The 1516 Kitchen Renovation is a revealing modification to a 1940s house that uses an experimental island to embrace the kitchen as the modern hub for family and social interaction. The material logic and spatial relationships, both interior and exterior, are strengthened and articulated with simple, durable, and naturally beautiful materials.
In order to create new spatial connections for the home, the primary dividing (and structural) wall was removed from the center of the kitchen to make way for a new 17 foot long steel-clad island. This highly articulated element is used to splice together a number of marginal spaces to establish the kitchen as true hub of social interaction in the home.
Experimental by nature, the new island countertop is 1/4” thick hot-rolled steel with a heavy wax finish. The steel is custom fabricated, bent, and cut to reveal figural relationships with the rift-sawn red oak veneer cabinets upon which it sits. Tight tolerances are kept between base cabinet and countertop to emphasize the tension between the two materials (in both grain and temperature) at the functional portion of the island relating directly to cooking.
To provide seating space on the east side of the new island, the steel easily cantilevers 12 inches with only the support of the material itself. On the north end of the island, the countertop is folded into a cantilever that is the new bar. The steel projects emphatically joining the new kitchen to the existing dining space. To further enforce the sense of tension and defiance embodied by the design, the new cabinetry utilizes 7 inch deep toe-kicks that not only accommodate the size 13 shoe of the owner, but also heighten the dynamic quality of the island.
By salvaging many of the existing materials in the remodel, the design honors the practical aesthetics of the original design while simultaneously expanding and improving its footprint. The original heart-pine wood floors were explicitly protected during the 5-week construction process, and special care was taken to keep a clean job site and harvest reusable materials. Some materials not planned for reuse were organized and given away via freecycle.com.
The existing wet area was clad in stainless steel with a large integral sink. This primary washing/prepping area is low maintenance and appropriately durable. To conserve cost and material, the existing cabinets along the west side of the kitchen were simply re-faced. Multiple new can lights were economically added throughout the kitchen and sunroom space, all on dimmers for complete control of mood and function. In-ceiling speakers were added in the 4 main living spaces (screened porch, living-dining, kitchen, and sun porch) to accommodate a simple audio system that can be controlled remotely via iPhone.
In keeping with the design legacy of the home, the latest evolution is simple and functional. The centerpiece of the renovated kitchen, the custom island, has proven itself to be a perfectly calibrated architectural machine for the daily interaction desired by its owners and essential to the home’s appeal to future generations.