It began as a project that was just going to include new countertops and tile, along with the addition of a wine refrigerator. However, a seemingly simple suggestion to also redo the island sparked an evolution that turned this Minneapolis, MN condominium kitchen into a space that offers a dramatic change of style for the owners while better reflecting the modern loft building’s sophisticated architecture.
“I suggested adding a new island to accommodate the wine refrigerator,” says Liz Schupanitz, who indicates that the existing island was also somewhat small in relation to the sink wall. “Then the owner realized she really didn’t like her oven below the counter and would instead like an oven in the wall.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The New Mission
The CKD/associate ASID and owner of Liz Schupanitz Designs in Plymouth, MN worked with Quality Home Transformations on a more in-depth design that would focus on creating a modern kitchen that fit the architecture of the building. However, the design also had to blend with the owner’s eclectic decorating style and the existing maple built-ins that were visible from the open kitchen. And, the designer needed to accomplish this goal while keeping the sink and cooktop in the same tight proximity due to building restrictions.
Since the owner frequently cares for her two young grandchildren, incorporating easy-to-care-for surfaces was important as well. “They also wanted freedom from the upkeep on an older home and they saw this as their last home,” she adds.
Schupanitz began her new mission by choosing richly stained custom walnut flat-panel cabinets from Woodshop of Avon to complement the existing clear-finished maple built-ins and give focus to the room. “I was trying to create a more sophisticated look to match the elegant design of the condo,” she says. “It has 12′-tall ceilings, exposed ductwork and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto an historic mill and the Mississippi River.”
Because the space is very open and undefined – with a sitting area, grand piano area and TV/living area all exposed to the kitchen –
Schupanitz used the cabinets, especially the countertop cabinets on each side of the sink/cooktop area, to help define the space. “I wanted the kitchen to be a calming place, very visually quiet in an otherwise busy space full of an eclectic mix of furniture…both modern and traditional,” she says.
She contrasted the dark cabinetry, which is accented with Schaub pulls in a living finish, with a series of white back-painted glass upper cabinets above the cooktop and sink. “The owners are both tall, so the cabinets are usable and reachable,” she notes. “They were kept high to make the sink wall feel open – which was one of their goals – and to create a focal point for the tile.”
The designer and her client were immediately drawn to the hand-crafted stained glass tile, in part because of its namesake: Be Bop from Artistic Tile. “She is a flutist who played in a quartet part time,” she says. “The musician in her loved that [name]!
“It may be a bit of an unusual choice of tile for a kitchen,” she continues, “but framed by the white glass cabinets and flanking walnut cabinets, it makes a modern statement.”
To fulfill the need for low-maintenance countertops and to contrast the tile, Schupanitz topped the sink/cooktop area with organic white Cambria Newport quartz countertops. The tile and quartz are repeated as an accent in a niche between the refrigerator and wall oven.
While the overall appeal is for a visually quiet space, the blue/grey Azul Aran granite island top helps make the design stand out. “It is stunning,” she says. “The pictures don’t do it justice. A lot of people have grown tired of granite, but this is a relatively new introduction to the U.S., so it hasn’t been used a lot yet.
“Initially she was against granite because she had black granite that showed everything,” the designer continues. “But she did like this slab. The island also creates a sophisticated transition to the living areas and doubles as a buffet.”
Three art glass pendant lights crafted by local artisans at Hennepin Made float above the island. “We had great fun with the lighting over the counter,” says Schupanitz. “I designed the look, size and layout of the clustered pendants and they made the hand blown glass. It provides more of an ambient light, while the existing spots were moved closer to the ceiling to allow space for the pendants. They got the best of both worlds –with a combination of a conversation piece that looks soft and serene in the evening while keeping the very functional task lights.”
Additional lighting features include tape lighting recessed into the glass cabinet at the sink wall to light up the sink and cooktop area as well as the countertop area between the refrigerator and wall oven.