Tools of the trade are tucked away in the kitchen, making it a seamless entertaining space
As a co-owner and cofounder of the chefdriven Boka Restaurant Group, Rob Katz is perhaps most widely recognized as his business partner Kevin Boehm’s other half. The duo lays claim to some of the most cleverly crafted restaurant concepts in the country, all developed right here in Chicago. “Things are crazy busy,” says Katz. “Kevin and I have opened three restaurants in the last 10 months and two are set to open in the next six months.” Successes include Girl & the Goat, Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and Perennial Virant, each notably with a star chef at the helm.
Rob and Kathleen Katz at home in their artfully casual kitchen.
Behind the scenes, however, his 13-plus years with wife Kathleen (they’ve been together for 20) is the partnership to covet. Their warmth is instantly infectious; they work well together, both boasting and deferring to one another’s talents (she’s quite the cook and potter) and opinions (he takes the lead on restaurant business dish), all while playfully teasing each other like newlyweds.
“We knew Roscoe Village well when we moved here,” said Kathleen of the location of their threeyear- old single-family home. But they looked at around 100 spaces before this one found them while they were visiting friends across the street. It was the original builder’s dream home-to-be, a project that lost its footing and funding along the way and was put on the market. The open plan of the first floor sealed the deal, and the home quickly became Katz family headquarters.
An unassuming glamour prevails throughout. It’s a friendly yet efficient neutral-colored space that isn’t overly designed or decorated, but instantly comfortable— very much like the couple themselves. They spend the majority of their time in the double-wide kitchen, which is flanked by a fireplace-filled reading room and dining area at the front, and at the back, a cozy sofa-bedecked den and walk-out patio complete with an outdoor movie screen.
Friend and decorator Joanne Siciliano, owner of JMS Interiors, designed the custom sofa and chairs in the den, as well as the chaises in the reading nook. “I like each room in the house to have a little bit of nature, a hint of glamour and something homemade,” says Kathleen. To wit: a subtle splash of silver paint on a cowhide rug; a jeweled pillow shining on a mohair velvet chaise; mercury glass candleholders gleaming about the fireplace. To complete Kathleen’s vision, their children’s artwork is handsomely framed and hung amid their collection and used as accessories about the home.
French doors grace both ends of the open-plan kitchen: a reading nook at one end and an outdoor theater at the other
Sleek, dark, walnut-stained cabinetry is built in throughout, nearly concealing the kitchen. Creamy Silestone marble countertops surround the work spaces and breakfast bar. A handsome dropped ceiling cleverly hides a professional-grade vent and hood above a Wolf indoor grill and range. The stainless Sub-Zero fridge and freezer, which stand on either side of a built-in wine chiller and Dacor coffee and espresso maker, hint at the restaurantgrade cooking that goes on here. The tabletops are neatly dotted with copies of Food & Wine magazine, which sit alongside a collection of coffee-table cookbooks by the best in the business. “I try to make it a place Rob can come home to that is fun and relaxing and filled with dishes that you can’t get at any of the restaurants; real home cooking,” says Kathleen.
So what’s next for the Boka Restaurant Group? Little Goat, a diner-esque “Girl” offshoot will open in the West Loop in early 2012, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and offering a late-night lounge. Rob is also excited about Balena, a rustic Italian-inspired concept and first-time venture with The Bristol Group, which is slated to open in the redesigned Landmark space in late 2011. “Everyone always asks me if Rob is ever home,” says Kathleen. “Funnily enough, the busier they get, the more we see him.” It’s a well-oiled business model that runs on the same warm and inviting virtues as their comfortable home.