Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Keller Kitchen Renovation

Kitchen renovations are never fun. They are messy, slow and disruptive in ways you can’t imagine until the day you come home and see your sink sitting in the dumpster. But when designed and executed well, it is one of the most rewarding improvements you will ever do to your home. Last winter homeowners Jim and Wendy Keller decided it was time to renovate their kitchen. They were already working with cabinet desiger Don Kluge of All Seasons Woodworks when I was brought into the project. The general layout had already been established but what they needed was the wow factor that, in my humble opinion, makes hiring a designer worth every penny. When the renovation was completed, the space, though not physically bigger, appeared to double in size and functionality.
I wanted to use this project to showcase some of the spacial issues and solutions that a designer may focus on as much as the homeowner will focus on the location of the refrigerator. Well, that and Polina’s photos are so stunning that I felt they deserved to be showcased in the zine as well as the portfolio.

This is the Keller kitchen as it once was. While a perfectly fine kitchen, the cabinets and floor are too close in color creating a four-sided visual enclosure to an already petite room. With a new finish palette, we want to push the walls out by anchoring the floor and lightening the vertical surfaces. The current lighting plan is only lighting the floor and counter and not the ceiling thus creating a dark plane pushing down on the space. Tracing this dark ceiling with puny crown molding is giving the ceiling more visual weight than it deserves. The accent lighting is too close in color to the cabinetry to be of any interest and too small for such a large void between the counter and the ceiling. The island has a built in eating surface as well as a recessed working surface. This effect cuts the island in half and creates an attention-drawing disruption. This wouldn’t be bad if the counters of the island were worthy of being the focal point of the kitchen but they draw your eye to the messiest part of any kitchen; the sink. Wendy selected a great backsplash tile. It is trying to make this contemporary kitchen less contemporary but the injection of color is drawing attention to the wall cabinet that seems to have been full of helium when it was installed. OK. So here is what we did:

1. We designed a new island worthy of a second glance. The edge profile of this 40”x100” Calcutta Gold marble island top has been beefed-up to a chunky 2 ½” to avoid appearing visually flimsy.
2. Islands are special and deserve their own identity so we designed a base that stands out from the kitchen cabinets both in styling and color.
3. Barstools and counter stools are always on the go so make sure they are prepared to travel across your new floor. These McGuire stools have a firmly attached, clear plastic foot that can be dragged without scuffing. When stool meets floor the harder material will always win. Wendy gets a gold star for selecting a stool with a base wider than the seat. This means it will be less likely to tip when her little ones scale the sides. Not to mention that scooped walnut seat is stunning!
4. A room has layers: a foreground, a middle ground and a background. The previous design focused only on the foreground and neglected the way the three zones layer against one another. This back elevation has created a frame for the range but also a frame for the chandeliers. Lighting this wall pulls the eye, helping elongate the space. Remember, dark objects proceed, light objects recede.
5. I tend to refer to the range as the “captain’s chair” of the kitchen. Asymmetry and symmetry can be effective tools when punctuating a design element. While there is nothing symmetrical in this design, we opted to force symmetry at the range to make it distinct from the rest of the kitchen. To push it’s identity even further, we made the adjacent drawer-faces from stainless steel and exaggerated the length of the hood emphasizing the span of the work zone.
6. The sides of cabinets are often ignored in a design. This is because we tend to design in plan or elevation instead of three dimensionally. Letting the millwork wrap around the corner and turn into bookcases eases the transition from kitchen to living room as well as eliminating the need to design a pleasant end panel.
7. The ceiling is the supporting cast of any room and has a great influence over everything below it. Originally, I suggested painting it a barely-blue color but the Kellers were not at all receptive and now that I see the effect the chandeliers have on the ceiling, I’m glad we didn’t. The ceiling is only illuminated in the middle, allowing the edges to appear darker than the trim. I wanted to tint the ceiling color to make the crown appear bright and showcase its nuances. As a general rule, consider your ceiling the 5th wall but when holding up a paint chip to see what it will look like, hold it over your head. On the ceiling it is always up to 2 full shades darker!
8. Respecting the lines can make or break a design. When choosing where to put the horizontal break in this side panel, we looked at the strongest line in the elevation; the one that continued across all of the cabinets. There is only one line that can be seen in the pantry, the uppers and the stove housing. This line originated from the door opening height. Controlling and relating horizontal lines is the tell tale mark of a designer.
9. A backsplash can really help or hurt a design. In this case, the back wall is a mess. The original window is low and the wall cabinet needed to be high enough to fit an appliance under it. Applying a distinct color or loud pattern would have emphasized the difference. Choosing to make a backsplash unique or bold should only happen if it is one of the three strongest elements in the space. In this design the island, the range and the window view get top billing. Bye-bye backsplash. Kudos to Wendy for this soft and lovely selection. You have the eye lady!

That’s 9 things that make this kitchen groovy. In two hours time, Polina knocked this one out of the park. Thank you for shooting it under the wire! What is the coolest thing in your kitchen? Do you have an awesome mixer? A unique material for a counter or backsplash? Do you use any unusual furniture in your space? Let’s talk kitchens for a sec.
Visit my website: to see more pictures of this great little project! I also wanted to note that the original cabinets, counters and appliances found a new home after demolition.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

LEVEL in the press

A few weeks back I was copied on an email response to Konrad Marshall (Indy Star arts reporter) from Wil Marquez:

Come te sientes amigo! Many thanks for asking me, your homework can stop here. I will offer these 5 uniquely different, but special individuals. These 5 are to me the most intriguing individuals I know and whose dialog is fit for a conversation on design at any level. They all are doing interesting work at some level and can inform your article with guts and substance. Good luck! let me know if you need their information, they should be easy to find. They are in no particular order

1. Brian McCutheon - Artist/Fabricator
2. Nikki Sutton - Interior Design with LEVEL
3. Jason Barisano - Architect A2SO4
4. Ana de Brea - Professor of Architecture, Ball State University
5. Cory Robinson - Professor at Heron/ Furniture Designer

Three weeks later, this story launched in the Star.

Will, thank you for the kind words. I am not sure what I did to land on this list but I'll take it! And thank you Konrad for featuring my work along such dedicated artisans. To learn more about Wil check out this interview.

I wanted to post this story for a couple reasons. One, for blatant self promotion. Two, because Chris Foster of Fosterweld did not get credit for the fabrication of the coffee table. And three, because I mention in the article that the table's design was inspired by two pieces of furniture in the room, neither of which were pictured. So I snapped one with my trusty iphone.:

The hung storage pieces featured in this image are MASH Studios LAX Wall Mounted Shelf from Design Republic and the rocker is the Hubbard rocker from Room and Board.
This is an aerial view of the coffee table. The thin steel that forms the shelf and the top are painted with a white enamel. The top spills over on the right, hiding the table's contents from the open room. Steel was selected for both its durability and its weight.
The legs are were kept raw to showcase the irregular chatter marks made by Chris' grinding. We knew the legs of the Room and Board chair were natural steel but we were surprised when it arrived that it too had exposed grind marks. A happy little accident!

This project is a loft renovation that I did in Mill No. 9 and has just wrapped up in the last week. The owners, Rob and Carol Lukemeyer are two of the most dynamic people you could ever hope to befriend. Ms. Osherov and I will be shooting their space later in the month. Stay tuned! Thanks Rob and Carol for allowing the Star to photograph your space just one day after your vacation!

Monday, June 1, 2009

“The Target Aesthetic” at The Toby

My new favorite event in Indy happens nearly every Thursday night at The Randall L. and Marianne W. Tobias Theater, also known as The Toby, at the IMA. The newly renovated theatre has a great vibe with great acoustics, ample comfy auditorium seating with places to park your coffee or wine (yes, you can purchase beverages in the lobby) and there is a lovely accessible seating area furnished with easy to move Philippe Starck Ghost Chairs.

Photo snagged from the IMA website.

Under the direction of Anne Laker the theater has been chock-full of interesting film showings, digital art screenings and guest lectures. This Thursday Jeff Carter, senior designer for Target, will be discussing “the retail giant’s democratic design-for-all philosophy and collaborations with designers such as Michael Graves and Isaac Mizrahi.” In the U.S. the top two big box retailers are Wal-mart and Target. While Wal-mart has continually boasted low pricing, Target has always tried to balance celebrating product design with product affordability. It wasn’t until Target started to feature Michael Graves’ housewares that I really took notice of their design awareness. Fourteen years later you can enter just about any department in Target and see a “star” name. I never expected to read: Alexander McQueen for Target. I have high hopes that Thursday’s presentation will be a unique insight into a company that has single handedly brought design awareness to the suburbs. If you are not an IMA member yet, (and why not?!?) hurry and join so you can enjoy this and future presentations at half the price. “The Target Aesthetic” is June 4th at 7:00pm. Ticket prices are $7 Public / $4 Members / $5 Students. Get there a few minutes early to grab a drink and mingle in the lobby. Kudos to Anne for breathing life into this great venue!

These are some of the pieces designed by Alexander McQueen for Target. Yes please!

And this is why you should know this designer:
Alexander McQueen (British, b. 1969).
“Oyster Dress,” spring/summer 2003.
Ivory silk chiffon and silk organza.

See you Thursday!!!