July 27, 2020
Chicago-based architect Michael Menn was approached by clients with one main complaint: Their kitchen was too small. Even though all three of the clients’ children had moved out, they still returned often – especially on the weekends to enjoy the pool. When the family is together, everyone wants to participate in cooking, but the original kitchen was just too tight for a full house. Instead, the clients wanted not only a kitchen with better flow, but also a space that opened up to the backyard pool that everyone enjoys.
Opening Up the Layout
This home was built in the 1970s, and like most homes designed in this decade, there was a load-bearing wall between the kitchen/breakfast area and the family room. There was also a structural column in the hallway between these areas.
“To open up these spaces, we eliminated the bearing wall and relocated the structural column so that when you walk in the front door, you can now see all the way to the back of the house,” said Menn, adding that the view at the back of the home now includes the family room, kitchen and the backyard pool.
Other than to create a modern, open plan, Menn’s goal with this layout change was to design an efficient floor plan; the client specified that they hated the boxy rooms and maze of halls in the home.
“Efficiency is the result of great design and planning,” said the architect, who used 2020 and Adobe Illustrator to complete this design.
The Optimal Design for Entertaining
In the newly efficient floor plan, there was room for an expansive island – one of the homeowners’ top wish list items. The challenge was creating an island big enough for hosting while optimizing functionality.
To do this, Menn designed an island with several purposeful attributes. The side facing the living area has a bookcase for storing utensils and the homeowner’s collection of vintage cookbooks, while the long side facing the doors to the backyard has seating. An apron-front sink is opposite the island seating.
“By centering the farmhouse sink on the island, we were able to place a paneled dishwasher on one side with a double waste pullout on the other,” said the designer. “The double waste door opens with a tap of the knee, so even dirty hands can open the unit.”
Instead of trying to squeeze space for a wine cooler or extra storage under the island, Menn included bar cabinetry with an additional undercounter refrigerator and glass-fronted, interior-lit cabinetry for drinking glasses. This also prevents overcrowding in the kitchen by separating the cooking areas from where guests might help themselves to beverages.
In the newly opened space, the homeowner knew she wanted a white kitchen but with a contrasting, dark island. The color the client chose for the island is a muted blue finish, which references the pool outside and was used on both the island and the bar cabinetry. The cabinets throughout the space are a frameless style because of the clean lines and extra storage space they provide.
The perimeter sections of the kitchen with white cabinetry are contrasted by warm concrete-tile countertops. Meanwhile, the island and bar areas with the blue cabinetry have white quartz countertops with subtle veining. Both the concrete and the quartz complement the cement-style, blue tile backsplash the client fell in love with and had to have. This complex pattern adds character to the space while tying into the blue in the cabinetry.
“In this type of project, it’s important to open up the layout as much as you can while still providing details that give each area their own identity,” said Menn. “Our design was more livable for our clients, their children and their guests.”
Designer: Michael Menn, Michael Menn Ltd.
Photographer: Dennis Jourdan
Cabinetry: Dura Supreme
Cooktop & Oven: KitchenAid
Exhaust Hood: Best
Hardware: Emtek Door Hardware
Tile: Lili Cement Tile
Warming Drawer: Wolf
Wine Refrigerator: U-line