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Sunday, April 22, 2007 - Page updated at 02:00 AM

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Northwest Living

Stuck And Stuffy No More

The enduring charm of the Bungalow is that to enter one is to feel drawn into a great big mother of a hug. Warm, comforting, familiar. But like the best mothers, it is also efficient and functional.

Until you get to the kitchen. Austere, stuck in the back of the house and closed off by a door: That was the original Bungalow kitchen. The early-20th-century model is 100 years behind the times. No longer the work room for hired help, the 2007 kitchen is about family and friends and food and fun: pancakes on Sunday morning, lasagna and salad for a crowd, hot brownies and cold milk just because.

And, so, it is this room in this otherwise cozy house that is most often remodeled.

"There isn't a whole lot of charm in old plumbing," says Larry Johnson of Johnson Partnership in Seattle. He has remade a Bungalow kitchen or two in his time: One of the firm's specialties is historic renovations. And three of them (including his own in Ravenna) are featured in the new book "The New Bungalow Kitchen" (Taunton Press, $30) by Peter LaBau.

"My house was built in 1909 and originally had an icebox, but it wasn't in the kitchen. It was out on the back porch," Johnson says. "A lot of the old Bungalows in Seattle were right off the alley for deliveries. The ice man, the milk man, could literally put the milk right in the refrigerator because it was out on the porch."

When refrigerators came inside, he says, a lot of them ended up plunked in the center of the room.

Fortunately, the Bungalow is beloved not only for its craftsmanship but for its flexibility.

The goal of the new Bungalow kitchen, according to LaBau, is to keep it in the Bungalow period (1900-1940) with Arts & Crafts-style wood and metalwork. But it must be linked to how we live today.

Johnson is most concerned with improving circulation, bringing in light and creating a kitchen that works for its owners.

"I'm a Philistine," he says. "I don't feel that because you have a Bungalow kitchen it has to look old. Kitchens are expensive — the most expensive square foot in a house. It's a place to work, and to socialize. And it should reflect the amount of time you put into it every day."

Johnson has one rule for anyone considering such a renovation: "You should never have a kitchen designed by somebody who doesn't like to cook — unless you don't cook, either."

But Johnson and his wife and business partner, Lani, do cook. And have for the past 34 years.

Their day begins at 6 a.m., slicing and dicing for dinner. They shop daily for fresh food. In the evening, they cook together over a glass of wine.

A kitchen should be designed specifically for the people who use it. A baker's kitchen is not a griller's kitchen, Johnson says.

Since theirs is a two-cook operation, he says, there's two of everything. "Two knife drawers, two gadget drawers, two sinks, two cutting-board storage places. I had one guy say, 'I want my kitchen real cozy so I can rub up against my wife.' But Lani and I are much happier when we're not fighting over tools and stuff."

Johnson is quick to point out that the original Bungalow kitchen did offer some pluses. Like vegetable coolers. "I quite often put them in. Vegetables keep much better in those."

He is also partial to the dining-room swinging door.

"I like being able to have a nice meal and not have to look at the mess. Besides, Lani and I have this sort of fantasy that we're Jeeves and Rabenia, the cook and the butler who work out in the kitchen. And then we close the door and we are the ones who are served, who eat the fancy meal."

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine.

A style that sticks

Although the Bungalow style has infinite variations, it has a number of characteristics that are useful to keep in mind when thinking about creating a new Bungalow-style kitchen:

Bungalows almost always featured large, deep front porches that often functioned as outdoor rooms or easy indoor-outdoor extensions of the house. Bungalows also often had many windows.

Interior elements included pronounced wood trim around windows, doorways, ceiling moldings and baseboards; hardwood floors; built-in furniture such as window seats, china cabinets and bookshelves; stained-glass decorative windows and doors; tile work, and a subdued earth-tone color palette.

In a marked break from their Victorian predecessors, the rooms were open and flowed easily one to the next.

— edited from "The New Bungalow Kitchen"

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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