and the builders of this home located above the business' offices, Chris and Toni had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish especially for their new kitchen. With the help of son S.J. Pagano, who plays a significant role at Pagano Land Development as the project manager, the couple set out to create a perfect place to entertain, not only for their family, but for any visitor who enters it. Chris explains, “We love entertaining and with this kitchen, we wanted a space big enough to do so. We also do fundraising events.”

The other main goal was to make the space as handicap-accessible as possible. Toni explains, “Not being teenagers anymore, it was something to consider. Megan Bittle with RSI was amazing in that she really listened. Instead of cabinets, we put in all drawers. It's so easy for anyone to reach in and grab what they need.” Additionally, each door and walkway was designed at wheelchair width.

However, this kitchen wasn't built overnight. Projects like this are a process that requires many hands on deck to complete throughout the design stage all the way to installation. As Chris puts it, “ The most important thing when you're building is to put together a really good team. You're always going to run into problems. You and your team have to go through them one at a time and get it done. The result will always be better for the struggle.” 

The end result is a kitchen that the whole family is proud of. One of the couple’s favorite features is the 14 ½-by-5-foot island that is perfect for preparing large meals and entertaining larger groups. The countertop is made of Crystalo, a material that is extremely durable and highly regarded. As Toni says, “There's nothing more beautiful than seeing the counters illuminated in the summer by the morning light pouring in through the shutters.” Chris continues, “That's the quartzite in the Crystalo. It's harder than granite, but it looks more like a marble. We saw the material in Chicago and immediately called our guy to buy five slabs of it.” 

Another of their favorite kitchen features is that it's 100 percent designed with their needs in mind. Toni has a full setup of storage solutions to accommodate a lifetime of accumulating cooking implements, as well as her specialized appliances meant for entertaining, such as her 50-cup percolator, chocolate fountain and a built-in Sub-Zero beverage center. With this new, perfect kitchen all that's left for Toni to do is enjoy herself. “It's very easy and comfortable. I can be at the counter and still see where everyone is and sometimes that's the most fun, just to sit back and say this is a blessed gathering.”

As for advice on a build or remodel of your own, Chris and Toni recommend above all else to find the right team to make it happen. The rest is simple. As Toni puts it, ”Take a deep breath, and let yourself enjoy it. It's a wonderful process.” 

Builder: Pagano Land Development, 314-449-6111
Architect: Brendel Architects, 618-248-5687
Kitchen: RSI Kitchen & Bath, 314-961-2000
Tile/Granite: Stone Fabricators, 314-776-7776
Windows: Pella Windows & Doors, 314-714-0100
Lighting: Metro Lighting, 314-963-8330
Flooring: Buchholz Interiors, 636-928-8258
Window Treatments: Blind Quest, 618-667-2005
Appliances/Wine cellar: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, 636-519-7299
Electric: DCE Electric
Plumbing: Hoffmann Brothers Plumbing, 314-664-3011
Friedhoff LLC