Hether by principle, preference, or economic necessity, architects seem drawn to live in compact quarters. Christine Albertsson and Todd Hansen—partners at home and in professional practice—lived for years in a charming saltbox cottage with no dining room, no shower, and almost no storage space. But an expanding family can persuade even committed minimalists to say “enough.” Or, rather, “not enough.” Part of Albertsson and Hansen’s solution was a flexible, multipurpose kitchen that is compact enough to satisfy their taste for efficiency, yet large enough to get the job done comfortably.
Perched at the high end of a sloping site, the room overlooks the tree-lined corridor of Minnehaha Creek. The east wall angles in for a better view and a bit more elbow room at the adjacent outdoor deck, its wide, beaded paneling making a graceful transition from the 1920s-vintage plaster and trim of the original house. Flush white oak cabinets line the west wall, with etched glass doors where they enclose a trio of exterior windows. “We wanted to get afternoon light, but we didn’t want to look at our neighbor’s deck,” Albertsson explains. “Because we keep our nice glassware there, the cabinet becomes sort of a shop window.”
The cooking area’s businesslike layout, with open stainless steel shelves mounted on a white subway tile backsplash, reflects Hansen’s experience working in a commercial kitchen. High-grade stainless hardware and marble counters dress up the inexpensive stock cabinets. If you’re going to save money on the casework, Albertsson reasons, “you might as well have something really nice that you’re going to touch.” The island countertop follows the angle of the outside wall, opening space for a much-used sofa. Its overhang, which tapers from 13 inches to 3 inches, allows for an ongoing inquiry into how much knee space is just enough for casual dining. While their home is significantly enlarged, Albertsson notes, “It’s still an architects’ experiment house.”