This understated yet striking renovated kitchen reflects its home’s modern sensibility and the natural beauty of its hilltop surroundings.
When this home was built in the early 1960s,
the original homeowners decreed that no trees be removed from the property during construction. Architect Joseph Esherick complied and created a three-story wood, steel, concrete and glass modern marvel that, nearly six decades after its construction, remains nestled in trees.
Located high above Oakland, California, much of the hill-set home offers its current homeowners views across the city to the San Francisco Bay and its iconic bridges, in addition to trees in all directions, thanks to the multiple layers, shapes and sizes of windows. A recent renovation added the kitchen to the list of rooms providing sweeping views of the hills behind and the bay beyond.
The kitchen is located on the upper level of the home (the level the homeowners and their guests enter), sharing space with the living room, dining room, a bedroom and a bathroom. When architect Andrew Lee was tasked with completing a renovation, the kitchen had already been through a 1980s makeover that was functional but did not fit with the modernist sensibilities of the home nor the natural beauty of its surroundings.
Located high above Oakland, California, much of the hill-set home offers its current homeowners views across the city to San Francisco Bay and its iconic bridges.
The renovated kitchen had just a small countertop-height opening and doorway uniting it with the dining and living rooms, so one goal of the update was to further open the space. The homeowners didn’t want to change the footprint, though. Andrew Lee met the challenge with the assistance of Shara Lee (no relation) and her team at Kerf Design.
“The first step of the design process was to test various floor plans: arrangements of counters, cooking, refrigeration, sink, dining nook and access points to adjacent spaces,” Andrew says. “In parallel, we studied various configurations of openings into the dining/living room, both doors and above-counter openings.” The chosen concept for the new design was folding shutters and doors in the walls that separate the kitchen from the living and dining rooms, giving the homeowners the ability to easily close off or open up the space.
“I’m especially proud of the oversized shutters that separate the kitchen from the living/dining room,” states Andrew. “These were the result of testing different ideas for how to provide a way to close off the kitchen when desired: sliding panels, louvered shutters, etc. … In the end, I felt that the house wanted something very simple—something that would almost disappear—and the final design basically mimics the original pass-through shutters (which were simply functional, to allow food to be passed from the kitchen to the living area), only greatly enlarged.”
FORM AND FUNCTION
“We wanted to honor the house as it was originally designed by Esherick,” explains Shara. “Form follows function. Instead of adding handle hardware, we cut notches into the cabinetry for handles because it’s the most efficient and straightforward way to open a door or drawer.”
The remaining finishes are equally restrained, with just a slight pop coming from the sienna color used on a selection of drawer fronts and the insides of selected cabinets. Just as in the home’s original design, the kitchen renovation recognizes what the true draw is at this home, the great outdoors.
“We wanted to honor it was the house as originally designed by Esherick.” —Shara Lee