A great deal of thought and many interrogations inform the redesign of any kitchen. In such a project, a single question – why? – is asked more frequently than any other. (All right, "How much?" is up there, too.)
But why can be a difficult design question. Often, people's answers tend either to established practice ("That's the way it's done") or trend ("That's how it looks in the magazines").
Let's take the inquiry one step further. In your kitchen, that means you need to answer two other questions: How can I be faithful to the character of the home? and, How can I make it timeless?
A project we finished recently – a traditional kitchen in a new home in West Vancouver – is a good illustration of how we answered the whys and hows.
Why the three different colours of cabinetry?
It's unusual for us to use more than two different finishes for kitchen cabinets. Our standard mode is to treat the island as a standalone and distinguish it from the rest of the kitchen by a contrasting wood or paint finish. Here, we did that, and added another element: The navy lower cabinets you see around the perimeter of the kitchen.
The reason? Novelty. In the past two years we've designed a number of kitchens with dark wood islands, white perimeter cabinetry, and bianco carreras marble countertops.
They're timeless and stately, and I love them. But I wanted to try to create something equally enduring, more relaxed, and less expected.
Our approach was to use the navy to anchor the space, making it bottom-heavy and allowing the white uppers (paired with the white backsplash and custom hood fan) to keep the room light and open. As a backdrop, the white creates a pleasing silhouette of the two chandeliers.
The light, greyed finish of the oak island feels less polished than a dark wood finish, but it repels dings and bruises and will actually look better after a few years. The finish gives the room a relaxed, country-style atmosphere.
Why the chandeliers?
The predictable fixture here would be a polished nickel "schoolhouse" light, a domed fixture with an appealingly utilitarian effect.
But we wanted one element of the room to contrast with the simplicity of the design, adding a savour of old-world elegance.
I'd hoped to use two antique chandeliers, similar in scale and surface quality but noticeably different, imperfect. We felt that the age of the pieces would make the space feel more eclectic. Sadly, such treasures are rare in Vancouver, and our budget didn't allow for the $4,000 required for each fixture. It was a no-go.
We're familiar with this dilemma, however, and deployed Plan B: Finding something new that felt antique, but not chintzy or inauthentic.
After a hunt, we located a pair of chandeliers with a simple shape and relatively few crystals. What works best about them is their scale. They're larger than what one expects over an island, but their sparseness allows them to fill a wonderful volume without overwhelming.
Why the farmhouse sink?
In kitchen designs there's a persistent debate: Should the main sink have one or two basins? The votes splits evenly – some people prefer one deep sink because it's best for washing big pots; others prefer two smaller ones, for easier food prep and the ability to install a garburator.
Here, the single farmhouse-style sink won out. I love it. The apron protruding from the cabinetry makes it a feature in the room.
Why the custom hood fan?
The trend for some time has been stainless steel hood fans in both contemporary and traditional-leaning kitchens. I've always liked their honest, utilitarian look. In this case, though, the clients were clear that they wanted custom millwork for the hood.
I was skeptical at first, worried that an ornate hood would look stuffy and overwrought. But as the design evolved I came to appreciate the traditional character of the hood as well as its white finish.
It reads quieter than a stainless hood, allowing the range and chandeliers to be greater points of interest. The additional cladding of the refrigerator also helps unify the space.
Why the small office station in the kitchen?
In a home as large as this, most clients want to have a small workspace close to the kitchen. (In truth, I think that more homework, reading, and organizing gets done on the broad surface of island or the dining table, but these smaller spaces are not without good use.)
We design them to be simple: A small desk (this one is 30 inches wide) for tapping on a laptop, writing a note, or paying a bill.
Then we install a pin board just above the desk; it's perfect for keeping a family calendar and other critical notes. Above is open shelving for cookbooks, files, and decorative objects.
Why the marble countertop on the island?
Everyone worries about using marble in the kitchen. "Will it stain?" they ask. "Is it more work?"
Yes and yes are the answers. To use marble you must accept that its looks will degrade over time.
Of course, a regular regime of sealing will help prevent this, but it's the nature of the material to stain if something is left on it for too long without being wiped up.
I recommend marble often because I don't mind a stain or scratch. To me they say the kitchen is being used and loved. But we're always clear with clients about the hazards.
We also use marble only as feature stone on the island; on peripheral work surfaces we specify more resilient quartzite. Caesarstone and Zodiac are two favourites.
Paint: Wall colour: CLW1048 "Spray River", generalpaint.com; Blue cabinetry: HC-154 "Hale Navy", benjaminmoore.com; White cabinetry and trim: OC-17 "White Dove," benjaminmoore.com
Island countertop: Calcutta Vagli, haristoneslimited.com
Kitchen perimeter countertop: Dupont Zodiaq "Snow White," dupont.com
Faucet: Premier faucets, faucetdirect.com
Range: General Electric, monogram.com
Bar stools: Kelly Deck Design, kellydeck.com
Fridge hardware: Bradford Decorative Hardware, bradfordhardware.com
Sink: Kräus, model KHF200-36, expressdecor.com
Table, chairs: Restoration Hardware, restorationhardware.com
Vases, desk lamp: HomeSense, homesense.ca