Downsized Design

While the economic crash and slow recovery have altered spending habits, they haven’t deterred the desires of today’s homeowners to have beautiful, efficient spaces in their homes. Lives continue to be hectic and stressful, and the home is viewed as a respite – a place for relaxation and gathering comfortably with friends and family.

How those welcoming spaces are achieved, however, is no longer the same as it was just a few years ago. With the age of conspicuous consumption in the past, homeowners have had to alter their mind sets, often working within their home’s existing parameters rather than the large spaces they dream of.

“Clients are definitely making do with the space they have so they don’t have to make as large of an investment,” stresses Ken Czarnecki of KSI Kitchen & Bath in Brighton, MI. “They won’t be moving with the housing market as it is, so they want their homes to look great, and they want improved functionality. But, the project needs to be kept within a reasonable budget.”

And that’s where the creative kitchen and bath designer comes in.

“We have to look at existing rooms and determine what can be done within the confines of that room to improve its functionality,” continues Czarnecki. “We have to be more creative with our products, and we have to design with the assumption that clients will not be leaving their homes anytime soon.”

Kitchen and bath designers note that while many trends influence current design requests from clients, open areas, counter space, storage and Universal Design concepts top the list. The projects featured here address the wish lists of clients, and the challenges designers faced making those desires a reality.


A Room with Views

It is not uncommon for families to outgrow their kitchens as children age and needs change. Cheryl Hamilton-Gray, CKD, principle of Hamilton-Gray Design in Carlsbad, CA, was charged with updating a kitchen for one such family, which was challenging enough because of the cramped, chopped up spaces. However, she also had to work with the clients’ request to preserve the hilltop ocean views.

“They wanted to incorporate as many view windows as possible, so including wall and tall cabinet storage proved challenging,” she reports.

To remodel the kitchen within an expanded Great Room format, Hamilton-Gray had to re-zone the function areas, starting with a dropped level living room to the left of the entry. “We leveled this area with the surrounding floor level, and reallocated the space as a dining room,” she explains. “The family had recently completed a family room remodel adjacent to the kitchen, so they were very willing to surrender the unused living room for a workable family kitchen.”

She adds that new windows were strategically placed on the outer wall to accommodate a custom hutch for dish and glass storage near the wash-up sink. “We wanted this piece of furniture to appear as if it was freestanding,” she states. To do so, it was placed just after the sink cabinet run, and fashioned from a different wood species with a different stain than the other white perimeter base cabinets in the room. Salvaged tin ceiling tiles that the client had stored for years were used here as well.

Since upper wall cabinets were out of the question due to the windows and French doors to the future patio along the exterior walls, Hamilton-Gray built a wall with a wide opening to screen the dining room from the kitchen. “It gave us a functional housing point for pantry cabinets and refrigeration,” she notes.

The clients preferred additional counter work space to tall storage areas along the main wall, so there are no tall or wall cabinets along that wall as well. Instead, counter space flanks a large vintage-style range, which is topped by white tile along the backsplash and a decorative hearth.

Across from the range is an island in a contrasting dark stained wood with wood countertop. Dish drawers in the island with pegs house various dish sizes. A prep sink and faucet are featured here, directly across from the range, with seating provided on the other side. A lighted pot rack provides additional storage as well as accessibility.


A Matter of Angles

While one angled wall in a room can add visual interest, several can be jarring and confining. Put those angled walls in a long, narrow space, and you have a design challenge that can turn into a nightmare.

That long, narrow room with all the angles was a master bath remodel handed to KSI Kitchen & Bath’s Czarnecki. The goal was to widen the space and create better storage, all without moving the walls.

The designer first examined how the clients used the tub and shower, and adjusted the sizes accordingly. “The homeowners are both under 5'10", so we reduced the size of the tub and removed the steps,” he offers. The new tub is a 66" Jacuzzi Duetta undermount air/whirlpool tub, replacing the previous 72" unit.

These moves allowed Czarnecki to add a small wall by the shower area, which also allowed for the addition of a tall linen cabinet. “The cabinet increased accessible storage by almost 50 percent,” notes Czarnecki. A reduced-depth set of wall cabinets was placed next to the linen cabinet for both aesthetics and small-item storage.

Custom angled vanity cabinets were also built to utilize as much space as possible in the sink area. “The primary storage for the bathroom was the vanity cabinets themselves,” reports Czarnecki. “Two open cabinets were cut on an angle, and there was a stack of four drawers. They had a stand-alone storage unit across from the vanities that ended up being their primary storage area.” This unit reduced the space behind the sinks [their primary work area] to 30".

“It was important to me, aesthetically, to work with the angles in the room,” the designer explains. “I utilized a large mirror at the vanity area to help the space appear larger. We also removed the stand-alone storage to widen the main traffic area behind the sinks.”

The cabinets in the master bath are Dura Supreme Venice in cherry with Mission stain and black accent.

Two different types of tiles from American Olean – ceramic subway tile with a glass insert on the walls and 12"x12" limestone tile set diagonally to play off the angles in the room – were used to add different textures. “Adding different textures and a variety of complementary materials keeps the room feeling fresh,” the designer asserts. Among the complementary materials is Cambria quartz, used for the countertops and tub deck.


Breaking Down Barriers

Cheryl Pett, CKD, ASID, president, Cheryl Pett Design Ltd. in Alpharetta, GA, was faced with a grouping of impractical living spaces for her kitchen project. The original kitchen itself was only 7'x10', with a breakfast area that infringed upon the small space. An adjacent dining area allowed room for no more than a table and chairs, while a pantry closet took up too much space but actually offered very little practical storage.

To make the space functional, Pett removed both the pantry and the wall between the kitchen and dining room. “This immediately allowed for an open plan in which I could include design elements that were important to the client,” she comments.

And the client’s biggest concern, according to Pett, was adding both storage and kitchen work spaces. “There was almost no storage or even working room in the existing kitchen,” she notes.

“Both the husband and wife love to cook, and they entertain almost every weekend,” she continues. “So, it was important to have a dining area that also allowed for storage of dishes.” Tall, 13"-deep built-ins in the dining space hold pantry items as well as dishes for point-of-use access, adds Pett.

For storage and accessibility in the prep and cooking area, Pett used large drawers as well as vertical dividers over the oven area.

“Especially in small kitchens, storage is essential,” she stresses. “If there isn’t enough, countertops are usually cluttered with kitchen items, leaving even less space for food preparation.”

To help the kitchen and dining room area blend as one room, Pett used Brookhaven by Wood-Mode cabinetry in a dark mocha stain and incorporated furniture baseboards and foot valences. “I wanted the cabinetry to have a furniture look since I maximized the storage by using built-ins,” she explains.

Pett also included lighted display areas, as well as a large crown moulding to maximize the feeling of a taller ceiling.

Appliances in the kitchen include a Viking stacking combination of micro-convection oven and warming drawer, as well as a 30" Viking professional-style cooktop that allows for countertop space on both sides and drawer storage underneath. A cabinet-depth refrigerator also keeps aisle space open.

A large island with a Franke single-bowl undermount sink and granite countertop allows the clients to have much needed work space and room for a barstool. Additional storage is located here as well.

The couple also wanted to make the whole kitchen and dining area accessible to their outdoor entertaining space, so Pett replaced windows in the breakfast area with French doors that lead to the outside deck. “With opening up the space, I even had room to incorporate a bar area to keep a beverage area out of the prep and cooking zone,” she adds. By zoning a coffee and bar area in an adjacent space, there was room for another sink, ice maker, beverage center and additional storage. KBDN