Long admiring the architecture and interiors of France and the leisurely lifestyle of its people, the couple who owns this home in the New Orleans area didn't need a thousand words to tell their design team what they wanted. They had a picture - a photo of an enchanting countryside estate - to provide the inspiration. Architect George Hopkins and interior designer Alix Rico then captured the provincial look and feel.

"Having known my clients both personally and professionally for several years gave me great insight into their wants and needs - particularly in the kitchen," Hopkins says. "The wife is an accomplished equestrian and the husband is an avid outdoorsman, so it was important to them that we bring the outdoors in. They travel a lot, but when they are at home they love to entertain - whether it's having a few friends over for a glass of wine around the island or hosting a large catered event for one of the charities they support. The space we created is just as much a family kitchen as it is a caterer's dream."

At approximately 300 square feet, the kitchen is intimate enough for the empty nesters yet graciously accommodates the modern luxuries of a professional chef's kitchen, including top-of-the-line appliances, built-in breakfast and beverage stations, and an appliance garage that camouflages countertop gadgets while keeping them close at hand. The kitchen itself is part of a greater kitchen complex that includes a nearby utility room for stashing bulk goods such as bottled water and cases of wine as well as chafing dishes and other entertaining essentials. As Hopkins says, "Having such a room relieved the burden of needing additional wall cabinets in the kitchen proper, so we were able to incorporate walls of windows where cabinetry would have otherwise had to go."

Those windows afford pristine views of the home's lush landscape that add the pastoral aesthetic. Above the porcelain farmhouse sink is a 5x6-foot arched wooden window framed by a custom treatment designed to accentuate its curved shape. Rico dressed the window in floral linen and commissioned a local metal artist to create a rod-and-ring set in a natural steel finish.

On an adjacent wall, French doors offer an elegant transition to the beautiful brick loggia. The transom-topped doors and surrounding windows soar to 10 feet high and draw the eye up to the 12-foot-high ceilings. A bank of glass-front cabinets display the homeowner's cherished heirloom china while adding to the sense of airiness.

But what really lends the kitchen its je ne sais quoi is the specially formulate french blue glaze on the maple cabinets.

"The homeowner was certain that she wanted blue for the cabinets," Rico says, so each member of the design team submitted a favorite shade. "Our final color choice was the perfect compromise. Its gray undertones - combined with the off-white limestone, marble-tile backsplash, the stainless-steel hardware - toned down the blue, which could look Early American in the wrong combination. The result is not only peaceful but perfectly French."