Thursday, April 17, 2014


It seems kitchens are our inroad to the design market in Madison. Madisonians seem to understand the value of kitchen renovation and updating. Kitchen renovation is the number one bang for your buck toward increased value in the resale market for homes. They may not want to redo their living rooms or see the benefit of using an interior designer to help them out, but when it comes to the kitchen the task seems daunting enough to give us a whirl.
We met our kitchen client through an intern we worked with for a short time in Madison. Ji was an interior design graduate from Madison College who was well connected with the Madison Asian community. She introduced us to this kitchen client and worked with us on the initial design.
Here's how it works. Normal procedure for us is to present two to three layouts for a design project. We formulate the layouts based on a couple of input meetings with the client to understand their needs and aesthetic. After we've presented our initial designs we offer up to two revisions that reflect changes the client sees after they have had time to digest the original schemes. Once that approval has happened we move into construction drawings that are then bid out to contractors. Once a contractor has been selected the renovation begins.
It sometimes requires that we fudge a little on the design phase, always in the client's favor. This particular design took so many twists and turns we kinda lost count of the number of permutations we went through before we actually got to the final layout, but in the end the client was happy and so were we.
From the floor up the clients wanted a sleek, clean, contemporary look that incorporated the feel of the geographic area, the Northern plains, tied into their own cultural background.
The original kitchen centered around a cumbersome octagonal island that stood in the way of the refrigerator, cooking area and sink. To accomplish any meal preparation you had to walk around the island in circles like "Hands on a Hard Body" retrieving perishables from the frig, then do your disposal and prep by the sink and then move over to cooking at the stove. It was not very efficient. Fortunately, they had cut all the corners off the island so that as you swung around you at least weren't going to gouge yourself on a ninety-degree spike.
The look of the kitchen dated back to seventies suburbia with the arched cabinetry panels, the under-scaled moldings and casings, the mismatched appliances, and the linoleum floor all pointing toward a very needed facelift.
We transformed the island from the bulky octagon into a more functional L-shape and then we moved the refrigerator to the sink wall so all the cooking, prep and cleanup could take place on one side of the island.
To increase prep space for when there was more than one cook in the kitchen we added a pullout workspace on the opposite side of the island.
We added a pull out storage shelf for their very heavy Kitchenaid mixer. This way they didn't have to tote that heavy piece of cooking equipment out from underneath a cabinet and struggle to try and get it up on a counter.
One design element the client requested from our very first input session was a more simplified and contemporary door and drawer profile. We decided on a rail and stile profile that fit their prairie connection and gave the kitchen the contemporary upgrade they wanted. We also chose a light finish on both the cabinets and wood floor to brighten up the space Then added a tumbled travertine backsplash with a glass tile border.
One of elements I had to fight for was the window treatment. The original kitchen had metal vertical blinds over the sliding glass door leading to the deck. I wanted to add drapery to soften the area. They were concerned with that much fabric in the kitchen area thinking it would get grease stained and dirty even though the sliding door was located by the breakfast/dining area and nowhere near the cooking area. We went back and forth over this. I finally won out and once installed they came around.
The breakfast area had been their informal dining area with a colonial table and chairs. It was separated from the open plan family area by a railing and a faux soffit that ran across the ceiling.
We convinced them to move the dividing line between the family room and breakfast area a bit further into the family room giving the breakfast area a little more space. We then changed out the puny railing with a cabinet unit that helped better define the area and also added more storage for both the adjoining areas. We added a built-in bench and a custom table that could seat six when needed but still work well when it was only the two of them sitting down for dinner.
Another big concern of the clients was the entry from the garage into the kitchen. In Wisconsin you have to deal with a mix of snowy, muddy or wet weather a good deal of the time. They wanted a mudroom. They also wanted to open up the entry that had seemed tight and uninviting.
We were able to knock out the existing closet and convert it into a nook with a bench, drawers for shoe storage and hooks for winter coats and hats. We did all of this without having to carve into the laundry room on the opposite side. This gave the allusion of a much broader space.
The sink area gave us one of our biggest problems. We wanted a larger window so we could get more light into the kitchen but there were some mechanical issues on the outside we had to work around.
We finally figured out a way to accomplish this, the window went in and we add a pair of sconces.
Lighting is always an issue in any interior design. We used a zone system of recessed task lighting all on dimmers along with decorative fixtures, stained glass lightboxes and undercounter lighting. All this added to the bright airy feeling of the kitchen.
We went over budget but not by an excessive amount and as is frequently the case we took longer than expected. I always tell a client that doing a renovation is much like birthing a child. When you are going through the process the agony can seem unbearable but once the job is done the pain is forgotten and the result is, in this case, a beautiful kitchen.

Lunchroom-Buddies, NYC, 1931
Walker Evans, photographer
Represented by The Halsted Gallery, Bloomfield Hills, MI

1 comment:

  1. Definitely beautiful and so much more functional. Great job.