AKRON, OH You’ve heard of this “horror story” time and again: a couple decides to have children, or they already have young children, but are buying their first home. They cringe at the presumption that their dream home will have to be “childproofed” a word that many believe is an automatic death sentence for aesthetic design. But remember what happens when we assume. . .
This was the situation faced by designer and architect Cynthia S. Muni, of Northfield Center, OH, who incorporated child-proof design and aesthetics in the kitchen of these clients, who had two young children and a golden retriever. They had just purchased a home in an area of Akron that is noted for having many of Akron’s “finer” homes. And, in fact, the home was almost too modern for the Tudor-style neighborhood, since its design was heavily influenced by the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was known for integrating the elements of nature into his projects’ designs.
The ‘Wright’ stuff
The young couple did not want to disturb the uniqueness or “very gracious” feel of their new home, according to Muni. However, they did want to enhance and update the utilitarian feeling of the kitchen. Functionally, there was nothing wrong with the room, but the couple wanted to have a kitchen that was a “knock out” reflecting what they felt were their unique personalities, tastes and lifestyles. They also wanted a room where they could entertain and live comfortably.
The clients’ wish-list also included large amounts of storage, as well as a large cooking surface, grille and griddle; an informal serving area, a baking area, a phone/message area, and a place for the table, sofa and television. Providing these clients with all the “Wright” stuff was the challenging task at hand for Muni.
The major design problem Muni faced was the duct work across the center of the ceiling dividing the room into two areas. It dropped by 10″ and was at least 24″ wide. The drop had to stay, since it was structural and could not be removed. The soffit above the original cabinetry, which housed several wires and some plumbing, was removed.
“The idea of opening up the space above the cabinetry plays an important part in opening up the room visually,” notes Muni. Also, the height of the hood had to be taken into consideration. Although the 60″ stainless steel hood had a few minor dents in it, the couple chose to keep it, since it was original to the kitchen and added an air of nostalgia. So it needed to be higher than the rest of the room’s cabinetry. “By varying the heights of the cabinetry, and using five different wood species and subtle wall color changes, a very intriguing space was created,” says Muni.
The original built-in cabinetry had a very straight-line, mission styling. Muni said she chose Wood-Mode’s custom cabinetry to replace it, “since it possesses the fine wood finishes and quality workmanship the couple was looking for to enhance their home. The inset door style was simplistic, complementing the home’s ambience without feeling modern or ‘just put in,’ which meets the design theme of classic with a taste of ‘understated whimsy,'” notes Muni.
She adds that, “The color scheme was chosen as an interesting way of combining different wood species, in various stain colors, to support the design scheme.” Black was used only as an accent. Decorative detailing was used to balance the room, rather than as a focal point. Pastel tiles then were used to add contrast against the dark granite countertops.
Because of the couple’s young children, the clients did not want sharp corners on the countertops. Muni notes that, “Out of this design requirement came the emergence of the drum cabinet, which serves as the preparation area for the range top, as well as the kitchen’s center of attention.” The drum houses a wooden lazy susan, for easy accessibility of pots and pans, and a built-in knife insert for use on the drum’s maple butcher block table top.
To satisfy such challenging design requirements, Muni says she was fortunate that, “the clients were very open to new ideas.”