Mother Earth Living

Condo Kitchen Redesign with Andrea Jakubczak

An eco-conscious designer reconfigures a dark, dysfunctional condo kitchen into a hardworking space for a cookbook author and her family.
By Natural Home & Garden Staff
September/October 2012
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When this family downsized from a house to a condo, they needed to retain a highly functional kitchen for their daughter, who is a food blogger and cookbook author. Opening up the wall to a closed-off breakfast nook offered much-needed space, while adding long banks of cabinetry offered the storage space they required. The health-conscious family also chose nontoxic materials such as formaldehyde-free cabinetry and water-based finishes and adhesives.
Photo By Mike Rebholz
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Downsizing from a house to a condo often means losing storage and other extra space. For this family—a gluten- and dairy-free cookbook author and blogger and her parents—sacrificing kitchen functionality wasn’t an option. So they called in designer Andrea Jakubczak of Eco Fusion Design—a firm made up of self-proclaimed “Eco-Geeks”—to transform the dark and closed-in kitchen into an airy, hardworking space that would enhance their daughter’s career and the health of their home.

Why is the kitchen among the most important rooms in this home? 

The daughter has celiac disease and has been working for years perfecting food that not only tastes fabulous, but also keeps her in excellent health. She is the author of The Pure Kitchen, a gluten- and dairy-free cookbook, and cooks daily for her next book and blog, Daily Bites. Just as anyone who works in an office demands a functional work space, a comfortable and functional cooking space for her was an absolutely necessity. She needed plenty of counter space, room for professional appliances and a desk for her laptop so she could take notes.

What were the overall goals in this redesign?  

The original kitchen was a tiny, U-shaped space with minimal storage and hardly any counter space. We needed to increase the storage and work space. We also needed to make it aesthetically pleasing as the family was downsizing from a house to a condominium, but didn’t want to feel they were losing a sense of uniqueness in their home.

This kitchen is bright and airy. Why was that important and how did you achieve it?  

Downsizing to a condo not only reduces space, but it usually reduces the amount of light because of shared walls. The original kitchen was dark and felt closed-in even though it had a skylight. Opening up the wall was not only necessary for function, but also substantially increased the amount of natural light in the space. The large sliding-glass doors have a beautiful reflective quality that lightens the space and reflects the wetland view outside the glass doors on the opposite side of the room (a little bonus we discovered after the doors were installed).

How did this redesign make the kitchen more usable than it was before?  

By choosing two long runs of cabinetry, we eliminated two awkward corners, which tend to use a lot of space and not offer adequate storage in return. Also, we incorporated multiple prep areas for when the family cooks together. The pantry space hidden behind the sliding-glass doors offers more storage than most of us dream about.

Why did you choose eco-friendly materials? 

My clients are very conscientious about the food they put into their bodies and how they take care of themselves physically. Naturally, they also want products in their home that contribute to healthy indoor air quality and sustainable living.

How is this kitchen healthy?  

The cabinets are constructed of green MDF (medium-density fiberboard), which does not offgas formaldehyde and also contains recycled wood fibers. All adhesives and binders also do not offgas formaldehyde vapor. We used only water-based finishes on the locally sourced hardwood doors. The bamboo floor is constructed using a nontoxic binder glue with a scratch-resistant polyurethane that is solvent-free and does not offgas. Although they don’t contribute to cleaner indoor air quality, the concrete countertops are locally sourced and fabricated, which helps save on carbon emissions from transportation.

What was the inspiration for the room’s accents such as the leopard-print lightshades and painted wineglass case? 

The family wanted something warm but not fussy. We achieved an eclectic feel through the unique finish on the cabinetry (water-based, of course), lots of open shelving to display beautiful objects and cookbooks, and the slightly rustic look of the concrete countertops, which include chunks of aggregate and amber-colored glass chips. To add to that, my client found the unique breakfast bar stool fabric, then purchased the wine glass cabinet for $10 and painted it to match. The leopard- print pendants were an afterthought. You can screw them straight into a recessed light opening so no drywall repair is necessary.

What are your clients’ favorite aspects of the new kitchen? 

That depends who you ask! The husband would say the floors, while the wife would say the countertops and how they add a soft, rustic feel to the space. The daughter would say the storage and functionality. I love the finishes and how they all work together to create a unique and comfortable space.


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