Royal Oak, MI — While the renovation of this kitchen could have included a modest cooking space to match its petite size, Tanya Woods relates that the homeowner wasn’t content with settling for ordinary.
“The home is a small bungalow, maybe only about 1,200 square feet,” says Woods, designer/AKBD/CLIPP, Xstyles Bath + More, in Royal Oak, MI. “But my client wanted a very stylized kitchen, so we created a space that is no longer an afterthought room tucked behind a pocket door, but is now a focal point that sets the tone for the entire first floor of the home.”
To make way for the showcase kitchen, Woods – who worked with her husband, Jeff Woods, who is also CLIPP certified and represents the builder portion of their design/build firm – removed a wall and inoperable pocket door that led into the previous kitchen, giving them the ability to expand the kitchen 24″ into the dining room for an additional 18 square feet of space.
“Removing that wall made a huge difference in the design of the kitchen,” she says.
During the demolition, they also discovered a sagging, load-bearing header, which led to another defining moment in the design.
“We needed to keep the header, but it wasn’t adequately doing its job,” she says.
The solution, which included increasing the size of the horizontal support header from its original 2’x8′ dimension to a 2’x10′ size, became a focal point for the entire the room when they encased the new header with Treefrog Veneer American walnut veneer. Adding an additional supportive vertical post, which couldn’t be recessed due to its location on the exterior wall, also led to the design of the unique, cantilevered shelves that take the place of wall cabinets. Including appliquéd black bolt heads that imitate mechanical fasteners – the actual fasteners are hidden beneath the veneer – adds a touch of steampunk vibe to the otherwise vintage-meets-contemporary space.
“The walnut support header and post help define the charm of the kitchen,” she says, adding that the faux bolts are one of her favorite design elements. “We needed to keep the header and post so we worked with them and turned them into a design element that became a focal point of the kitchen that seems naturally intentional rather than a design solution.”
Creative custom storage
The inclusion of the support header and post also necessitated the use of custom cabinetry and a carefully optimized layout, which is achieved via the Northern Contours cabinets sheathed in a dark charcoal, matte Flint finish and accented with Schaub & Co. Steamworks Brushed Bronze hardware. Woods had to notch the base cabinet affected by the vertical support post, so rather than forgo storage, she incorporated a wine rack.
“The wine rack is forward facing, so it becomes an accent when viewed from the dining room,” she says. “We could have just paneled the cabinet, but we designed it in a way to gain additional storage space, plus add visual appeal.”
Another custom feature is the can-depth pantry that serves as a focal point on the back wall and helps make up for storage lost by the minimal use of upper cabinets. Its shallow dimension was dictated by the need to preserve access to the adjacent back door. For the top portion of the cabinet, the designer added interest via mullion doors with clear glass that provides visual access to the American walnut interior.
Woods repeated the mullion/glass/walnut interior combination in the end cabinets that face the dining room. This area not only provides extra storage, but also extra counter space that is especially useful when her clients entertain.
“Countertop space is a precious commodity in small kitchens,” she says, “so we focused on making sure she had plenty of room to each side of the sink…and we tucked the microwave under the counter to keep the countertop from getting too cluttered.”
The use of mullions was also carried to the windows, where Woods combined them with bold black frames.
“Black gives the windows more visual impact compared to white,” she says. “It really makes the windows ‘pop’ and makes them part of the overall design of the space.”
The black windows also coordinate with the black and gold Brizo Litze articulating faucet at the Lenova sink and the cluster of black and aged brass Tech Lighting Alva Edison-style pendants accented with gradient sizes of Locus rings.
“The triple pendants dangle effortlessly, enhancing the windows and creating another focal point, without being overpowering,” she notes. “We created a few different focal points within the space, including these pendants. The beams and shelves are another stand-out, and as your eye travels to the back of the kitchen, it lands on the pantry cabinet. But the multiple focal points are all strategically placed so they aren’t overwhelming.”
Brightening the space
To prevent the dark elements from overpowering the space, Woods kept the rest of the kitchen light and bright via material choices such as the MSI Calacatta Laza quartz countertops and the dimensional 3″x12″ Artistic Tile Alto Deco tile that clads the walls. The latter’s beveled edge features a black pinstripe detail that echoes colors of the cabinetry and encaustic floor tile.
“It ties them all together…without being too obvious,” she says. “Plus, its shape and dimension punch up the idea of traditional subway tile, taking it to a new level.”
For the floor, the use of the floral, geometric SomerTile Arte Grey porcelain tile, which is reminiscent of artisan cement tile, is a nod toward her client’s inspirational photos shared with the designer at the outset of the creative process.
“A lot of the projects she showed me featured encaustic floors or backsplashes,” she states. “Because we already had a lot of strong design elements on the walls and ceiling with the walnut support header and post and dark cabinets, we decided to use the patterned tile on the floor. It gives the space some drama without being too busy. The coloration was perfect, and it pairs well with the wood floor in the living room and dining room.” ▪