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WRITTEN BY CATHERINE M. ALLCHIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
|Comfort That Works
Today's kitchens pair pieces of the past with state-of-the-art settings
Today's kitchen is a blend of old and new, function and comfort, wood and stainless steel. We have the luxury of preserving treasures of the past while indulging in high-tech, state-of-the-art appliances and lighting.
If there's a new kitchen in the cards for you, roll up your sleeves, get out the drawing board and consider three design trends that are keeping Seattle residents, architects and designers busy. Here's what's cooking.
Furnishing the function
A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, kitchens didn't have built-ins but "brought-ins" - pieces like hutches, buffets and work tables. Today, the trend is to make kitchen islands, cabinets and workspaces look like furniture from the past.
By using individual pieces instead of banks of cabinets, you can make room for windows, doors or even a fireplace to create a comfortable room first. Then you can think about what workspaces, storage or appliances you might house in attractive furniture. For example, a refrigerator with wood panels and traditional detailing looks like an armoire. Cabinets can become hutches or old pie safes: With legs, casters and traditional moldings, they're physically set apart from built-ins.
One woman in the Denny Blaine neighborhood considered refitting antiques for her new kitchen but decided they'd be too delicate to withstand the heavy daily use. Instead, she is mixing free-standing modern cabinets with antique accents to create an elegant older-looking kitchen that's also functional and durable.
"People want the kitchen to feel like a comfortable room, not just functional," says Lisa Kirkendall of Latini-Kirkendall Architecture, a Seattle architectural firm. "Cabinets are more like furniture than boxes." She notes that her clients tend to blend state-of-the-art appliances with traditional detailing like moldings, rails and raised panel doors.
Elizabeth and Jonathan Roberts, who are remodeling a 1927 house in Washington Park, are among her clients pairing classic detail with modern appliances. Upper and lower cabinets with glass doors will look like unique pieces of furniture.
Their kitchen will include an alcove to serve all the cooking functions. This little room, built around a French La Conche stove, will house pots, pans, utensils, a microwave, and metal cabinets and countertops on either side of the stove. Making appliances part of the kitchen architecture maximizes space and functionality.
The ultimate display of kitchen furniture is a stunning stand-alone piece - an elegant work table, for instance - or a showstopper appliance such as a brilliantly colored enamel stove by Morice or La Cornue. These impressive centerpieces are both luxurious and utilitarian.
Seek to hide
WHILE WORKSPACES and cabinets look like furniture, on the inside it's all about organization.
"People are particular about having storage areas for everything," said Don Boehm of the Seattle residential design firm Boehm Design Associates. "There's a special height of shelves for wine glasses, drawers for linens, pull-out shelves for pots and pans ... It gets a little neurotic." One of his clients has drawers organized internationally - Italian items, French, Asian, Middle Eastern and so on.
Virtually everything is possible to hide in a custom kitchen. A West Seattle couple wanted their dog to dine in style, so they created a pull-out shelf at the base of an island to hold recessed aluminum doggie dishes.
Long before starting construction, you need to think about which things you're going to put in which drawers, according to Jim Castanes of Castanes Architects. Think about where the baking happens, where the prep center is, where the pizza pans and baking pans go so you can plan appropriately. One of his clients who likes to bake chose her oven based on the size of her cookie sheets.
Vertical pantry systems are popular for storing cereals and other dried or canned goods, Castanes says. They run about 6 or 7 feet tall and 8 inches wide, with pull-out shelves and access from both sides. SieMatic kitchens are also well-liked, with customized cabinets for everything from small appliances and pantry items to waste-sorting and cleaning supplies. Customized drawers with dividers for cutlery and tools take the built-in concept down to the smallest level.
According to Form
MARTHA AND RICH Draves, in their 1937 house in Madison Park, planned their kitchen remodel last year based around different functions. Borrowing the concept of "activities-based planning" from software design at Microsoft, the couple focused first on the functions they perform in different spaces, then built around those needs.
Working with architect James Sanders and designer Jennifer Randall, their goal was to minimize trips from one place to another by creating a well-organized room. For example, the breakfast cereal and bowls are next to the refrigerator, the lunch plates, knives and bread cluster together to make sandwiches easy, the vinegars and oils are near the salad bowls, and the baking pans and ingredients are all in a separate baking center with an under-the-counter mixer.
An office (which doubles as a wet-bar) includes big drawers for conveniently storing diaper bags, purses or other bags. There's a certain drawer for art supplies and a separate space for cleaning supplies, out of children's reach.
In the same vein, Ann and Ken Wesche in Magnolia planned a convenient plating area in their contemporary kitchen by building a "stepped counter." Picture a regular 2-foot-deep stone counter with 6-inch backsplash that then has another 10-inch-deep counter above it. This split counter, Castanes' brainchild, provides generous space for storage and dishing up food for large groups.
"These are all little touches that add up to a really big deal," Castanes says.
In today's fast-paced, fast-food world, these little touches can create a cozy heart of the house to nurture and renew us. That is a big deal.
Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle writer. Benjamin Benschneider is Pacific Northwest magazine's staff photographer.
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