Organization Meets Sleek Design in this Leschi Kitchen

A Leschi kitchen sets the bar for super-organized, streamlined design
Shannon O'Leary  |   January 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
The kitchen and dining areas now work as one

Openness has its limits, or should have. It’s as true for strangers conducting cell phone chats on the street as for architects designing a kitchen.

So when the owners of a 1905 house in Leschi decided to start fresh with a new home, they called Thomas Schaer of SHED Architecture & Design. Employing downright forensic exactitude, he created a strikingly mod two-story, single-family dwelling starring an open, overlapping kitchen and dining area.

To achieve his clients’ desire for a simple, open space that effortlessly mingles food prep, cooking and socializing, Schaer’s design prioritizes out-of-sight organization (the linchpin to maintaining a neatly mod kitchen). “In open kitchens—particularly for people who appreciate having some of the dignity that older houses have, in terms of shielding the messy stuff from the formal rooms—this is sort of like a middle ground,” says Schaer of his design. He adds, “I am not a very uptight guy, but I don’t like to be sitting in a dining room looking at someone’s bag full of Cheetos and Doritos while I’m eating dinner. I think it’s nice to be able to put some of that stuff away if you have an open kitchen and dining room.” (Left: Appliances are hidden in a sleek paneled section that culminates in a handy desk)

User logic dictated the placement of everything, from the dishwasher (set just to the left of the sink) to the drawers housing plates and placemats (located in the island facing the dining room), and spice jars (placed next to the cooking range). Even minor details, such as where stemware should land, were laid out in a process “elevation” (a scale drawing of a facade). Says Schaer, “With our clients, we draw elevations and labels on all the drawers and doors. ‘This is where the spices go, this is where utensils go, this where pots and pans go, and so on.’” The kitchen specialists at Henrybuilt (which also offers design services directly to homeowners) executed the plan, which features a number of its user-friendly signature details, including expandable, removable plate holders; lazy Susan–style pullout shelves in a corner cabinet that maximize storage space and eliminate those coal-miner-style searches for cookware; and a Corian backsplash suspended in sections along a rail, enabling easy replacement if panels are damaged or a color change is desired. (The railing also anchors Henrybuilt’s mini stainless steel shelves.) Finally, the kitchen’s sleek profile is greatly aided by a tall paneled section that discreetly encloses appliances, including the microwave, and pullout pantries; and by the slender, open fir shelves and high cabinets above the cooktop, which handsomely hide the ventilation hood as well as the microwave. (Above: The owners are geologists and wanted real stone, in the form of subtle gray basaltine countertops; underneath are drawers filled with utensils and plates)

The result, Schaer says, “is a kitchen that’s open to the dining room, and people can see it, but you don’t regret that it’s open.” (Left: Drawers of spices and tools are located by the cooktop)

Tom Schaer, principal, SHED Architecture & Design (Pioneer Square, 1401 S Jackson St.; 206.320.8700;
General contractor: David Gray Construction (Leschi, 3507 S Main St.; 206.325.9213;
Kitchen system fabrication: Henrybuilt (;
Countertops: Basaltine stone, Pental Granite & Marble (Georgetown, 713 S Fidalgo St.; 206.768.3200;
Furniture: Teak dining table, Liave (online only: e-mail or visit