Magazine article Sunset

The New Western Kitchen: Strategies for Kitchens That Bring the Family Together

Magazine article Sunset

The New Western Kitchen: Strategies for Kitchens That Bring the Family Together

Article excerpt

What is a Western kitchen? Sunset has been exploring this question for decades. In the 1940s and '50s, we extolled the wonders of a fireplace in the kitchen. In the 1970s and '80s, the "great room" showed up, combining the kitchen and the family room. Today, the Western kitchen is still where everyone wants to be--open and full of light, casual enough for family dinners yet elegant enough for parties. It's a blend of classic, hardworking layouts and innovative materials. And it incorporates smaller living zones in limited space, such as window seats, message and home-office areas, and even, occasionally, the kitchen table. Here we look at how four families have updated their kitchens to fit the way they really live.

A place for everything

There was something missing in this San Francisco home. It had a formal dining room and a living room, but there was no place for the family to get together for supper, to watch television, or to linger over coffee and the morning paper.

The homeowners and architect Karin Payson worked with interior designer Suzanne Myers and builder Anthony G. Lynch to make a kitchen that has it all: efficient prep areas, smart storage, a small sitting area, a place for intimate family meals, and elegant, eye-catching ornamental details. DESIGN: Karin Payson, Karin Payson architecture + design, San Francisco (415/277-9500); Suzanne Myers, Elite Interior Design, San Ramon, CA (925/837-6688).

Great ideas

* Borrowed space. To give the family more room, Payson borrowed 4 feet from an adjacent hall, which made it possible to add a narrow storage and prep island. Between the kitchen and the formal dining room is a bank of glass-fronted display and storage cabinets. "Not an inch is wasted," says Payson.

* Dual prep areas. A prep sink in the island allows one person to wash and chop with easy access to the microwave and refrigerator while another cook commands the big double-basin sink and cooktop.

* Garden connection. A small, seldom-used utility room sat between the old kitchen and the garden. The architect removed the wall between the rooms, allowing natural light and views of the back garden deep into the house. In place of the utility room sit a miniature family room and dining area. A deep-cushioned window seat provides the perfect place to read. A comfortable sofa faces the kitchen and the television built into the end of the island.

* Integrated colors. Payson carried the warm color palette--selected by Myers for the rest of the house--into the kitchen. The signature area is the harlequin pattern of terracotta, green, and yellow glass tiles forming the back-splash behind the cooktop. The motif and colors are echoed in the floor tiles.

Open, flexible, and relaxed

Deepak and Sinclair Sawhney wanted a little artistic freedom. With the help of architect Rik Adams, this dynamic Bellevue, Washington, couple achieved it. "Before, the house was compartmentalized, with single doors separating the kitchen, dining room, and living room," says Adams. "The Sawhneys love to cook and entertain, but they do it in an informal way. We removed the walls between the rooms, creating a single living and dining space. We were looking to create maximum flexibility."

The family lost a formal dining room and living room but gained a home befitting their lifestyle. "The kitchen reflects their personalities," says Adams. "It shows they are outgoing people who love to cook."

DESIGN: Rik Adams, Adams * Mohler Architects, Seattle (206/709- 3070).

Great ideas

* Cozy seating areas. A window seat makes a comfortable space for reading and relaxing. A simple built-in desk serves as a work and homework center. The curved island is where everyone gathers for conversation and meals.

* Material mix. Countertops and appliances are stainless steel. Adams turned a necessary support column into a sculptural element crafted from polished wood. …

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