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Durable everyday elegance for your kitchen reno

We spend more time designing kitchens than anything else at Kelly Deck Design, and I like it that way. No renovation requires as much thought or investment to get right. I think that's for three reasons. It gets the most traffic. It's the most focused work area. And it connects most powerfully to the idea of home.

In life, elegance in everyday items is more important than elegance in occasional ones. We recently undertook the design of a kitchen in Vancouver's Dunbar neighbourhood in that spirit. The centrepiece of a home of six people (and one golden retriever), the kitchen had to be as durable as it was stylish.

What follows are five questions we encountered in getting there.

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Why conceal the refrigerator?

This kitchen combines with the dining and family rooms to form one large space. In open plans like this, I prefer that the fridge and the dishwasher have panelled doors matched to the kitchen cabinets. This prevents a large sheet of steel from breaking the room's vertical plane.

Anyway, in an expansive space you never want the appliances for your stars. Here, by remaining quiet, the fridge and dishwasher cede centre stage to the marble countertop and dramatic black island.

When concealing a refrigerator, it's critical you get the right kind. This unit's millwork sits flush with the cabinetry around it (once the panelled door has been applied). It's not the case with all panelled fridges. Many sit proud of the millwork gables, with a bewildering two inches of fridge door and the millwork seam visible from the side. It's a pointless undermining of the design integrity (and cost) of a panelled fridge.

Wouldn't visual contrast between countertop and cabinets look better?

The short answer is that no firm rule applies. Often, people consider mid-toned or dark countertops if they're choosing a mostly white kitchen. I certainly understand the urge to create a visual charge in the largest area. But we decided to put our efforts toward creating subtlety on this broad canvas. To my eye, a dark countertop and contrasting backsplash would inscribe a jarring black line across a white page.

Instead, we created a perimeter whose layered ivory felt light and open. It started with luxurious backsplash tile, a diamond pattern of handmade ceramic by Anne Saks. We then layered on a matching quartz countertop and a warm white on the cabinet doors.

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Why such tall cabinetry?

Unless a kitchen is aesthetically modern and the design has more horizontal elements than vertical ones, I always insist on taking kitchen cabinetry to the ceiling.

The reason is simple: if the cabinets stop short of the ceiling, the 12- to 16-inch gap becomes a home suitable only to tacky serving ware, fake ferns, and antique milk jugs.

In this kitchen, the extra storage of those upper cabinets was needed. The valuable real estate of the lower cabinets was given to the appliance package: a dishwasher on either side of the sink, steam oven, warming drawer and microwave in the island, and a coffee maker and wine fridge in the pantry tower. The remaining cabinets held cookware. And so we needed as much room as possible for serving ware and seasonal items. (Of course, we also had to get the client a stepladder.)

Why the big hood fan?

In a traditional design we'll often clad the hood fan with cabinetry panels. Here, though, we went with an industrial-looking appliance. We wanted a masculine element to balance the room's prettiness with utilitarian rigour.

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The fan is masculine, yes, but we were careful to choose a model with a soft, metrosexual silhouette. Something with harder angles would have been insensitive to mood.

The hood's girth relates well to the boldness of the six-burner stove, and its modern savour enabled us to bring in contemporary bar stools – a tiny jolt of contrast in the mostly traditional scheme.

Why the polished nickel hardware?

The moms out there will be thinking, nothing shows fingerprints better than polished finishes. And it's true. But we decided to take the risk of trading a measure of function for form. A brushed finish would look lifeless against this kitchen's finishes. We needed sparkle.

Metal-wise, we chose polished nickel over chrome because its warm colour works against the black and white of the cabinets and echoes to the mottled silver of the crystal chandeliers.


Backsplash: Ann Sacks tile,

Countertop: Crema Botticino, Ceasarstone,

Chandeliers: Currey & Co.,

Hardware: Restoration Hardware,

Fridge/freezer: Sub Zero,

Range: Wolf,

Island counter: Calcutta Vaglia,

Blinds: Hunter Douglas,

Wall colour: Wind's Breath OC-24, Benjamin Moore,

Trim/cabinet colour: White Dove OC-17, Benjamin Moore,

Bar stools: Living Space,

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About the Author

Kelly Deck has been advocating for West Coast design since 2002, when she 
 opened an interior decor boutique on Vancouver's Main Street. Since then, 
 Kelly has immersed herself in the lifestyle and community that makes West 
 Coast design unique. More

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