September 1, 2023
Wellness Design in a Secondary Kitchen
Sarah Walker, principal designer and CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based Nuance Interior Design Showroom, worked to create an inclusive wellness strategy for this kitchen. Spanning aging-in-place ergonomics, technology and environmental concerns, her approach to the project was cross-disciplinary.
Since the new-build secondary kitchen measured a compact 13 feet by 13 feet, all the key areas were comfortably close together. The issue was optimizing the counter space and customizing the storage to fit the present and future needs of the homeowners.
Appliances were scaled and installed to fit the space as well as the people who would be using them. A slim 30-in. refrigerator houses both a cooler and freezer. A combination microwave/speed oven does the job of two appliances in the space of one. Walker stacked a built-in coffee maker over the oven at a height that’s slightly higher than usual to facilitate easy use of both appliances.
“Often a coffee machine is set at counter level, but I thought that would push the speed oven too low for safe and comfortable access by the homeowners,” said the designer.
Walker maximized storage with high-functioning organizers and accessories. Those in the base cabinets include a pullout and drawer insert for spices and a lazy susan. Extra-deep drawers under the cooktops keep large pots and pans close to point-of-use.
Touches of tech that make life easier were also integrated into the design. The lift-up doors on the hanging cabinets are fitted with Servo-Drives, an electrified opening system that is activated with a touch button located at the outside and inside corners of each cabinet. The buttons are color-matched to the surrounding surfaces, and the mechanism is low in profile so it doesn’t intrude on the storage space. Walker shares that the homeowners love showing visitors how the automated upper cabinets electronically open and close.
At the four-foot Galley sink, the designer headed off any bottlenecks by including a pair of gooseneck faucets. A suite of interchangeable accessories makes the workstation multifunctional.
In addition to the 36-in. induction cooktop – itself contributing to wellness by supporting indoor air quality – Walker installed a hidden burner element under the surface of the island. She found the Invisicook product while conducting sustainability research for the project.
“This was our first time specifying it,” she added. “It requires a porcelain surface or harder stone like granite. The homeowners use it as a secondary cooktop for entertaining, and it’s perfect for keeping things like fondue warm during a buffet served on the island. The controls are located inside the drawer below.”
Sense and Sustainability
The well-being of humans wasn’t the sole focus of Walker’s design; she also considered the health of the planet when possible. “All the products we source have a sustainable stamp,” she said. “This is the culture in Seattle; we are all in tune with the environment.”
Bauformat, the manufacturer of the cabinets, uses raw materials sourced from sustainably managed forests. Its chipboard and MDF boards are low-emission, compliant with CARB2 and TSCA Title 6 standards for wellness. According to the designer, there’s no toxic smell when the cabinets go in.
“My favorite part of the design was commissioning a local artisan to build the reclaimed walnut bar top; it was a great experience,” said Walker. “I went to his workshop, selected the wood and learned about his process, including the use of food-safe wood sealant.”
On the island, the wood slab is attached to the stone with adhesive; additional stability was ensured by placing it so it overhangs the waterfall.
Her least favorite part of the project: The cabinets were stuck in port because of supply chain issues. This delayed the completion of the job by a few months and extracted an emotional toll on the designer as she acted as liaison among clients, suppliers and the architect. Nonetheless, Walker says the experience reinforced her belief that “Good quality is worth waiting for and doing correctly.”
—By Leslie Clagett, KBB managing editor
Design: Sarah Walker, Nuance Interior Design Showroom
Photography: Anton Benedikt
Backsplash: Ann Sacks
Coffee Machine, Dishwasher, Range & Speed Oven/Microwave: Smeg
Concealed Burners: Invisicook
Countertops & Vent Hood: Taj Mahal Quartzite
Faucets: Galley and Dornbracht
Flooring: Woodpecker Flooring
Hardware: MYOH Hardware
Sink: Galley Sink
Window Coverings: Hunter Douglas