The hood could have felt like overkill. My case was this: Yeah, it’s powerful. Way more powerful than you’ll need most of the time. But it also gives you an architectural feature that immediately becomes the focal point of the kitchen. And four more lights to make it all the more inviting. In the end, Bobby and his wife gave their OK, the decision maybe made a little easier because I reined my original concept in by a few degrees.
I’d done a bunch of kitchen renovations before, but this was the first where I literally had a hand in every detail, a responsibility I embraced with a reverence for both the homeowners and the home itself. That trailer that I gushed about someday restoring to its original glory? It was constructed by the same guy who built this midcentury modern home. He built the trailer first and then spent the next eight years living in it while he built the home. When I first laid eyes on the kitchen, it was just like the trailer: a little time-worn, but very obviously the work of a meticulous craftsman. Bobby had knocked down a wall, which opened up the space and filled me with a slew of ideas for it. I asked him to trust that I had the integrity of his home—its clean lines, specifically—foremost in mind, and he did. I’ll never forget that.
A modern, minimalist kitchen with industrial-looking elements that play off complementary and contrasting materials would bridge the generation gap, I thought. Every component would serve a purpose, and the look would follow the function. The strongest statements would feel almost commercial, like the stainless-steel, 1,200-CFM range hood, which would be more at home in the kitchen at Zahav than it is here, but they’d be more refined. I spent part of my early career cooking, and I’m in the kitchen on a nightly basis, so I approached this kitchen renovation with a chef’s sensibility. And then the designer in me made sure that those pieces were polished and seamless. The cabinets, for instance, are finished in a high-gloss enamel (that took many, many coats to get just right) and custom-designed, hand-crafted hardware. I also lined them, along with the sink base, with 18-guage stainless-steel. It’s a distinct visual upgrade over a liner, but it’s also far more practical. The stainless-steel cleans up easily, and it’ll never age.
The two inch-thick, 600-pound concrete, L-shaped counter under the cabinets and the complementary concrete bartop around the range—both of which sit atop custom-designed stainless-steel bases—were another indulgence. But the kitchen’s fairly modest in size, and the six-foot by eight-foot, L-shaped counter comprises most of its surface area. Because it would rival the hood as a focal point, I needed to make sure, as well, that I treated it with the same amount of consideration. Like the hood, the concrete counter says, “There’s some serious cooking about to go down in here.” Alternatively, when the pots and pans are soaking and the dinner party’s winding down, the bartop gives off just enough of an edge to lure everyone over to it. Awash in a warm glow from the hood lights above, the rest of the room faded into black, it has the feel of a coveted corner banquette in the waning hours of a night that’s been too good to let end.
Those are the moments, in my humble opinion, that too often go neglected in kitchen renovations these days. We think of the modern kitchen as a gathering spot, maybe even the gathering spot of the home, but it’s usually only one type of scene: boisterous, bright, crowded. I envisioned a room that encouraged all of the sharing that comes with that, but also nurtures the more intimate and often more memorable end of the night. A textured living space begets occupants who value character in their surroundings and those they surround themselves with.