We recently completed a home for our photographer Barry Calhoun and his partner local real estate agent Teresa Comeau. It’s a clever duplex, just off Main Street, in one of the hip Eastside communities of Vancouver. Built from the ground up, our team played a major part in the design.
A long-standing friendship with the clients put us in a unique position, allowing us to make bold moves with the floor plan, and speak candidly about our rationale.
One outstanding result of this candour was the kitchen, which we reconfigured radically from the architect’s original proposal. We knew Teresa and Barry loved to cook and entertain, and the plan the architect had laid out, though efficient, was far more conventional than they are.
No dining table?
The original design featured a U-shaped kitchen tucked into the far corner of the main floor, which allowed room for a small dining table. Knowing Barry and Teresa’s joy for entertaining big groups, we saw the challenges with this layout. We were concerned mainly with the kitchen’s distance from the living room, which would separate the hosts from their guests at party time. The U-shape of the kitchen also limited storage space, and the potential number of appliances.
Fortunately, the area for the proposed kitchen and dining room was long and wide. So as an alternative to the U-shape, our team suggested a galley-style kitchen running along the east wall of the space, with a 12-foot island down the centre that incorporates an impressive dining zone for six.
With this innovative layout, the kitchen now opens naturally onto the living room, making it easy to cook and entertain while guests gather around the island. It also allows ample room for appliances and storage.
Why is the fridge relegated to the back corner?
My preference is to always try and conceal any dishwasher or refrigerator by using built-in models that have millwork panels – I like the refined look.
But the challenge on a budget-conscious build such as this one is that a decent-sized built-in fridge, at counter depth, starts at $6,000.
By comparison, standard depth, stainless steel options are a more reasonable $2,500 and under.
So in this case, we selected a sleek conventional model and tucked it into the far corner, still close to the cooking triangle, but far less conspicuous.
On the opposite end of the kitchen, we included a mid-range, under-counter beverage fridge. This creates a hub for serving drinks outside of the cooking area – allowing the bartender and chef room to work in culinary harmony!
Don’t countertops need to have an overhang?
The average countertop overhangs three-quarter inches from the cabinet doors. This provides an allowance for any slightly out-of-plumb cabinetry, and also provides depth for knobs and pulls to be set back.
But with this island, in order to keep the traffic zones a minimum of 36 inches wide, we really had to pinch every inch we could. To do so, we eliminated the overhang and designed a three inch chunky countertop that was flush with the cabinet doors.
We also skipped standard hardware (which has a one inch projection) and instead notched out the handles from the doors. (We didn’t want guests leaning against sharp pieces of hardware.)
The only place this wasn’t possible was on the inside of the island, where the garbage pullout and dishwasher both required conventional pulls.
Why put cabinets out of reach?
Barry and Teresa’s home has lofty 10-foot ceilings on the main floor, and we knew we had to capitalize on this height. In the kitchen, it meant designing the cabinetry to meet the ceiling.
This not only enhances the grandeur of the room, it also provides extra storage for seasonal dishware, vases and miscellaneous extras.
The challenge, of course, is accessing this space. If we’d had a little more length (and budget) we would have incorporated a rolling ladder. But instead, we suggested a six-foot, antique-style ladder, installed on hooks on the kitchen’s far wall. (Barry and Teresa have yet to get it, but in the meantime, standing on the countertop works just fine …)
Why the box on the ceiling?
With a high ceiling, it’s nice to add a ceiling drop that breaks up the white plane and adds visual interest. Here we designed a simple drywall box with the same dimensions of the island, and recessed a centre section that holds the canopies for black barn-style pendant lights.
Bar Stools: Joko Stools by Kristalia, livingspace.com
Artwork: Artist Andre Petterson, bau-xi.com
Kitchen Accessories: Alessi, livingspace.com
Lights: Barn Light, barnlightelectric.com
Faucet: Wizard Series, aquabrass.com
Cabinetry: White Oak, ingrain.ca
Countertop: BS250P Stormy Sky Polished, Chroma; Bordignon Marble and Granite, Vancouver
Paint: (Walls, Trim, Ceilings): White Dove OC-17, benjaminmoore.com
Fridge and Range: Fisher Paykel, midlandappliance.com
Beverage Fridge: Danby, midlandappliance.com
Flooring: Natural Oak, Canada West Wood Flooring Solutions