Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Modern Mondrian Kitchen, Part 1: Geometric Form Meets Gourmet Function

For those of you who have been following along, a few years back, we transformed our 1950’s rambler into a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Prairie style house.  Next up on the tour of our remodel is our kitchen addition.  I decided to go with a clean, simple modern design, but with an emphasis on geometric shapes and interesting compositions.  The design was Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, but the final result reminds me more of Mondrian (despite the lack of punches of primary colors --so not me!).  I have so much to say about my kitchen that this will most likely be a three-part series, starting with the cabinetry. So here are my top 10 favorite things about my kitchen cabinetry, along with some explanations of why I think they work.  

1.  The Composition:  The Christiana Cabinetry frameless cabinets with full overlay panel slab doors in natural maple are simple, modern and well-made. What I think makes them interesting is the composition of horizontal and vertical rectangles with the occasional square element.  It really does feel reminiscent of a Mondrian or Frank Lloyd Wright design.

2.  Lift-Up Cabinets:  In the upper cabinets, the mix of horizontals and verticals was accomplished with the use of several lift-up cabinets.  These not only added to the visual design, but they also offered better functionality for me than if we’d had all tall vertical cabinets.  At 15” high, these lift-ups only gave us one shelf, but the truth is -- I can’t reach above that without a stepstool anyway!  Plus, with standard cabinet doors, I was constantly bumping my head.  I just love how these lift-up cabinets marry form and function.

3.  Frosted Glass: We used frosted glass inserts in the horizontal lift-ups (except for the appliance garage, of course) to add even more interest to the cabinetry, as well as to tie in with the glass tile accents in the backsplash.  We use the glass lift-ups mostly for glassware or pale dishes so that they look neat and uncluttered.  
4.  Mixed Use Below:  The under-counter cabinets are also a composition of horizontal elements (i.e., drawers) and vertical elements (standard cabinets, as well as verticals pull-outs).  All this variety in form also maximizes function.   I find drawers and pull-outs much more useful than standard cabinets.  I especially love our narrow pull-outs – one is a spice rack and the other holds upright trays.

 5.  Symmetry and Balance:  I think part of what makes the composition work is that we have enough symmetrical elements to look organized, accented with a few asymmetrical components to add interest.  I think if you have no symmetry it looks chaotic, whereas too much symmetry looks stagnant and boring.

6.  Fun Geometric Island:  For the island, I wanted to create an unexpected design. My idea was to have a rectangular counter with a circle at one end (with a prep sink) and a crescent-shaped bar.   My dilemma was that the price of a round cabinet was steep. Then I had an epiphany. I could put a round counter top on a square cabinet and get my round element with even more geometric interest.  I turned the square cabinet on a 45 degree angle at the end of the long rectangular island.  I put a little square prep sink, also on an angle in the round top.  So now I had a square in a circle on another square!  I think this turned out even more interesting than a round cabinet with a round sink, and at a fraction of the cost.  

7. Hardware:  My first instinct was to use long stainless steel t-bars on all the cabinets, but my very wise kitchen designer advised me that it would look too busy to have the long pulls going in both the horizontal and vertical directions.  I could have put long pulls going horizontally on all the cabinets, but I thought that might make it confusing to figure out which direction the standard cabinets should open.  Anyway, we went with long t-bars on the horizontal elements and simple thumb pulls on the standard cabinets, and I’m happy with the look and the functionality.

8.  Unique Refrigerator Door Panels:  I had to do something a little different to break up the large vertical panels on our 48” side-by-side built-in refrigerator.  The solution was pretty simple:  I had the cabinet-makers add grooves to create faux panels with the illusion of a composition of verticals and horizontals.  The hardware is also offset for a more unconventional look.  I probably should have gone with heavier duty appliance handles.  We just used longer versions of the stainless t-bars, and you have to pull REALLY hard to open the frig!   I think it looks cool though.

9. Corner Shelving:  We had a corner in this kitchen where the upper cabinets would have been really tight, so I decided this area would better serve as open shelving for cookbooks and display.  The offset verticals in the shelves continue the geometric theme by creating square spaces at the upper left and lower right.  (This particular composition is repeated in several windows around the house.)

10. Display Space Above: I really like having space above the cabinets to display decorative items.  Originally, we planned for glass cabinets to the ceiling for display, but then I realized this would limit not only what I could put up there, but how well you could see it.  I like having my collection of African baskets, masks and artifacts out in the open.

Thanks for looking! Next up:  My Modern Mondrian Kitchen Part 2 (Appliances)

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