The first thing you see when you open the front door to Julie Emerson’s home is the kitchen, floating in a sea of white.

Beyond that? A sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Emerson’s home on Two Lights Terrace, overlooking the entrance to Portland Harbor, is one of a dozen places featured in the upcoming Maine Home + Design Cape Elizabeth Kitchen Tour, a benefit for the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation.

In this era when the average home cook has been whipped into a Food Network frenzy, kitchen tours have become a popular way for nonprofits to raise money. Foodies love to drool over other people’s Viking stoves, Subzero refrigerators and acres of counter space begging to be filled with Kitchen Aid mixers and Dualit toasters.

You’ve heard of food porn? Consider this “kitchen porn” for people who love to cook.

There’s a kitchen tour in Camden every year, and others pop up occasionally around the state. But the Sept. 11 Cape Elizabeth tour is a can’t-miss proposition for Portland-area food lovers who long to make a nice veal piccata in their own dream kitchen someday.

In 2008, the tour raised $45,000 for the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation, most of it from local businesses.

Kitchen designers, builders and cabinet makers pay to be the lead sponsors of a home on the tour. They submit three to four examples of homes they’ve worked on that represent their best work, then the organizers choose one of them as they try to achieve a balance of neighborhoods, kitchen styles, colors and price points.

Not all the homes on the tour will be ultra-high-end or have stunning ocean views. But all of them will offer creative ideas for how you might want to approach your next project or renovation.

‘AMAZING’ OPPORTUNITIES FOR KIDS

Julie Emerson is one of the dozen homeowners who graciously allowed their kitchens to be opened to the public.

“I think that CEEF, it’s just amazing what they do, the opportunities that they give kids,” she said.

Two or three years ago, Emerson was living in a rented house on Two Lights Terrace, down the road from Two Lights State Park. One day, a neighbor informed her that a 1972 split level a few doors down was for sale.

Emerson bought and tore down the house, and Whitten Architects designed a more contemporary home that still fits into the neighborhood.

Emerson’s kitchen is part of an open-concept design. Through huge picture windows to the left, in the living room and dining area, there’s a stunning view of the crashing surf down by the Lobster Shack. (Trees obscure the view of both the restaurant and the road used by thousands of tourists every summer.)

Emerson says she always wanted a white kitchen because “you can do anything with white.”

Indeed, virtually everything is white here, including the marble countertops that Emerson wanted because she likes to bake cookies, popovers and other treats for her three children.

“The architect had to create a cantilever system to hold the weight of this because it’s a 2-inch-thick piece of marble,” Emerson said.

A bowl of fruit on the countertop provides a splash of color. There’s bistro seating so guests can sit and eat, chat with the baker, or watch a small flatscreen TV on the counter.

The stainless-steel double sink, the deepest one Emerson could find, overlooks more large windows with ocean views. Emerson can watch ships and sailboats glide past or look out at the islands while she washes her produce or prepares pastry dough.

The cabinets are all white, many of them with pull-out drawers.

In a corner, there’s a built-in Meile coffee station plumbed with water that grinds beans and brews coffee at the push of a button. (It even cleans itself.) Small, narrow, custom-made drawers store the tea and coffee.

“We make lattes at about three o’clock,” Emerson said. “Or you can make espressos.”

To the left of the coffee station is a dumbwaiter designed to bring up groceries from the garage below. Emerson said her architect questioned if she would really use it – yes, she replied, “because I am going to be here until I’m very old, and if I have to crawl up the stairs that’s fine, but the milk is coming up” the dumbwaiter.

Between the kitchen and the front door there is a bar with a diamond-shaped sink and a built-in wine refrigerator. A drawer refrigerator and special cabinet provide storage for her kids’ sodas and snacks. The bar countertop is African black marble with a beautiful natural design.

Appliances include a Subzero side-by-side refrigerator and a gas cooktop with a fan that rises up with the push of a button. The Viking oven has a warming drawer, and the microwave doubles as a convection oven. There are two dishwashers.

A dream kitchen?

“I have to say I’ve lived in quite a few houses, and it’s just kind of a correlation of all the things I like that work for me,” Emerson said. “The dream is looking out this window.”

‘FUNCTION … A DRIVING FORCE’

Lynn and Jim Shaffer’s kitchen, built in 2004, also has a spectacular ocean view. While it has a contemporary look, it is a practical kitchen as well, with wood, metal and glass features that reflect the character of the rest of the house.

Lynn, an architect, designed the space herself.

“The kitchen really does go back to when we first moved to Maine and bought an old John Calvin Stevens house in Cumberland Foreside, and we redid the kitchen,” Lynn said. “I did pretty much this kitchen, and it worked so well for me that I redid it (in this house). Only this time, instead of having a butcher block in the center, Jim wanted an extra sink so we weren’t tripping over each other at the sink when he helps with cooking or cleanup.”

Lynn installed an island with a sink in her U-shaped kitchen, which features continuous charcoal-colored Corian countertops. The island is placed just right, so if three or four cooks are in the kitchen at once – the Shaffers’ children come home for holidays – they don’t bump into each other too much.

Yet everything they need is still at their fingertips, so they can work hard without wearing themselves out.

“Function has been a driving force in this kitchen,” Lynn said.

The small light fixtures suspended over the island have counterweights that allow the Shaffers to pull them closer if they need them.

The cabinets, custom made by Freeport Woodworking, are apple ply plywood with birch face, and are decorated with green, red and yellow curves that reflect the curves found in the architecture of the house. The floor is made of bamboo.

As for appliances, there’s a GE side-by-side refrigerator, a GE microwave, and double ovens and a dishwasher, both from Bosch.

The couple upgraded to a professional gas cooktop, which has become Lynn’s favorite thing in the kitchen because its hood has built-in heat lamps. “I use them constantly,” she said.

Lynn loves to cook, although she doesn’t go in for meals that take hours to prepare. The couple consider themselves adventurous eaters, though, so dinner might be something like Chicken Tagine.

“I love to cook a Chinese meal with some sort of meat stir fry and Szechuan green beans and Szechuan eggplant,” Lynn said. “I just figured out how to do corn the way El Rayo does it.”

The carpenters who built the Shaffers’ kitchen joked that they wouldn’t mind doing dishes if they had the view from the Shaffers’ sink.

The Shaffers watch tankers and cruise ships float by from their ktichen window, and are soothed by the sound of an unrelenting foghorn. They can see five lighthouses from their property, including Spring Point Light and Ram Island Light. Portland Head Light is visible from their front lawn.

And at night, when it’s clear, they can see Halfway Rock Light and the Seguin Island Light.

Lynn says she’s “grateful” for the simple pleasure of looking out her kitchen window.

“We kind of pinch ourselves and hope that we never, ever take this for granted,” she said. “We feel so fortunate.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]