November 18, 2015
If there was an iconic builder-grade aesthetic, it would be the “before” design of this northwest Washington kitchen. Sporting pinkish cabinetry and outdated appliances, the home was beyond ready for an update. Redesigned by Paul Bentham of Chevy Chase, Md.-based Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, the kitchen took on a warm yet contemporary feel that takes a new slant on modern design.
Not Aging with Grace
Along with the aged cabinetry, the kitchen had stacked double ovens and a microwave shelf that limited workable countertop space on the wall. A white refrigerator stuck out in the room, rendering the above cabinets unusable. Soffits above the cabinets also restricted the storage height, and the downdraft exhaust was inefficient. There was a small island, but it was dominated by the cooktop, which prevented it from being used for other purposes.
“Despite ample square footage, the kitchen felt small, and it was limited to a single chef,” said Bentham, adding that the 16-ft. by 23-ft. space opened up to a large family room, but a pair of columns separated the two spaces needlessly.
After eliminating the columns, Bentham designed a pair of islands with an undercounter speed oven and dual freezer drawers in one and a casual dining space for the other. Recessing a fully integrated fridge and tall pantry storage into the walls also helped maximize storage and maintain the walkways.
Openings to Innovate
The designer was faced with the challenge of creating a modern look for cherry cabinetry – a choice the client was already set on.
“In spite of using traditional materials, we were able to achieve a contemporary look because we found a quarter-cut, cherry veneer that had an amazing amount of figuring,” said Bentham.
The veneer was laid as close to a herringbone pattern as possible and was enhanced with an antique stain with a 50 percent poly sheen, which emphasizes the veneer’s natural movement.
“The stain and poly combination gives the cabinetry a shimmering, almost 3D effect,” he added.
High ceilings also offered the opportunity to have tall wall cabinets, but to keep them from dominating the space, the cabinetry was split using a ¾-in. gloss black-painted negative detail. This detail was replicated at the ceiling height, breaking up the monotony of tall wall storage without losing capacity.
The efficient storage was further increased by putting the cooktop on the wall where the stacked ovens used to be, so that a proper range hood could be installed and vented to the outside. Installing the freezer drawers and the undercounter appliances made the island extremely functional, and family and guests could use the second island and be out of high-traffic areas. Full-height doors on the island base cabinets are in keeping with the streamlined look of the rest of the kitchen.
To achieve that contemporary yet warm look the client was initially looking for, Bentham installed absolute black granite countertops. Extending the granite down the islands’ sides creates a focal point out of the veneer. Integrated LEDs illuminate a bridge panel, and undercabinet LEDs highlight an iridescent tile backsplash.
“Multi-layered lighting augments the natural light that pours in from the bay window and the large windows above the sink,” said Bentham. “Recessed lights provide overall illumination, while pendants light the work surfaces on the islands.”
Rather than obstruct the view with a chandelier, LED lights are recessed into a slim bridge panel – veneered to match the cabinets – above the sink. All the lights are subtly controlled with dimmers to change the room’s ambiance.
“To complement the contemporary new space, the doorway into the kitchen from the hallway was eliminated,” said Bentham. “Now, visitors get a glimpse of the exquisite kitchen as they enter the front door, proving that it is sometimes what you take away from a space that ultimately makes it perfect.”
Designer: Paul Bentham, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath
Photographer: Bob Narod
Backsplash: Custom Glass Mosaic, Random Blend Bronze and Pewter Iridescent “Muse Vibrato” from Architectural Ceramics
Cabinetry: Frameless Quarter-Cut Cherry from Premier Custom Built
Countertops: Absolute Black Granite from Stone & Tile World
Filter Soap Dispenser: Franke
Heating Tank: Franke
Knobs, Handles: Top Knobs
Refrigerator Drawers: Sub-Zero