Clients often want us to play it safe when it comes to kitchens. A show kitchen, however, is an opportunity to (as the management consultants say) "blue-sky" it – take risks, play with new ideas and transcend limitations. My team recently got to do just that at Vancouver's Interior Design Show West, which took place at the end of September.
Our goal with our 400-square-foot kitchen, installed on behalf of Aya Kitchens, was to demonstrate that elegance and timelessness could still crackle with vitality and unpredictability. Rather than recite old pieties about good design, we hoped to generate discussion around what makes a space unique.
The kitchen was a hit; all weekend the space hopped with curious Vancouverites asking about what we'd done. Here are four interesting questions we heard.
Is white passé?
No. White, of course, is elemental; it will never go out of style. To use it liberally in the show kitchen, however, would have impeded the spirit of experimentation. White, especially paired with grey and dark wood, is a treatment we've used often at KDD in the past two years.
Instead, we wanted a curation of finishes that felt fresh to people, and from there develop our theme of subtle, West Coast glamour.
Our tangible starting point was a material we'd long wanted to use: Calacatta Fashion, which is a gorgeous species of Italian marble whose ivory base is shot through with soft, green-gold veins.
The mossy hue we used on the cabinet doors seemed an obvious choice, given the stone. Green, yes, but neutral enough to please the eye. (White wasn't completely out of bounds; we restricted its use to the island's 16-foot run of counter and the Scandinavian-inspired bar stools.)
Is brass making a comeback?
The greatest indulgences cause the greatest regrets – particularly, it seems, in matters of fashion. The ubiquity and aggressive gaudiness of brass light fixtures and doorknobs in the 1980s has created a miserable, 25-year hangover for gold finishes in North America.
The short answer is yes, brass is coming back. Just not the way we remember. Consider this the hair of the dog.
The key to having gold, the colour (which isn't always the metal we call brass), work gloriously is to use it sparingly. In the show kitchen, we custom-built a brushed-bronze hood fan, plated our hardware in brushed brass, and anointed the sink with a beautiful brass faucet.
The surrounding elements – the mossy cabinets, warm veins in the marble, and gold accents in the furnishings – offer support to the colour scheme without emphasizing it too strongly.
Is it for everybody? No – but what is? Gold is a great way to infuse a room with warmth, subtlety and glamour. European designers have never stopped using it, only we North Americans. We were so reckless a generation ago that it's taken this long to recover.
Where's the fridge?
As we do with televisions in living rooms, we hide the fridge in nearly every kitchen we design. This time, it seems, we were especially effective. (The fridge is in the left tower of cabinetry, on the back wall.) We designed the space to have the Gaggenau appliances be inconspicuous. The fridge happens to be so well-designed – with no awkward projections of exposed vents – it became nearly invisible.
(If you're wondering, the wall oven is below the range; the dishwasher and the wine fridge were both in the island; and a microwave, considered unnecessary in a show kitchen, was left out.)
The lone appliance we wanted to draw attention to was the range. A beautiful blend of stainless steel and wrought iron, with gold burners, it appears perfectly contextualized beneath the gold hood fan.
What, no dining table?
This kitchen was purpose-designed for the occasion. Located directly opposite the IDSwest cocktail bar, our installation worked best if it invited the public to come in and have a look around.
For that reason, a large dining table parallel to our island would have been more obstacle than invitation. Instead, we designed L-shaped chaise lounges and called on local talents Brent Comber for tables and Omar Arbel at Bocci Design for lights.
The effect was fantastic – the area felt sophisticated, welcoming and West Coast.
AyA Kitchens and Bath, www.ayakitchens.com
Marble Art, www.marble-art.com
Blanco/Robinson Lighting and Bath, www.blancocanada.com
Metalsinos drawer pulls/Classic Brass appliance pulls/Bradford Hardware www.bradfordhardware.com
Gaggenau/Midland Appliances, www.gaggenau.com, www.midlandappliance.com
Brass hood fan
Burrard Mechanical, www.burrardmechanical.com
Pot lights and art lights
Juno Lighting/Robinson Lighting + Bath, www.junolightinggroup.com
Hanging pendant lights
Bocci Design, www.bocci.ca
Bari Design, www.baridesign.com
Window Works, www.windowworks.ca
Brent Comber, www.brentcomber.com