The kitchen is the punctuation that structures a family’s day, their shared life is often built around moments that begin and end in the kitchen. Whether we are working on a remodel or new construction, we connect the kitchen to the other communal spaces, both inside and outside the house.
Kitchens full of daylight, connected to the other communal spaces, with clean lines, generous access, ample working surfaces make us happy.
This post is an illustration of our creative kitchen design process highlighting one of our recent home remodel projects.
Daylight is a fundamental part of architectural design in the Pacific Northwest. It is baked into all of our projects. There are endless studies documenting the benefits of natural light on our minds and bodies. The project featured in this blog post is a remodel of a brick home from 1929 in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle so we worked with the existing locations of the windows to save dramatically on cost. Instead of punching new windows into the brick walls, we used the strategy of knocking down the old walls that separated the kitchen, dining, and living rooms from each other. Now the spaces all share the daylight coming from the doors and windows, balancing the natural light in the interiors.
Connection to the other communal spaces
We begin designing the kitchen very early in the design process. We start by thinking about the site and imagine where will the family will want to be. The dining and living rooms are obvious connections, as well as a patio or yard that offers outdoor seating and dining. We think about the sight lines from the kitchen to all of these spaces, which helps organize pathways, doors, and windows not just in the kitchen, but throughout the whole house.
Sight Lines through the house
When we talk about clean lines, we are usually talking about things lining up with other things. In the above photo, we aligned the top of the cabinets with the tops of the windows. Whether you actively notice these alignments or not, they serve three big functions, one for beauty, one for economy, and one for usage.
In the beauty department, clean lines create visual calmness and order in a space. This is a tenet of modern design. There is plenty of complexity in the world. And there is plenty of complexity in the above photo, a composition of different materials, colors, shapes, and lines. Composing the space into a structured order allows us to feel as if things are simple and organized (so important in a kitchen, right!?).
The other purpose alignments serve, is they simplify the construction of the building. If the builder knows that the top of window is top of cabinet, bottom of window is countertop, she has to pick up her tape measure less, and has less complexity to think about while constructing the house according to plan. This saves on cost. As we preach, thoughtful design is cheaper build.
Beauty and economy at the same time.
Finally, alignments don’t just look clean and save on construction cost, they also improve the use of the kitchen. Aligning an aisle with the wall ovens means you can open the oven without cramping the space behind you as you work. The same goes for the wider of the two refrigerator doors - it can swing open into a generous aisle that we designed for it.
Generous Access & Ample Workspace
We are always looking for ways to design “generosity” into our projects, making people feel like they can spread out and feel comfortable even when the square footage is modest. In a kitchen, this means opening up the passageways and work zones. 42 inches between countertops and walls is a minimum for us. Wide halls leading to the kitchen feel more open, and allow people to move around while others are using the work zones.
Back in the first photo in this post, you can see that the countertop runs into the window, making a deeper section of counter. We this move, because it builds generosity into the work surface. We also like deep kitchen islands. We designed this one at 42 inches, to offer a space to sit on a stool and eat at the island while someone can be on the other side working.
These are a few of the things on our mind as we design a kitchen. Kitchen design does not stop at the boundary of the kitchen space, it extends to all parts of the house, including the yard. It includes thinking about how you are going to feel in the space as you work, how it gets built, what it will cost, and of course, how it looks. Architecture is complex and that’s why we love our work. Our job is to assemble and order the complexity in a beautiful and economical way so that the inhabitants of the spaces we design experience what the ancient architect Vitruvius called “commodity, firmness, and delight.” That is a topic for another blog post!