November 8, 2023
Healthy Kitchen Habitat
While the Twin Cities have no shortage of residential conversions from former grain mills and warehouses, this St. Paul building has a different history. Built in 1916 by the architectural firm Kees and Colburn, it was conceived as a munitions factory, but World War I ended before weapons assembly could begin. The first tenant was Foot-Schulze and Co., a shoe manufacturer. Before it was developed as a condo property, the Rosmoor was a fabled haunt for local musicians and artists, many who illicitly occupied its rough-hewn loft spaces.
Befitting the creative heritage and the industrial character of the building, the homeowner desired a healthy kitchen with an artistic aesthetic, as well as an efficient, open layout; plenty of storage, ample work space and counter seating for four. The island was little more than a table, offering no closed storage or electrical outlets.
Restoring Function, Adding Convenience
“The impetus for the update was clear,” explained designer Amber Weekley of Minneapolis-based Crystal Kitchen + Bath. “The existing cabinets were too shallow to hold a dinner plate and had shelves that constantly fell down because they were cut too short. The sink – one of those odd double-bowl designs that turn a corner – was trapped in the crook of the counter with the dishwasher and range right beside it. That made it impossible to stand at the sink and open the dishwasher or oven door.”
As she developed plans to solve the design faults of the space, Weekley also recognized ways to elevate the health and wellness standards of the kitchen. She dimensioned the space to have a seven-foot turning radius for wheelchairs. Lighting fixtures would have LED lamping, supporting visual acuity. To curtail off-gassing, she specified low-VOC paint for the walls and formaldehyde-free cabinetry with a water-based finish. LEED-eligible quartz countertops would also advance the environmental quality of the room.
Weekley reconfigured the kitchen into a U-shape plan with a peninsula. This allowed electric lines for the air-quality-friendly induction range and outlets to be run through the wall and into the peninsula without breaking into the floor. The new energy-efficient refrigerator was relocated to the adjacent wall and the sink was moved a few inches – the maximum distance possible – out of the restrictive corner and onto the back wall, where it was fitted with a low-flow faucet.
Focus on Wellness in the Bath
The designer also worked on the bathroom in the loft, which she said had good bones, but lacked light.
“It had a curious faux metal insert by the toilet, some DIY stainless-steel sticky-back tile on the wall and a one-piece stainless-steel shower insert that was dangerously slippery,” she added.
While upgrading the look of the bath, Weekley also addressed the health and safety concerns. A new comfort-height toilet stands between the vanity and the shower. She replaced the slick metal surfaces of the shower with ceramic tile, using patterned hexagonal wall tiles and penny-sized floor tile to bring both traction and an arty appearance to the space. Blocking was strategically located in the walls, anticipating future installation of grab bars. The lever faucet is easy to grasp, as are the deliberately oversized cabinet pulls. In a touch of quiet luxury, a ceiling-mount rain shower is teamed with a water-saving wall-mounted shower that can be converted to a hand-held sprayer. The vanity was resurfaced with NSF-certified quartz.
Using clean materials and sustainable technology, the loft design now supports well-being in mind and body.
—By Leslie Clagett, KBB managing editor
Design: Amber Weekley, Crystal Kitchen + Bath
Backsplash tile: Mosa Terra Tones
Cabinets: Crystal Cabinets
Cabinet hardware: Amerock
Dishwasher, microwave, range & refrigerator: GE
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Faucet & shower fittings: Delta
Mirror: Baretta Modern
Shower shelves: Schluter
Shower enclosure: Custom Shower Glass
Toilet: American Standard
Tile: Ragno USA