Kitchen of the Week: A Bright Update for Seattle’s Gray Days
An interior designer improves the flow, brings in light and adds unexpected touches in her family’s kitchen
By Becky Harris, Houzz October 10, 2016
This article originally appeared on Houzz.com.
A small kitchen can work if you lay it out right,” says interior designer Harmony Weihs of Design Harmony. Unfortunately, her family’s small, dark 1960s kitchen wasn’t working. “The ceilings were under 8 feet high, the cabinets were falling off their hinges, and two people could not do anything in here at the same time without bumping into each other,” she says. By adding a modest extension and remodeling the rest, she brightened up the room and created a layout that functions without all that bumping.
Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: Interior designer Harmony Weihs and her family
Size: 170 square feet (16 square meters)
Here we are looking at the new portion of the kitchen, which extends just 7½ feet but makes all the difference. A view out a large picture window enlarges the space visually.
The 4-by-6-foot window provides a lovely focal point and is surrounded by a stacked slate accent wall. The slate is a natural stone veneer on mesh-backed tiles that can be installed by a tile installer rather than a mason.
“When you’re designing for yourself, you’re able to take more risks,” Weihs says. “Not having the sink in front of a window with cabinets on either side is not typical of what clients usually want, but I wanted the new design to focus on the evergreens outside.”
A poppy-red Dutch door provides access to the deck. “It’s better to do the riskier things less expensively,” she says. She can always paint the door another color down the line if she wants a new look, whereas something like a bold backsplash would be more involved and expensive to replace.
To the right of the door is a coffee and tea station. She placed it out of the way of the main work zone so that there would be no more bumping into each other. The drawers are just the right size for supplies like coffee filters and tea bags.
BEFORE: “When the range door was open, you couldn’t even fit by it,” Weihs says.
AFTER: This plan shows the existing kitchen on the left side and the new addition on the right.
From this vantage point, we are looking toward the existing part of the kitchen. The ceiling had been under 8 feet high. The new vaulted ceiling extends the entire length of the kitchen, tying the new addition into the existing room seamlessly. She outfitted the ceiling with four skylights and white, 5½-inch tongue-and-groove paneling.
“We have a lot of gray days in the Pacific Northwest, so making things light and bright is important here,” the designer says.
“Kitchen design is moving toward less upper cabinets with more windows. We had enough cabinet storage in this design to make this possible,” Weihs says. She strategically added open shelves for glassware above the sink. “They keep a clear, open and airy look, and it’s really convenient to put them away because the dishwasher is right there,” she says.
She left enough room for a window and a small wine refrigerator.
A two-tone cabinet strategy means that the top half of the kitchen can stay light and bright, while dark lower cabinets deliver the bold contrast the designer loves. “Originally I wanted walnut cabinets, but there was too much movement in the pattern on the original oak floors — they would have clashed,” she says. Instead, she opted for alder with a dark espresso stain.
Cabinets: Cabinet Connection
“I like to incorporate older elements into my designs, and we have great architectural salvage places here in Seattle,” Weihs says. This slate was from a UPS office; she had it fabricated into three panels to cover this wall. Weihs loves it because it adds an element that doesn’t look “all squeaky clean” and is the same material she used on the picture window accent wall.
“We wanted a TV here, but I didn’t want it to be a black hole on the wall when we weren’t using it,” she says. Placed on a swing arm, it disappears visually into the slate wall. She can make lists and notes on it, and her 5-year-old son and daughter, 2, can doodle with chalk.
“I wanted an island in here, but it wasn’t possible, so I designed the peninsula to function in the same way,” she says. The TV swings out for viewing cooking shows or football games while working in here, and the kids can cozy up on the stools on the other side.
You can see how the kitchen relates to the dining area, above.
Weihs located the pantry strategically so that when they come in with groceries, they can place them on the peninsula and put them away right here. Deep pullouts blend in with the home’s architecture on the side facing the dining room. On the refrigerator side, the cabinets and drawers are shallow — no digging to find things. The lower drawers are filled with snacks for the kids so that they can help themselves.
The peninsula plays an important role in the work area, as it’s close to the refrigerator, range and sink. It also provides a spot for a microwave drawer.
“I see herringbone patterns in Europe a lot and noted how timeless it is.” Weihs says of her backsplash choice, which extends up the entire wall. “By using white tile with a white grout, the movement in the pattern is more subtle.” The scale of the 2-by-16-inch tiles stands up to the height of the ceiling.
“I love the look of marble counters, but I also love red wine — the two aren’t a good mix,” Weihs says with a laugh. Instead she used a quartzite with a beautiful veining that looks like marble but is more durable. She had the veins on the edges matched up to the tops and mitered so that the countertops appear to be 2½ inches thick.
A six-burner Wolf gas range is a dream realized. In the old kitchen, Weihs used to hit her head on the low vent hood. Now there’s plenty of headroom and a pot filler to boot.
36-inch range: Wolf