Design Center Presents Kitchen as Theater

WASHINGTON, DC— For the modern family, the kitchen has become the command center for each day’s activities. It is where meals are prepared and shared, family and friends gather and plans are made.

At the most recent Design House at The Washington Design Center in Washington, DC, Sophie Prévost, ASID and Robert Cole, RIBA, principals of ColePrévost, took that idea one step further. The oversized kitchen, part of a nine-room decorator showhouse co-sponsored by Metropolitan Home magazine, was designed as a theater, where daily family activities play out.

The theme – Modern With a Capital M – resulted in a contemporary kitchen space that featured perimeter areas for function, as well as a center for cooking and interacting.

“We envisioned the kitchen in theatrical terms,” says Cole. “Center stage features an efficient space for cooking and an inviting room for lounging, spending time with family and friends. Backstage features a storage area, pantry, the passive machines, refrigerator, ovens, etc.”

“We see a kitchen as the heart of the contemporary home,” he continues. “In terms of lifestyle, a contemporary kitchen is a room for ‘living,’ where cooking is only one of the activities. It is where everyone gathers, kids do their homework, a laptop is a necessary presence and friends chat and lounge.”

In keeping with this idea, Cole and Prévost designed the space to include a lounge area, a swing and a central table at regular height rather than counter height, “so that it is more inviting to sit at and easier to use for kitchen prep work,” offers Cole.

In social terms, Cole explains, they view the design in terms of a backdrop. “It’s more about facilitating choice and less about social determination or prescriptive use,” he observes.

In terms of the aesthetics, “We are getting tired of the ‘machine for cooking.’ Instead we wanted something fresh and light,” he continues. As a result, the room features clean lines, a monochromatic color scheme “except for a turquoise sky,” and subtle details and textures.

“A kitchen is a place where someone, or several someones, can cook, eat, chat, dream…or simply watch a garden grow. We wanted ours to be fresh and crisp,” he states.

Backstage Passes

In the Design Center kitchen, the perimeter of the room was designated as the “backstage” area. Cabinetry, appliances and preparation areas were all staged along one side of the room.

“We designed the cabinetry using a new recycled, rift-cut wood product from Wood-Mode,” explains Cole. A variety of cabinet types – some with frosted glass fronts, some with open drawers – added drama and interest as well as optimum storage. “The idea was to provide tons of space, in bite-sized portions, that are easy to use,” he adds.

Stainless steel appliances from Jenn-Air were interspersed with the cabinets. A paneled-front refrigerator hugged the corner, followed by a stainless wall oven to the left. Continuing along the perimeter wall, a cooktop surrounded by a stainless steel countertop and topped with a contemporary stainless hood finished the cabinet area. All stainless cabinets, sink and dishwasher followed, with open face storage in turquoise adding drama above. Wood-Mode cabinets then continued to the end of that side.

Upper cabinets were kept to a minimum to allow for better lighting, according to the designers. Countertops of white marble and stainless steel were featured at a depth of 30".

The glossy, white poured epoxy floor plays on the counter and the wall colors, offering a seamless look. “It melts into the white walls, providing a monochromatic effect,” comments Cole.

Taking Center Stage

Dropped from the turquoise ceiling is a white faux ceiling, with lights that shine on the central area of the kitchen. Directly below, an extra-long, custom-designed table of quarter-sawn white oak provides ample space for gathering and food preparation.

Cole and Prévost used turquoise blue on the ceiling and upper part of the walls to bring an unexpected freshness to the scheme. The dropped ceiling was to make the room feel more intimate when people are seated at the table.

At the far end of the table, an herb garden in multiple terracotta pots sits among white stones set in a 39"-square zinc box. The cabinet beneath features multiple long, thin drawers for linens and other storage.

“The light fixtures provide ambient lighting on the perimeter of the room, with an accent on the center of the table,” says Cole. “We also used grow lights for the herbs.”

Across from the herb garden along the outer wall is a wine storage area closed off by wood and glass doors. To the right, a seating area is flanked by English flatware wallpaper by Tracey Kendall of London, England. Continuing along the far wall, sculptures and objects – including a large egg and cube-shaped shot glass holder from The Non-Useless Studio in Montreal, Canada – make for interesting conversation pieces. Completing the area is a wooden swing, suspended from the ceiling, flanked by artwork.

“All of these pieces add to the perception of the space as a place that is more than just a place to make a meal,” stresses Cole. “The design suggests this is a great place to relax, hang out, socialize, eat, cook…. It is the kitchen as living space – literally.”