Last year Kelly Deck Design designed and furnished the Vancouver General Hospital Millionaire Lottery Home, the biggest and craziest project on our annual schedule. It's a sprawling 5,200-square-foot house on Marine Drive in Whiterock, B.C., and it's being offered by the lottery again this year.
We gave great consideration to the kitchen design. We had several discussions with the client. The client's wanted a space that was contemporary, great to entertain in, open to views of the ocean and carefully related to the main living space of the home.
Every project starts with propositions and ends, we hope, with solutions. Here's how we answered the design questions of this contemporary kitchen.
Why such a large island?
The trend with kitchen islands is to design them as furniture pieces – that is, decorative kitchen elements, distinct from surrounding cabinetry. I wanted to steer away from it.
Instead, we approached the island as an architectural feature that could create a formal boundary between the living area and the kitchen. To this end, we elongated the existing island while keeping its form very simple. In this way, its visual impact is carried not by decoration, but by its unusually long span: 16 feet of Statuario Marble countertops that spill over each side of the island.
Finding such magnificent stone was no mean feat. Stone slabs come in eight-foot or 10-foot lengths. They're generally four feet wide and difficult to match from one slab to the next. Months in advance of construction, we notified our stone vendor that we wanted two 12-foot slabs. He came through by making sure they were cut from the same quarry in Italy. The stone was worth $20,000.
The clients worried about giving over so much space to the island. "Shouldn't we shorten it and put a small table at one end?" they asked. "Shouldn't we be more modest and keep it to 10 feet?" Our argument: a) a small table would get lost in so large a great room, and b) it's precisely the island's enormity that makes a statement – the luxury of so much stone.
Why white cabinets on the back wall?
The room shared by our kitchen and living room is long and rectangular. The kitchen and the living-room fireplace bookend it, west and east. On the (eastern) living room side, we wanted a cozy, weighty feel to the space. We designed dark millwork that stretched floor to ceiling and clad the fireplace façade clad concrete of a similar value.
This is where a yin-and-yang trick is handy. The eye stops at the fireplace; it draws you in. But we wanted the kitchen to feel airy. The solution was white cabinetry on the back wall. It blends into the white ceiling and gives the kitchen side of the room a feeling of openness and invitation. The bright colour also plays a supporting role for the star feature: the island. It's dark wood and spectacular stone stand in the spotlight.
Why not wall ovens?
Appliances are important in any kitchen design. These days, in luxury homes, double wall ovens are expected. But they're not the best solution if you're going for a quiet and modern look. A difficult decision needed making. We could have put them opposite the fridge, on the back wall, but I feared that the stainless faces of the appliances would upset the muted balance of the back wall, distracting from the impact of the island.
We decided on a professional-series Thermador stove with two ovens below the range. This way, the visual weight of the stainless steel is kept below the counter-line.
Why a breakfast bar?
Adjacent to the range wall, we designed a small pantry and what we call a breakfast bar. (It's a feature we've used in several kitchens lately, to great effect.) The idea is to create an area independent of the main cooking zone for use mostly in the morning. It contains a beverage fridge for quick-grab drinks, a sink, on-demand hot water for tea or oatmeal, a built-in coffeemaker and open shelving for jars of cereal, coffee mugs and bowls. This makes grabbing breakfast quick and it keeps strays out of the chef's hair.
A quick note about appliances: For the breakfast bar coffeemaker we specify a Miele model. It's one of the few "plumbed" (i.e., water on demand) models available in Canada. The convenience of dispensing with reservoirs has its price, though. The Miele is about twice the price of many high-end models.
Beverage fridges also have a wide range of price. (Top-range models sell for as much as $4,000.) But unless you're refrigerating precious wines, it's not money well spent. For the breakfast bar, we chose a modest model, preferring to keep some appliance budget for a premium refrigerator and range.
What was your plan with the lighting?
Every kitchen needs good lighting. First, we checked off the basics – recessed pots around the perimeter and puck lights under the cabs. Over the island though we needed the fixtures to do double duty – they had to look beautiful and cast lots of light for the main work surface. We arrived at white porcelain drums. The ones we chose have a watery texture and their 18-inch diameter adds the right amount of volume over the island to counterbalance the visual heft of the island.