Atomic Kitchens

A 1949 kitchen blends mod­ern ad­di­tions with a mid­centu ry aes­thetic and be­comes a space fit for a gou rmet cook.

Atomic Ranch - - Contents Winter 2017 - By Kristin Dowd­ing • Pho­tog­ra­phy by Sam Oberter Pho­tog­ra­phy

SOME­TIMES, YOU JUST HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH. When Val Ne­hez of Stu­dio IQL was brought on to this kitchen up­grade, she knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. “It had all the orig­i­nal ev­ery­thing,” she says. “But it was re­ally bro­ken down after 55 years of use.” Though ev­ery­one in­volved had re­spect for pre­serv­ing mid­cen­tury au­then­tic­ity, there was no sav­ing what was left.

“It was hard to have the con­fi­dence to take it out, be­cause it was orig­i­nal,” Val says, “but the home­own­ers are huge gourmet cooks and the orig­i­nal space and ap­pli­ances weren’t suf­fi­cient.” With a new vi­sion in mind, they set to work blend­ing the mid­cen­tury bones they were given with a more func­tional space.

SUF­FI­CIENT SPACE

Their first pri­or­ity for this Her­mit Street, Philadel­phia home was mak­ing the kitchen large enough to move around in. Be­cause the kitchen is con­nected to other spa­ces, they needed to move the en­tire back wall of the house to ac­com­plish this task. The line vis­i­ble down

the mid­dle of the fireplace rep­re­sents where the wall used to be and gives an idea of how big a dif­fer­ence a few more feet can make.

“We were able to make the house seven feet big­ger when we moved the glass wall,” Val says. “This swal­lowed the fireplace into the house, as half of it used to be out­side.” With the ex­tra space, they were able to add a low counter to hold cook­books and pro­vide a convenient seat­ing area at the bar.

CRE­ATIVE THINK­ING

With lim­ited wall space, Val had to get cre­ative to in­clude up­per cab­i­nets. They cus­tom-built a steel bracket brac­ing sys­tem to con­nect up­per cab­i­nets to lower with­out us­ing a wall for sup­port. The de­sign is rem­i­nis­cent of float­ing shelves that were pop­u­lar in the 1950s, so the idea suits the home­own­ers' de­sire to pre­serve the mid­cen­tury aes­thetic.

The big­gest chal­lenge, how­ever, was get­ting all the coun­ter­tops to line up. “There wasn’t a sin­gle right an­gle in the house,” Val says. “They were all 45 de­grees.” To make the workspace con­sis­tent, they built a tri­an­gu­lar kitchen cart that rests at the end of the main counter space. Made of steel with a butcher-block top, the cart has shelv­ing for ex­tra stor­age and was built on cast­ers, so it can be moved if needed. “We didn’t want to make it a per­ma­nent fea­ture,” Val says. “Now, they can wheel it out­side if they need to.”

MID­CEN­TURY FEA­TURES

To en­sure the new ad­di­tions blend with the rest of the MCM home aes­thetic, Val used au­then­tic pe­riod ma­te­ri­als for the cus­tom-built pieces and kept orig­i­nal fea­tures where she could. “Stay­ing true to the materiality is the most im­por­tant part of de­sign­ing a mid­cen­tury home,” Val says. “The walls had col­ored glass in them that we kept.” For ev­ery­thing else, they used ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­ri­als that would keep the ad­di­tions from look­ing new and out of place.

Steel, sapele and lac­quered wood were the main ma­te­ri­als they used to fin­ish the kitchen. “We wanted peo­ple to be un­clear as to what was the new part,” Val says. Th­ese ma­te­ri­als are in line with the sleek look of mid­cen­tury and add the util­ity the home­own­ers needed for their gourmet cook­ing. Part of the steel brac­ing was used to cre­ate ex­tra stor­age for pots and pans over the sink due to the lim­ited num­ber of cab­i­nets. When it comes to your mid­cen­tury re­model, Val ad­vis­est to “fol­low the voice of the orig­i­nal house.”

“Stay­ing true to the MATERIALITY is the most im­por­tant part of de­sign­ing a mid­cen­tury home.”

THE KITCHEN DIDN’T HAVE A LOT OF SPACE FOR UP­PER CAB­I­NETS, SO STU­DIO IQL CUS­TOM BUILT CAB­I­NETS WITH STEEL FRAMES THAT SUP­PORT FLOAT­ING SHELVES FOR EX­TRA STOR­AGE.

ABOVE LEFT: VAL MADE SURE TO USE PE­RIOD AP­PRO­PRI­ATE MA­TE­RI­ALS FOR THE NEW CAB­I­NETS TO SEAM­LESSLY BLEND THEM INTO THE PE­RIOD AES­THETIC. A COM­BI­NA­TION OF SAPELE WOOD AND WHITE LAC­QUERED WOOD MAKE UP THE CAB­I­NETS AND SHELV­ING IN THE KITCHEN. ABOVE RIGHT: THE VI­BRANT RED BACK­SPLASH IS A CON­TIN­UED FEA­TURE THROUGH­OUT THE HOUSE AND BRINGS MID­CEN­TURY COLOR INTO THE NEU­TRAL KITCHEN. THE HOME­OWN­ERS CHOSE A GRAN­ITE COUN­TER­TOP THAT CLOSELY RE­SEM­BLES CARRARA MAR­BLE BUT COMES AT A LOWER PRICE POINT.

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