Our clients’ townhouse in Vancouver’s False Creek had a stunning view of the mountains to the north. But inside, the view was straight back to the 1970s: drab dining room and dark, cramped kitchen, separated by a wall with a serving window.
In modern homes, such arbitrary barriers are out of place. Instead of narrowly prescribing space and function – cooking in the cooking place, eating in the eating place – contemporary interior design renovates the very idea of space, creating environments that blend utility and pleasure.
The owners, a professional couple in their 40s, asked us to renovate their space into something bright, white and airy. And they knew the main floor’s kitchen and dining area was key to the overall redo of their 1,800-square-foot home. They wanted to be able to enjoy that part of the house throughout the day: breakfast and morning news, afternoon tea and magazines, cocktail hour and intimate dinners.
It was to be a room for all seasons, and they wanted ample wall space for their art, particularly the magnificent West Coast seascape by B.C. painter Drew Burnham.
The first step was taking down the kitchen wall, which opened up the L-shaped cooking area to the natural light that floods the room from the large windows. The wall was replaced with a large island surfaced with white stone, making the view accessible to the cook. The countertops are white stone, while everything above them has been kept the same white as the walls – including the shallow millwork tower designed to house the television in the dining area.
When you’re taking a home down to the studs, everything looks like a big spend. Besides the countertops, there was new recessed lighting and smoked oak hardwood floors. The biggest spend, though, was the lower cabinetry, which featured flat cut-walnut doors. This meant selecting a real wood veneer and working with a cabinetmaker to match grains across the surface of the doors. The result is beautifully organic. As well, having weighty, eye-catching millwork on the lower cabinets enhances the sense of lightness above.
There were two areas where we dialled back the budget: the backsplash and refrigerator. Often, in a modern kitchen we’ll wrap the countertop material up the backsplash to meet the upper cabinetry. It’s our preference for a couple reasons: no grout lines makes it easier to clean, and fewer materials mean less visual busyness.
But since the room was nearly all white, we proposed an inexpensive rectangular tile to match the walls. Its satin finish commands little attention, yet its grid pattern adds a subtle texture to the room. And although I usually prefer to panel the refrigerator door, a modern stainless fridge suits this space just fine, and saved us $3,500.
Once we had designed the renovation, we set to work furnishing the home. We felt it was critical to introduce pieces that had curve and colour, softening the space and adding a bit of whimsy. Our team rejoiced when the clients agreed to the oval Saarinen dining table and coloured-felt chairs by design favourite Arper.
Originally, we had selected a more sedate colour for the chairs. Halfway through the project, however, I made a trip to Thailand and came back insisting on brilliant turquoise, inspired by the jewel tones in the interiors I had seen there.
The sapphire hue of their upholstery connects powerfully with the Burnham painting, which hangs over the new wood buffet. Its rolling brushstrokes and vivid colour contrast with the crisp lines of the new living and dining room – magically pulling together the elements and creating the perfect space to hang out morning, noon and night.
Kelly Deck is the director of Kelly Deck Design, a residential design firm in Vancouver.