Natural Home Kitchen of the Year 2003: Kitchen Bliss

A mindfully designed and equipped kitchen—the heart of a Kansas straw bale home—wins Natural Home’s Kitchen of the Year honors.

| September/October 2003

  • Ramberg’s tile mural extends over the sink backsplash, two walls, and behind the stove.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon
  • The Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer is an energy and water efficient dishwasher.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon
  • Monika and David Eichler and their daughter, Lauren, enjoy the kitchen’s maple island and often eat meals there rather than in the dining room.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon
  • The kitchen is home to the straw bale house’s truth window, which, like a piece of art, opens to reveal the internal material of the walls.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon
  • Cabinetry was handmade without formaldehyde-based glues or pressboard.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon
  • Laura Ramberg, a friend and local artist, created a custom tile backsplash that adds depth and charm.
    Photo By Lark Smothermon

*This home is curently for sale. If interested, check out

“This kitchen truly embraces those who live and visit here, welcoming them with comfort and beauty,” says feng shui consultant Laurie Bornstein, describing the Lawrence, Kansas, room she helped design with owners David and Monika Eichler. The couple aimed to build a home with more ecological and spiritual presence than the McMansions in the cities around them. They envisioned the kitchen as the pulse of this house.

“The kitchen was designed to be a focal point of our home’s main level,” says David. “Monika and I both love to cook, so we wanted a kitchen spacious enough for us to work simultaneously while friends or family sit around the island interacting with us.”

Before they built their post-and-beam straw bale home, the couple spent years collecting photos of their likes and dislikes in a three-ring binder, and Bornstein assisted with many details, from the home’s site to its environmentally friendly kitchen cabinetry. “Laurie helped us really think through the ways we use a kitchen,” David explains. “With her guidance, we had a clear plan for what we wanted to achieve.”

Turning dream to reality translated into an energy-saving space with an Amana Easy-Reach Plus refrigerator and a Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer, an energy and water efficient dishwasher. A bank of insulated windows from the Andersen 400 series supplies a bright wash of natural light and a view of the prairie valley. Insulated fabric window treatments give a little extra boost to the geothermal heating and cooling system that provides both inexpensive climate control and hot water.

Bamboo flooring adds a warm glow to the kitchen, and the Eichlers hired a local builder to create handmade cabinets without formaldehyde-based glues or pressboard—a lovely and environmentally friendly alternative to prefab cupboards. The low-VOC Bioshield and Safecoat paints were a necessity because Monika was pregnant when they moved in (the couple’s daughter, Lauren, is now thirteen months old).

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