The strength of the Dutcher Creek Residence kitchen lies in creating a coherent sense of place while never losing touch with its surroundings. Open to an adjacent dining area and separated from the living area by only a bank of freestanding cabinets, the space rises to a layered roof structure—exposed steel members topped with Douglas fir purlins and decking—that suggests the shape of the entire house. Architects Amy Nielsen and Richard Schuh oriented the building toward views of a neighboring vineyard and a grove of mature redwoods, locating a roof-high window over the kitchen's main sink, Schuh points out, “so, as you work in the kitchen, you look up and see the height of these trees.”
The window's tall, narrow shape repeats in the plaster-clad range hood and glass tile backsplash at the cooktop. “The hood is one of the main features of the kitchen,” Schuh says. “It kind of pivots out from the wall and takes advantage of the height of the wall.” Open shelves flanking the hood balance the verticality of the composition. Vertical grain Douglas fir cabinets echo the structural wood overhead, but in a more refined form, with one bank of base cabinets extending beyond the kitchen proper. “It tapers into the dining area and creates kind of a serving counter,” Schuh explains, “but it also becomes kind of sculptural.”
The island constitutes another piece of functional sculpture, its concrete top overhanging a table-height counter of maple butcher block. The lower counter's form repeats an angle found, in plan, throughout the house; the bracket supporting its long cantilever is steel, like the house's main structure. The latter—box-section steel members finished in a red inspired by the original primer color—serves as electrical chases for the kitchen's overhead lighting, for which the architects sourced fixtures that snap neatly into holes drilled in the steel rafters.