Small Kitchen, Big Ideas
Small Space, Big Ideas
Three years ago, architect Douglas Pierson, of the ecominded firm (fer) Studio, and his wife, Youn Choi, designer at Pod Designstudios, hatched a creative fix for a too-small house: They razed their garage and built a second, larger house beside the first, which then became a rental. Although their lot was zoned for two homes, a 650-square-foot footprint dictated that the new, übermodern home had to be built skyward. A 30-foot height limit meant that kitchen and living room would share a single, open-plan floor, with bedrooms above.
"We couldn't fit in a dining room," says Douglas. "The kitchen had to accommodate integrated spaces for storage, prep, cooking, and eating," all in about 200 square feet. It also had to flow seamlessly into the living space to create more room for entertaining and to ensure that cooking doubled as family time for the couple and their children, Oscar, 12, and Sora, 9.
The solution to the space crunch began with a custom island. A 13 × 4-foot slab of honed white quartz crowns a steel frame and surrounds the stovetop, with a spacious prep counter on one side and a cantilevered dining table on the other. Combined, the island becomes a centerpiece for both living and cooking. For quick access, tableware tucks neatly on open shelves under the counter, with drawers below for pots and pans, linens, and flatware. A galley-style configuration puts sink, dishwasher, fridge, and ovens in easy reach of the stove, while on the reverse side of the appliance wall, a small, walk-in pantry holds dry goods. Recessed ceiling lights illuminate workstations, and a built-in credenza separates the kitchen from the stairs to the upper floor, adding yet more storage space.
"In old-style cooking," says Youn, who grew up in Korea, "beautiful food was prepared behind the scenes and brought to the table. Now, with time so short, especially for working parents, it makes sense to share the whole experience as a family."
What Makes This A Cook's Kitchen?
Designing from scratch allowed Douglas and Youn to make practical choices that set the tone for healthy eating and harmonized with the home's contemporary vibe. Youn, the family's primary cook, has 30 minutes to an hour to prepare dinner once she leaves work and grabs the kids. "As soon as I walk in, all I need is right in front of me," she says.
Her Korean-influenced cooking incorporates fresh produce into Korean bibimbap, pancakes, noodles, and curries, all of which may start on the stove and finish in a small, nearby convection oven topped with cabinetry that holds bakeware for the job. As she stirs and sautés, the children perch on bar stools at the table chatting or doing homework. When food is cooked, she parks it on stove burners to keep it warm.
To compensate for lost window light, the homeowners installed a frosted glass backsplash, backlit with a concealed light box.
The wall behind the sink and fridge conceals the family's pantry, as well as most of the home's plumbing and electrical.
Everyday dishes are easily reached on open shelves. Utensils and linens are stored in drawers on the opposite side.
Variety of Woods for Different Functions
Honey-colored maple sets off open shelving; darker American walnut fronts cupboard doors. Recessed grips at the tops or sides keep cabinet fronts simple. To preserve the heavily trafficked kitchen floor, Douglas and Youn applied three coats of a clear, water-based seal.
Electric Ovens for Even Heating
A compact, 24-inch Whirlpool convection oven is a go-to kitchen tool. "It's small enough for toast, big enough for whole meals," says Youn. The larger, 30-inch convection oven, also a Whirlpool and mounted below the first, accommodates food for dinner parties, as well as holiday roasts and turkeys.
Polished, honed quartz lends a crisp edge and doesn't compete with the collage of different woods. Competitively priced with marble and granite, it wipes clean with a nonabrasive, biodegradable stone cleaner.