Design Center Kitchen Features 'Holistic' Plan

Design Center Kitchen Features 'Holistic' Plan

by Janice Anne Costa

But what happens when the client is actually a manufacturer?
According to Washington DC-based designer Mary Douglas Drysdale, who created a one-of-a-kind neo-classical kitchen for the WI-based Kohler Design Center, "It wasn't all that different from dealing with any other client. They have a wish list, they have dreams." 

In fact, in some ways, working for a manufacturer can be even easier than working for a client, she believes, since many traditional clients don't fully understand the design process, and may have trouble articulating what they want. "They were a perfect client in that they were clear about what they wanted," she notes.

Since Kohler wanted to use the Design Center kitchens to help introduce the public to some of the company's new lines, the wish list presented to Drysdale encompassed a number of specific products. "They specified Viking [appliances], Canac cabinetry, Kohler sinks and faucets basically, they said 'Use these products and give us something terrific.' Beyond that, I had tremendous freedom." 

Mixing it up
Drysdale relies on a "holistic" approach to design, and she notes that, "The foundation of the work I do is the integration of industrial design, architecture and decoration. I've studied all of these, and we design with [all of these principles] in mind. I believe that a respect for the connectedness of the design professions is essential to good design."

Indeed, balance and symmetry play key roles in the design of this kitchen, which utilizes a rich blend of colors, textures, materials and architectural detailing to create excitement and energy.

"Wood and natural stone elements juxtapose with stainless steel," Drysdale notes, explaining that "handcrafted touches add layers of detail and interest." 

Limestone countertops, custom mosaic flooring and walls are painted and hand stenciled, with stainless steel the "leading material," as seen in the host of Viking appliances, and the stainless steel wine cooler and wine rack, which extends the professional look of the appliances and fixtures.

Small spaces
"I was pleased that we could fit as much as we could in a small space," she says, noting that the kitchen was "maybe 12'x7', so it was pretty tight. Adding the arch, vaulting the ceiling and using a mirror on one wall gave us a much bigger feeling of space."

A sense of balance also adds to the feeling of spaciousness, Drysdale believes. "The mirror is there to support the pot rack, and the pot rack is centered above the island, which is also centered. This creates an overall strong sense of center, which creates balance [throughout the design]. It also makes the room feel bigger psychologically. It's really about framing of views and reinforcement of ideas."

Drysdale adds, "The other thing I did to make it feel bigger was to bring the island out absolutely to the face of the walkway, so when you're standing in public space, you're on one side of the island and looking in. That gives one the feeling of already being in the kitchen."

The mirrored wall and coved ceiling provide added dimension, according to Drysdale.

Drysdale personalized the kitchen with several unique focal points. 
The Baker sunburst mirror, with light hand-painting, draws attention to the Kohler PRO TaskCenter and PRO Avatar faucet. Together with the Kohler PRO CookSink located adjacent to the Viking convection oven, these activity centers help define and streamline function. 

Next, a handcrafted, forged-iron pot rack is "a wonderful chandelier that is expressive artistically and also useful," according to Drysdale, who notes that she thinks of it as "the jewelry of the kitchen it adds character and beauty."

Personalization also showed up on the Canac cabinetry with Sandstone finish. "They asked me to use Canac cabinetry, but one of the things I'm known for is that I bring a lot of texture and customization to my projects. To do that here, I wanted to handpaint these cabinets, but they [initially] said no," she explains.

However, here's where the true partnership aspect of the project came into play. "They let me give them a sketch [of what I wanted to do], and then Canac came up with a reasonable substitute. I do a lot of handpainting in terms of stenciling, so they said they'd give me some latitude. I brought a team of speciality painters to Kohler and they supported that. Ann Sacks then did some custom tiles for us."

The colors were "my colors completely," she notes, with an end result being a kitchen that is powerful yet subtle, "bold, in a quiet way."