Contemporary Kitchen, a Glimpse of the Future

Contemporary Kitchen, a Glimpse of the Future

by Barbara Capella Loehr

KOHLER, WI  A "Midwest mecca" that draws some 150,000 consumers, builders, architects and designers annually, the Kohler Design Center plays home to an expansive showcase of design resources and services, products and innovative applications, spanning 35,000 sq. ft. and three floors.

According to manager Cindy Howley, the Center's popular Designer Room Gallery offers designs ranging from traditional to avante garde, all of which serve as "springboards for your own building or remodeling ideas." And the facility's latest design addition, the "Contemporary Blues" kitchen, is no exception. Exhibiting a "non-traditional" flair that would accommodate a variety of lifestyles, the kitchen is ideal for an older, successful, professional couple who like entertaining and sophisticated style, Howley notes.

Inspired by a single color Cobalt Blue the kitchen is a result of a combined effort between Kohler Co. and the Kohler-owned Canac Kitchens. "The purpose was to showcase a fairly new color for Kohler and Canac, [as well as] create a contemporary, fully functioning kitchen within an environment which acts primarily as a showcase of innovative product. The result was, according to guests, a spectacular design," remarks Howley.

'Contemporary Blues'
The Center enlisted the help of Diana Schrage, bath and space planner with Kohler; Mark Johnson, architect; and Ann Sheridan, Canac designer. "We wanted something very grand, high-end contemporary," notes Howley. Accordingly, the design trio set out to create the "beautiful, forward-looking, progressive, futuristic" kitchen design.

Schrage notes that, "A major concern was matching the cabinets to the sinks. When you use similar colors in different materials, this becomes a challenge." This challenge was met by using "the new match, [Cobalt Blue], between manufacturers like Kohler and cabinet manufacturers like Canac, so the customer doesn't have to worry about the color match," explains Howley.

"We chose Canac Cellini Monaco Honey Birdseye Maple, High-Gloss with Modolfi High-Gloss RLS316 for the cabinetry," says Schrage. "The cabinets were chosen for their unique look. Even the convex and concave doors are unique they were a specific design element we wanted to emphasize. The cabinets have a very high-gloss finish, which makes the design very warm and appealing to a broad audience."

Schrage, Johnson and Sheridan used the Maple Veneer to balance and warm the "bold use" of Cobalt Blue on the cabinetry. The cabinetry also features no hardware, for a streamlined look, as all of the cabinets have touch latches. "Harmony was achieved through the use of the soft curves throughout the space," adds Howley.

Further balancing the two-tone cabinetry design, the design trio installed a Kohler Cilantro self-rimming kitchen sink, along with a Nappa Entertainment self-rimming sink, both in Iron Cobalt. Caracol 12"x12" tiles in a brushed steel finish from Ann Sacks were applied to the floor, while Ann Sacks Midnight Slate wall tile was installed. Says Schrage, "The 12x12's were randomly cut to break some of the sleekness, and add texture to the back walls."

Schrage, Johnson and Sheridan faced several other challenges in their design, including space, proper ventilation and the vaulted ceiling, which serves as the focal point of the design, and "reflects the same line as the peninsula," says Howley.

The design team's first priority was to address the space issue. "The space had to accommodate quite a bit of function in a long, narrow room," explains Schrage. "Functionally, it had to effectively show the work, prep and eating areas ones which we could actually use and prepare food out of."

The design trio fit a GE dishwasher, a KitchenAid Over the Range microwave, a DACOR ECC 36" cooktop and ECP 127-27" wall oven and a Sub-Zero 700BR refrigerator into the "unusually long and narrow space." The design team's philosophy was to situate the appliances in such a way that made it easy to accommodate two cooks, with a smooth flow between the food storage and food prep areas and the second-ary prep area, notes Howley.

"Designed for cooking and convenience, the kitchen can be used for entertaining, as the person can be seated across [while] the host/hostess is cooking and preparing," adds Howley.

However, when it came time to spec the 36" GE Monogram ventilation hood, it was a "major challenge," comments Schrage. "Since it was a working kitchen, we had to properly vent the hood through the ceiling of the Design Center, and safety features had to be incorporated so that the power only went on when a main switch was activated.

"Integrating the beautiful barrel-vaulted ceiling which projects over the center of the kitchen was a design challenge, as well. We had to have the structural support without any columns," con-tinues Schrage. The design team relied upon the curvaceous pantry and oven cabinet housing to give the ceiling structure some support.

The vaulted ceiling serves to delineate the space, and create an individual room within a room, remarks Howley. "The vaulted ceiling divided the active cooking area from the passive entertainment dining area," adds Schrage.

It further highlights not only the main sink, but also the expansive stainless steel countertop the final installation challenge. It was custom-fabricated by Kuehlmann Sheet Metal & Heating Co. Inc., and presented an installation challenge, says Schrage, since it was a single, solid, 19' piece of stainless steel. The design team wanted a continuous line for the countertop, using it as a neutral backdrop for the dramatic cabinetry, adds Schrage.

Y2K and beyond
Once the designers overcame the obstacles, they turned their attention to details that would bring 
the design full circle. They used open glass cabinets to display collectibles and other Kohler accessories that tie the entire design together, notes Howley.

And just as the vaulted ceiling breaks up the design, the lighting design does the same. A pendant light drops down from the ceiling to accent the Cilantro sink, while task lighting illuminates the area underneath the hood. "Wall washers highlight different areas for drama," adds Schrage. Also included are recessed can lights with Cobalt Blue accents.

The kitchen offers "a look which is anticipated for the future," concludes Howley. "[And it uses] Cobalt Blue, which is anticipated to be the hot new color for the next millennium."