DAVIDSON, NC— It has been said that obstacles are unrecognized opportunities, and Robin Dreher seems to agree.
When asked to turn an inefficiently designed kitchen into the 28'x18' Old World classic it is today, she realized the project was going to provide an exciting challenge.
Dreher, owner and kitchen and bath designer for Charlotte, NC-based Optimal Designs, LLC, explains: “The [homeowners] requested an area where they could entertain clients and friends, as well as a space where they would feel comfortable.”
But that was just the beginning of their wish list. The kitchen also required more space – including a more modern and functional cooking area with more storage. However, a stepped-out wall made it challenging to have a continuous run of cabinetry.
The clients also wanted to make better use of the space occupied by the seldom-used dining room off to one side of the kitchen.
But as every designer knows, challenges often present the best opportunities, and Dreher notes: “We decided to use this to our advantage and placed the wet bar in that extra area [to facilitate entertaining]. We also added a sitting/reading area at the end of the kitchen in front of a large, well-lit bay window.”
Dreher then removed the wall between the dining room and the kitchen, creating one long space.
“It made a great impact when we incorporated the cabinetry that was in the living room with the style and color custom made for the kitchen island,” she notes.
The soft color palette was continued throughout the space to maintain the Old World feel.
Next, a variety of high-end appliances was selected to create an eye-catching appearance while adding functional value to the space.
She reports: “The end result of this kitchen was not only a physically bigger space, but a lighter, airier one as well.”
Dreher needed to create a design that would facilitate meal preparation and entertaining, and notes that the cabinet layout was key to this.
“I did not want to just have an extra-long galley kitchen,” she explains, because that could be visually monotonous.
She notes that the appliances played a very large role in the cabinet placement, since the homeowners love to cook.”
For the room, Dreher selected Harbor View Cabinetry, both for its aesthetic appeal and to maximize storage and accessibility.
“ Since there were so many cabinets, we chose to add glass to the tops of the cabinets to make the space appear taller and to break up the monotony of the cabinet runs,” she reports.
Another challenge involved opening up the pass-through to a cased opening for access to the living room. “Basically we needed to reinforce the pass-through because it was going to be a walk-through instead of a pass-through,” she explains.
Yet another challenge revolved around finding the right countertops to complement the cabinetry. She chose teak and granite for the island countertop and main area.
Dreher explains: “We had to find a wood that [would work in a wet area]. Teak is very durable, does not show nicks or cuts and is shiny when properly maintained.” However, she points out, “The challenge was making sure that it was finger jointed due to the length of the island. We did not want to have a large joint at the radius.
There was also the issue of the teak being a bit red. Since most people who use teak like to just clear coat it and oil it, we needed to make sure we could get a stain that would match the granite.”
Finally, the back side of the island was tiled with 4"x4" Regio Field tile to emphasize the length and curves of the island, and to complement the look of the teak.
She concludes: “The cooktop is the focal point of the kitchen, however the teak radius accented island lets the eye roam the entire room with its curves and angles.”
Dreher used every nook and cranny to create multiple storage options.
“The two pantry units have roll-outs for food storage and [small cooking appliances] such as blenders, bread makers, juicers, etc. We also have tray separators for extra cookie sheets, cutting boards and serving trays,” she explains.
“There is also a hidden and removable cutting board and knife holder above the roll-out trash/recycle unit to the left of the Sub-zero refrigerator drawers,” she continues.
“The correct wine storage was also very important in order to keep wines at the correct temperature, since the clients entertain quite a bit,” she adds.
Under the cooktop, Dreher incorporated storage for pots and pans. Counter-standing cabinets were also included to hide the clients’ plates and bowls.
Additionally, there are spice pull-outs for oils and spices used regularly while cooking.
Should the client need to research a recipe, Dreher incorporated plenty of room above the desk unit for the storage of gourmet cookbooks as well as collectibles.
According to Dreher, the appliances play an integral role in this design.
There were special considerations in designing the area with the Thermador cooktop to make sure that the Sharp Electronics automatic open/close microwave and the Miele MasterChef base oven were within reach during a cooking bonanza.
“It was important to have a hidden venting system, which is why we selected the Thermador pop-up telescoping downdraft vent,” she states.
“We also decided to place Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers close to the cooktop to keep sauces and other items that are needed while cooking nearby,” she adds.
A Sub-Zero wine storage unit, as well as a Kegerator from Marvel, were incorporated into the wet bar area, while the desk unit is flanked by a large pantry unit and a built-in Sub-Zero. A Bosch 24" dishwasher rounds out the appliance selection.
Bright and Light
While Dreher was the primary designer for the project, she also worked with lighting designer Linda Lewis of Charlotte, NC-based Lighting & Bulbs Unlimited to create a striking lighting design.
“Lighting was a very important part of the kitchen,” says Dreher. The cabinets were designed and laid out with all of the lighting details in mind.
“After choosing the appropriate style and design of the fixtures, it was decided that more was not better with the wall cabinets. So we decided to stop them just short of the end of the wall and place a three-piece sconce on either side of the wall cabinets in the cooking area of the kitchen,” she explains.
The pair added can lights in the ceiling and also used pendant lighting along the entire island that followed the radius area.
Dreher concludes: “Since there were so many different lighting areas, it was decided to go with a Lutron Graphic Eye to control all of the lighting to give the ambiance that is needed for every mood.”
For more about this project, click here.