Dual-Island Design Makes Kitchen Twice as Nice

AUSTIN, TX - We all know that two heads are better than one, but in the case of this new construction kitchen, designed by Winn Wittman, AIA, it was two islands that gave the space its functional and design edge.

The two islands were part of a plan to create a kitchen that would be both eye catching and easy to work in, while taking advantage of the stunning views.

Wittman, of Austin, TX-based Winn Wittman Architecture, explains: “Originally, the kitchen was intended for a different location in the house. They were starting to run the rough plumbing, and it wasn’t going well, because there were some beams in the way. I took a second look at the plans and realized the kitchen would be better in its current location. We made this change, and it really freed up the living room area, which would have been broken in two.”

Once this was resolved, Wittman began to examine his clients’ primary desires. He explains, “The client wanted a light, airy kitchen with a breakfast area and a sushi bar that didn’t obstruct the views. It was also important that the kitchen flowed well into the living room, as well as out to the deck and the view beyond.” Storage, too, was a priority, as well as ease of entertaining.

Islands in the Stream

To address his client’s concerns, Wittman, who was aided by general contractor Gary Robinson of Austin, TX-based Home as Art, decided to go with a two-island design in which both islands serve distinct ergonomic functions.

The two islands separate the space both functionally and visually. They also complement and contrast each other. He explains: “The islands are really very functional, but there is also a simplicity to the cooktop island. [Conversely], there is more of a curvilinear sculptural element to the island with the glass bar top.”

The curved island – which houses the main sink with pot filler, as well as an instant hot water device – serves as a separation from the living area to the kitchen. The cantilevered, curved glass sushi bar top is mounted with angled stainless steel standoffs.

The second island is meant for purely functional purposes in that it houses the Thermador range top, as well as a Kohler prep sink with disposal. “This is where much of the cooking goes on, but one can cook from either side of this island,” he says.

He adds that the second island – with its rectilinear layout and countertop that returns to the floor – anchors the room and gives it order.

Much like the islands, the raised glass countertop further separates the two spaces, he adds.
“The CaesarStone countertops seam so beautifully and run down to the floor. It makes for a very clean look,” he describes.

Material Medley

According to Wittman, the 22'x17' kitchen also features a variety of exotic materials, including light-colored, sustainable woods, stone and metal, which combine to create a clean but upscale appearance.

He explains: “The palette of woods and CaesarStone was used because the colors were light and warm. These materials are also sustainable, with the CaesarStone having some recycled content, and the vertical grain fir being a domestic, renewable soft wood.”

He continues: “The CaesarStone countertops have a sparkle to them [which adds drama].”

The metallic elements also add visual appeal. He explains: “Metals used are stainless steel and anodized aluminum [so] the style of the kitchen is the same detailed modernism as the rest of the house.”

“The Thermador appliances, Sirius vent hood and Elkay and Kohler sinks all have a similar feel,” he offers. “They are on the minimalist side, and offer a good balance of style and function.” The vent hood complements the space with a clean and rectilinear look, while the 48" refrigerator “is a really nice asset as it holds so much. The fact that wine coolers and wet bars are in two other locations in the house also means the refrigerator won’t get filled up as quickly,” he says.

The clean look is enhanced by the use of ergonomics throughout – including ample storage solutions. Wittman explains: “It was important to have good flow and not have too large a distance between the sinks, cooktop and refrigerator.”

He notes that a bank of appliances and cabinets on the back wall of the kitchen provides added ergonomic benefit, explaining: “All the Wilkinson Woodworks cabinetry is located below or on the side, and there are no upper cabinets to impede the view. However, there are lower cabinets, as well as upper and lower cabinets in the pantry area.” All of the drawers on the cabinetry also feature soft-close mechanisms for ease of use, he adds.

Lighting the Way

Another key component to the design is the judicious use of light, Wittman notes. “There are over 20 halogen lights in the kitchen. They consist of MR16 cans, as well as pendants over the bar, and task lighting in the vent hood over the cooktop,” he reports.

He adds: “The kitchen has lots of natural light coming in through the windows, but this is augmented with halogen task lighting and halogen ambient lighting.”

He concludes: “There are so many focal points in this house that I didn’t think of making the kitchen one of them [initially]. I just wanted to create a seamless composition that had order and continuity, and was appealing enough to be on show all of the time.”

For more about this project, click here.