When we first met this couple, their home did not work for
them either functionally or esthetically. The main floor -- consisting
of an enclosed kitchen and small dining room on one side of a
cramped entry hall, with a generous living room and small family
room on the other -- was definitely not suited to the large dinner
gatherings they host almost weekly. A motley collection of traditional
furnishings -- mainly inherited -- crowded the rooms and did
not reflect the contemporary style they craved.
Immediately, we focused on combining and repurposing spaces:
the kitchen and dining room melding into a large eat-in kitchen,
the largely unused living
room converted to a dining room and opening to the adjacent family
room/sitting area. The emphasis on entertaining even led us to
transform the laundry room (now shifted to the basement) into
a serviceable cloakroom, allowing us to eliminate a front hall
closet and enlarge the entry.
The kitchen design was a particular challenge. These adventurous
clients were definitely not interested in "ordinary"
or "usual", and they had a long list of requirements.
The plan that finally met with their approval is built around
an extra-long island, bridging the room's width. A counter-height
centre section features an illuminated display facing the
entry, while lower table-height "wings" are angled
to each side. One wing was designed as a kneading surface for
the wife's bread-making, complete with a retracting stand for
a heavy-duty mixer, while at the opposite end is a small family
dining table. Ranged around the baking centre is a meticulously
planned working area, with appliance garage, prep sink, extra
large double sink, and dual dishwashers. Instead of standard
upper wall cabinets, we installed 2 floating cabinets to corral
cooking essentials close at hand. Against the wall opposite the
centre of the island is a tall storage cabinet that houses all
the dishes and glassware that were once stored in multiple upper
cabinets; rollout shelves make everything easily visible and
accessible. It also serves to divide the cooking function of
the kitchen from the living functions: working at the computer,
eating, TV viewing, and lounging. Capping it all off is a wall
of storage for foodstuffs galore.
With all items on the function checklist ticked off, we turned
to creating our look. These clients love colour, clean lines,
and quirky touches. We took our cues from renovations they had
completed in the upper floor of their home and specified flat
cabinet fronts in cherry veneer, pairing it with white lacquer
as a break from all the wood elements. To complement its naturally
orange tones, we envisioned liberal use of blues. Our design
concept really came to life when we decided to evoke the natural
elements of their native New Zealand: the watery effect of mottled
blue mosaic tiles for the backsplash; a driftwood stain for the
oiled oak plank floors; quartz countertops rendered in soft shell-white;
pendant lights with a scallop-like edge. And the highlight of
the kitchen: a huge photo of a beach in New Zealand, custom printed
on plexiglass. The clients spent many hours searching for the
perfect image, and this one brought back childhood memories as
well as bringing in graphic punch.
To marry the kitchen to the rest of the main floor, we carried
over the natural theme and its colours
to varying degrees. For the entry, tiles with a sand-like pattern
were selected to play off the hardwood flowing from the kitchen.
In lieu of the hall closet, we designed a built-in storage bench
and topped it with a leafy patterned cushion in oranges, blues,
and purples. For an unexpected note, the powder room on the opposite
side of the entry is coated in purplish-grey, pulling the tone
from the stunning mother-of-pearl mosaic -- the client's find -- that covers the wall behind
the vanity. Deeming the tiles too beautiful to cover up, we went
for the unconventional and hung a glam mirror on the adjoining
wall. Serendipitously, the contractor located a remnant of a
purple stone slab for the counter, and we found a perfect pair
of handles fashioned from chunks of amethyst to go with it. The
finishing touch is a hand-hammered polished nickel sink. The
client was more than happy with these outside-the-box details
in this tiny room.
In the dining room, we reiterated the orange tones of the kitchen
cabinetry in a custom 12' long table. Based on the husband's
design, it was fashioned from 2 thick slabs of maple whose live
edges meet in the centre to form a flowing stream-like opening.
As a contemporary note, we specified bases in a shiny chrome
finish, which is mirrored in the pair of LED chandeliers that
meander above the table. To further meet the clients' desire
for personalization, we modified the design of a production line
buffet and then installed hardware of their choosing. The focal
point of the room is the clients' collection of pieces by New
Zealand artists, hung salon style against a marine blue wall.
In the adjoining sitting
area, the quiet envelope of soft greys is carried over into the
multi-faceted limestone that covers the fireplace -- a subtle
textural accent. An area rug that is evocative of a shimmering
pool is in strong contrast, defining the seating arrangement.
Here furnishings in mid-century modern style reflect the look
of the dining room chairs, with bold blues peppered throughout.
But in a corner, one notes an exception to contemporary style:
a traditional étagère/bar -- the lone hold-over
from the homeowners' family hand-me-downs.
It was a long journey of 3 1/2 years from first meeting to final
touches, but with transformation complete, this home is a very
personalized expression of its owners' style.