March 23, 2011

Family activities can be as unique as the family members themselves. This is especially true for the owners of this vacation home in Aptos, CA, which overlooks the ocean and Santa Cruz Mountains. With six children in high school and college, the family enjoy a plethora of hobbies, include gardening, horseshoes, archery, swimming, tanning, cooking, entertaining and more. But one thing they all share in common is a sense of social responsibility.

Consequently, when the family hired architect Cass Calder Smith, of CCS Architecture in San Francisco, to design their new vacation home, they requested that it not only be casual and rustic, but also incorporate sustainable features to minimize their carbon footprint. Their desire to be earth-friendly also pertained to the centrally located communal kitchen, which serves as the hub of the home’s activity.

Although the room’s attention-grabbing red cabinetry provides a striking contrast to the subdued look of the rest of the home, the units are made of low-formaldehyde MDF and very much in keeping with the family’s “green” objectives. And the contrast? According to Smith, that was intentional. “The interior designer selected the vibrant red as a complementary color,” he explained. “Wood cabinets would have been monotonous. The idea was to cut through the neutrality of the rest of the home.”

At first glance, the kitchen appears compact. Fully integrated appliances streamline the look and help create that illusion. “But in actuality the cabinet run is about 20 ft. long,” Smith said. “The depth of the space is realized when you see the kitchen’s main focal point—the island.”

As dramatic as the killer views, the expansive slab of walnut wood that tops the isalnd measures 18 ft. long and 3 in. thick. The single piece was cut from a fallen tree selected during a family outing. “They made a day of it by going to Marshall, CA, and choosing just the right tree—sort of like choosing your cow before you butcher it,” Smith noted. Rough, waney edges match the earthy character of the home. Each end features a cantilevered portion, making it the ideal community table. The slab sits atop additional cabinets surrounded on three sides by blackened steel.

Smith strategically placed the cooktop and oven on the island so the owners can socialize while preparing meals. They can also take in the breathtaking scenery, thanks to two triple sets of glass doors that open to the yard and, when fully deployed, allow the indoors and outdoors to become one via a 32-ft.-wide virtually unobstructed opening.

To maximize storage, Smith incorporated blackened steel shelves under the overhead cabinets. They also provide an eye-catching contrast with the red cabinets and light granite countertops and backsplash while working with the steel island to complete the look. Smith tucked extra overhead storage above the integrated refrigerator, and a pantry behind the staircase offers all the additional storage the family could need.

Flanked by the home’s dining and living rooms, the kitchen is situated symmetrically in the home’s main living area. As family members and guests come and go through the main house, accessory buildings, and outdoor spaces of the country compound, the kitchen serves as a commodious central space for all to enjoy.

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Architect: Cass Calder Smith—CCS Architecture, San Francisco
Interior Designer: Lynn Ross Designs General Contractor: MBS Custom Builders
Manufacturers: Cabinetry: Wood Touch, Inc.;
Wood Countertop: Evan Shively;
Refrigerator, dishwasher, warming drawer, garbage disposal: KitchenAid;
Cooktop, oven, downdraft ventilation: Dacor;
Faucets and sinks: Blanco
Photography: © Paul Dyer and Melissa Werner

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