How to create a kitchen that lives like you do
Do you watch TV in the kitchen? Prepare food right from the garden? Maybe your children work on laptops at the counter and snack round-the-clock? Or does your 80-pound black Lab routinely beeline from the muddy backyard to a sunny spot on the kitchen floor?
Just how a family interacts with its kitchen space day to day guides professional designers when they decide such needs as the durability of materials, seating requirements, storage space, traffic patterns, and appliance models. “You should look at how you live in the space and develop a plan based on that,” advises Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, an interior designer based in Alexandria, Virginia. “Too many people get so caught up in trying to plan for the way they use the kitchen only 5 percent of the time that they lose sight of the other 95 percent.”
Cavin-Winfrey created an efficient but elegant kitchen and dining area for Steve and Carol Goldman that is based on the couple’s daily routines and the limited space of their rowhouse. The late-19th-century D.C. residence had no formal dining room, so the dining area had to serve both company and daily needs. The house also lacked an informal sitting area near the kitchen, and Carol wanted a place to hang out and watch TV, read, and work on her laptop. “We had to make all of that work in a small space,” notes the designer.
Tip #1: Two tall Wood-Mode pantry cabinets opposite one another hold tons of kitchen supplies. Plus, the unit that is diagonal from the corner banquette houses a TV mounted on an adjustable, retractable arm.
Photography: Gordon Beall
Produced by: Eileen A. Deymier
Architect: Michael Rouse, Hamilton Snowber Architects, 2741 Woodley Pl., Washington, DC 20008; 202/332-5416, hamiltonsnowber.com .
Interior designer: Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, SCW Interiors, 228 S. Washington St., Suite B-20, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703/549-2449, scwinteriors.com .
Kitchen designer: Nadia N. Subaran, Aidan Design, 4701 Sangamore Rd., Suite L-3, Bethesda, MD 20816; 301/320-8735, aidandesign.com .
Tip #2: The large table with banquette and chairs serves as a dining area when the couple entertains. The shorter side of the banquette has an extra-deep cushion, making the corner a cozy spot to recline and watch TV, read, or work on a laptop.
The project started with the demolition of the existing spaces—a 1970s-era kitchen that had been elevated a few steps higher than the adjoining dining area. “I’m not entirely sure why the kitchen was up a level,” muses D.C. architect Michael Rouse, who collaborated on the project with Cavin-Winfrey and kitchen designer Nadia Subaran. The new plan put the kitchen and dining area on the same level, with an island acting as a divider.
Punches of Pattern
Tip #3: Cabinets extend to the ceiling to maximize storage in the small space. Toile fabric and wire mesh inserts were added to the upper doors to lend charm and to break the monotony of a solid wall of cabinets.
Today, cream-colored cabinets brushed with a warm brown glaze introduce an elegance complementing the style of the home. “The cabinets have a nice character and depth, and they feel like they are part of the older sections of the house,” Cavin-Winfrey says.
Tip #4: A toile shade with tassel trim from Robert Allen is a nod to tradition in the historic home. “The nice curve of the shade and the tassels and tails are sweet touches,” says designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.
To maximize storage in the small kitchen, she took the cabinets to the ceiling. Toile fabric and wire mesh inserts on the upper doors break the monotony of a wall of cabinets and add personal charm. “Carol loves history and toiles, so the toile was a nod to that traditional vibe,” explains the designer.
A coffered ceiling in keeping with the style of the house was added to the kitchen, lowering the 12-foot-high ceilings and creating an intimacy previously lacking in the rooms.
Tip #5: Space-efficient built-in shelves store reading materials and are wired for plugging in computers and charging handheld devices. The back of the shelves is stained to complement the chocolate hues in the space.
“The new design enabled the kitchen and dining area to communicate spatially with one another,” says Rouse. “Our challenge was to create a formal space suitable for a dinner party, while also casual enough for everyday living.” A formal dining table and chairs were replaced with a comfortable corner banquette paired with a trestle table that seats up to eight people. One side of the banquette has an extra-deep bench seat—the perfect spot for watching TV or reading.
A dining room china cabinet was replaced with space-efficient built-in shelves above the banquette. Two swing-arm sconces are mounted on the shelves to provide good light for reading and enhance the cozy intimacy of the corner. To make the area hardworking, electrical outlets were added for charging mobile devices.
Tip #6: Sconces on swing arms provide task lighting for reading at the table and can be dimmed to add intimacy to the space for dining.
Because storage is always an issue in a small kitchen, “we had to be creative in finding ways to pull in as much storage space as possible,” says kitchen designer Subaran. She placed two floor-to-ceiling cabinets on opposite walls, providing the bulk of the kitchen storage. In addition to supplies, one unit conceals a TV on a retractable arm that allows viewing from the banquette. When company comes, the TV disappears behind the cabinet door. More storage is packed into the banquette itself, with drawers beneath the bench seats and a narrow pull-out pantry tucked into the back of one side of the bench.
Tip #7: A Thermador induction cooktop is more efficient than a gas cooktop, heats up and cools down quickly, and is easy to wipe clean. The low profile doesn’t distract from the beauty of the tile and cabinetry.
When developing the kitchen plan, Subaran kept it simple, tweaking a basic galley kitchen design. “That’s the most efficient kitchen design,” she says. “We want to have a lovely pivot point so you’re just one step or arm’s reach from everything.” She recommended installing an induction cooktop for its energy efficiency, easy-clean flat surface, and low-profile look. “There is a quietness to this kitchen that we liked, and we loved the minimal quality of an induction cooktop,” Subaran says. “A big pro-style range would have been too much.”
The stunning chocolate-and-cream marble tile backsplash on the range wall anchors the kitchen. The laser-cut organic pattern breaks the rectilinear quality of the room and adds “gravity to that entire elevation,” Cavin-Winfrey says. “It’s the artwork.”
Tip #8: Pendants with custom fabric shades provide task lighting on the island and add a touch of dressiness to the kitchen. To prevent glare, choose fixtures with covers or diffusers over the bulbs.
Tip #9: A vintage-style Rohl faucet in an antique bronze finish was inspired by original brass fixtures in the house. Quartzite counters have the look of vintage marble but are harder, less porous, and easier to keep stain free.
Occasionally, bonuses appear during a renovation. During demolition, an original paneled pocket door that divides the dining area from the front hall was discovered sealed into the wall. “It was so beautiful we didn’t have to do anything but clean and wax it,” says Cavin-Winfrey.
“This gorgeous rowhouse had gone through many remodels over the years and at one time was even a boardinghouse with no kitchen at all,” adds Subaran. “We wanted to bring back some of the old glory of the house by creating a kitchen that was elegant and rich in details and included all of today’s modern amenities.”
Architect Michael Rouse, kitchen designer Nadia Subaran (standing), and interior designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.
Tip #10: Upholstered swivel bar stools from Ballard offer comfortable seating in the kitchen and dining area. Leather seats are easy to clean, and the buffalo check fabric accented with nailhead trim introduces a tailored style.