June 3, 2013

Going against the craftsman design often found in prairie-style homes, a Bethesda, Md., owner envisioned an Asian flair for her kitchen.

“She wanted it to be an arts-and-crafts house on the outside but clean-lined on the inside,” said designer Jennifer Gilmer of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen and Bath Ltd.

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Built with a cathedral ceiling, the kitchen already offered a blank slate of plain windows and simple lines. “In Asian design, it’s usually about composition rather than each material being an outstanding piece,” said Gilmer. “The space stands out more than the actual materials themselves.”

Starting with a 2-½-in.-thick bamboo butcher block, Gilmer centered the room with an island breakfast bar. “I try to pay attention to the centerlines,” said Gilmer. “The angled butcher block adds interest and allows us to center the prep sink.” The ingrained cut surface seems to float above the countertop with the support of keel brackets.

“The main reason I like [the butcher block] at the breakfast bar is that it’s soft,” said Gilmer. The ingrained cut and finished block also proves stronger for daily use than other cuts of wood. “It’s warmer to the touch and more pliable for putting things down on,” she added.

To avoid the potential cold of the open space and clean lines, Gilmer paired the butcher-block slab with bamboo wood floors and topped the perimeter counter with black, honed granite. “It’s a natural stone without a lot of activity,” commented Gilmer. Solid walnut cabinetry with a green-friendly stain and finish adds additional warmth.

“The core materials in the cabinetry are all green friendly,” said Gilmer. To accommodate the owner’s allergy-free needs, Gilmer sought green products to contribute to the LEED-qualifying house. “There are a lot more products out there that are eco-sensitive,” commented Gilmer. “For the kitchen, the most important part is to use low-VOC top-coat finishes and paints.”

These eco-friendly cabinets flank the L-shaped counter at a lower level than is typically seen to retain openness. A separate cabinet next to the dishwasher provides dishware storage. “These cabinets also feel more like furniture, like tansu chests, rather than kitchen storage,” explained Gilmer. Tansu refers to storage cabinetry from Japan.

Tying together the cabinetry is a natural stone backsplash cut into horizontal rectangles. Laid out on a mesh sheet, the stone cuts fit together like tile but boast a slew of natural colors and a coarse surface. “The tile was a natural way to get texture, and it’s not too busy,” said Gilmer. “It really is the scarf that finished off the outfit.”

A hood hovers on the backsplash. “I liked the hood sort of ending and floating on the wall,” said Gilmer. “I was concerned, but it’s kind of a surprise and goes with the floating breakfast bar.” The hood and the cooktop are centered directly with the skylight.

“Centering is really important,” said Gilmer. “The kitchen has sort of a Western feng shui when you walk in. It makes you feel peaceful and organized.”

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