March 7, 2014

Casey Design/Planning Group Inc. - Photo by Ted Yarwood.

Our home is a 1930s brick coach house built in the middle of the Art Deco period. My husband and I wanted to reflect this period in the look of the kitchen, but we also wanted to make this kitchen highly functional, with today's best appliances and with enough space for both of us to work together.

For myself and my clients, the first thing I start with are the functional requirements of a space. Good design always starts here. A room or space can be aesthetically dressed in many ways, but the function must be at the core. In this case, the space was small and we had a number of requirements; That the space be versatile enough to be closed off to the living room when required, but opened when desired. That two people be able to work comfortably together side-by-side, and that all appliances large and small be hidden to create a clean workspace. Lastly, that the kitchen allow us to create large meals for our many dinner parties and family gatherings.

With this in mind, the inspiration for our kitchen was the 1930s luxury oceanliners. The typical kitchen aboard such a vessel is usually laid out in a highly efficient style, with longitudinal units and overhead cabinets. This makes the best use of the usually limited space with the minimum required movement between appliances. 

This was perfect for what we were trying to achieve with our kitchen. 

Plans and elevations looked for basic standard functions of the kitchen, then all the individual requirements for each of us was taken into account; like where to put the juicer, the toaster, the coffee maker, the blender and the cuisinart, which we wanted out of view. The maxim; "everything in its place and a place for everything," was our guiding principle. For example, an open shelf was inset into one of the walls to display my collection of vintage objects, artwork and special glassware .

We followed that up by mocking up the entire kitchen full scale in cardboard, something that might be considered overkill. However, it showed us three-dimensionally that two people working in the kitchen would have enough space to work side by side.

Once we established the plan we moved onto how the kitchen would look. Going back to our original inspiration, the ocean liners of that period often used luxury materials. So we chose to design the cabinets using hand selected cherrywood veneer, with each sheet carefully chosen with our cabinetmaker. It was hand finished like fine furniture (not sprayed) to give a rich luxurious finish and we combined it with natural unfinished brass, which develops a luscious patina over time. The design of the brass inset into the cherrywood achieved two things:  a visually rich combination with the cherry wood and it became the cabinet's door pulls, thus avoiding having to use standard hardware. The marble walls were selected as a foil to the solid cherry wood. The linear nature of the marble contrasted with the solid density of the cherry cabinets to create tension and boldness. I love the drama created through the high contrast of these light and dark materials!  

To keep everything clean and tucked away; the fridge, dishwasher, pantry, recycling and garbage, and the stovefan are all hidden behind cabinetry. Our appliances are all by the German company Miele and were selected because of their high-quality, as well as their European size - meaning small. One unusual appliance we installed was the steam oven. It encourages health-conscious eating - steamed fish and vegetables are staples - and it also acts as a microwave substitute to heat food. 

A sliding door allows for privacy as well as openness to the living room/dining room. 

The light fixture also has a story behind it. We try to regularly attend the Venice Art Bienniale exhibition, and on one trip we were given the name of a lady who lived outside of Venice and sold antique light fixtures. When we arrived, it could best be described as a lighting graveyard. For as far as the eye could see, she had compiled pieces of lighting fixtures in a dirt field that were to be assembled by her craftspeople. Of course, I was in heaven! I made my way through, gathering bits and pieces, and one of those bits and pieces ended up being our light fixture in the kitchen. I love bringing these types of elements into homes because they have stories and so much more meaning than buying something from a catalog. 

In the end, we absolutely love our kitchen. We feel that it is more efficient than our previous home which had a much larger kitchen, and the time we spent to analyze how we both could work in the kitchen together really paid off. We never get tired of it, and it still looks as good today as the day it was finished, each day gaining a little bit more patina and adding to the stories of our lives.

Our kitchen was featured in the March 2014 issue of House & Home.