Three Fabulous Kitchens: From Dark and Cramped to Warm and Nurturing

Believe it or not, these warm, nurturing kitchens were once dark, inefficient and featureless.

| September/October 2004

Truly a Hearth

The owners of this Sonoma County, California, home approached me several years ago to help transform the dark, cramped kitchen of their otherwise charming 1920s bungalow into a place of sensuous eco-healthy delights. Although the house sits on two bucolic acres of fields and trees, the kitchen had only a few small windows and no outdoor access. The appliances, cabinets, and finishes were all dilapidated, and the area around the kitchen was chopped up into a hallway, mudroom, and undefined woodstove/storage area.

We began by opening up the space, turning it into one big live-in kitchen. We added larger, double-pane, wood-frame windows, a skylight, and a pair of French doors that open onto a new deck. While this might have led to overheating in other locations, the tall surrounding trees filter the sunlight and keep the space comfortable. We also added insulation to the roof, walls, and floor to increase comfort and lower heating bills.

We transformed the no-man’s land at one end of the kitchen into a cozy Southwest-style inglenook with a built-in fireplace and plastered benches. My clients love this nook. “It serves many purposes: a place to rest, read, play the guitar, socialize, or warm up on a cold day,” says one.

I carved a “cool room” out of the kitchen’s north corner for storing grains and fresh produce. With insulation all around, screened vents high and low on a shady outside wall, and slatted shelves for airflow, it stays naturally cooler than the rest of the house without using electricity.

In rebuilding the kitchen, my clients wanted to avoid rectilinear cabinet fronts; through a local Waldorf school, they found a cabinetmaker who was happy to comply. They love the cabinets’ unique, sculptural look, which draws comments of delight from visitors.

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