Atomic Kitchens

Atomic Ranch - - Contents - By Sarah Jane Stone • Pho­tog­ra­phy by Whit Pre­ston

When the orig­i­nals just don’t make the grade, mod­ern ma­te­ri­als with mid­cen­tury sen­si­bil­i­ties save the day.

LO­CATED IN AUSTIN, TEXAS, THIS 1957 HOME STILL HAD ITS ORIG­I­NAL KITCHEN— but the func­tion­al­ity of the space was long gone.

Orig­i­nally built for a home builder who did a num­ber of houses in the neigh­bor­hood, the home went on to see its fair share of own­ers. Cur­rent home­own­ers Sloan and Peggy Houser ac­tu­ally started out as renters, but their love for the home was such that they con­vinced their land­lord to sell them the prop­erty.

In 2013, ar­chi­tects Rick and Cindy Black were called in to help ren­o­vate the kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing ar­eas. Their part­ner­ship on the project was no ac­ci­dent, as the cou­ples know one an­other through mu­tual friends as well as through Sloan’s plas­ter­ing busi­ness, Sloan Mont­gomery.


The Housers love to cook, but the orig­i­nal kitchen just wasn’t mak­ing the cut. Rick and Cindy de­scribe the pre­vi­ous space as be­ing cramped and with coun­ter­tops in short sup­ply. “Cab­i­nets were also re­ally hard to ac­cess, so they wanted a big im­prove­ment to stor­age and hard­ware quality,” Cindy says.

Ac­cord­ing to Rick and Cindy, the struc­tural lay­out of the house was their guid­ing prin­ci­ple, and their aim was to use this grid to lay out a ra­tio­nal sys­tem of walls and cab­i­netry. “At the same time, we opened up some of the cor­ners, which cre­ated a dy­namic re­la­tion­ship be­tween liv­ing and kitchen—which was pre­vi­ously very dis­con­nected,” Cindy says.

De­spite need­ing a new, bet­ter func­tion­ing, kitchen, the Housers didn’t want to lose all of the space’s mid mod charm. Rick and Cindy put a pri­or­ity on

pre­serv­ing the ex­ist­ing clerestory win­dows as well as the trim ledge. They also pre­served the ter­razzo floors, beams, the cabi­net fac­ing the liv­ing room, as well as the ma­sonry fire­place. Keep­ing with a con­cept from the orig­i­nal de­sign, Rick and Cindy in­cor­po­rated teak pan­el­ing in the space as well.


Af­ter three months of plan­ning their de­sign and four months of con­struc­tion, the Housers fi­nally had their dream kitchen. Com­plete with stain­less steel coun­ters cho­sen for their prac­ti­cal­ity, mod­ern ap­peal and the in­te­gral sink, the kitchen is a stun­ning blend of form and func­tion.

The kitchen fea­tures cus­tom cab­i­nets that have ve­neered teak fronts with full over­lay doors and full-ex­ten­sion drawer glides. Along the pantry wall, touch-latch hard­ware makes the added stor­age eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble with­out com­pro­mis­ing on streamlined style. It also helps the space blend seam­lessly with the wood pan­eled walls in the ad­ja­cent liv­ing ar­eas.

Also, in keep­ing with the mod ap­peal of clean lines is the stove, rather than com­pro­mis­ing the clean lines of the clerestory win­dows above with an un­sightly range hood, the gas cook­top has a pop-up vent that vents to the crawlspace down be­low.

As a master plas­terer, Sloan took a unique ap­proach to his home’s ren­o­va­tion. He re­fin­ished all the dry­wall sur­faces to a smooth, fine plas­ter— with the in­te­rior walls and fire­place re­fin­ished with a French plas­ter mix called Stuc Pierre. The is­land coun­ter­top as well as the open shelv­ing was milled from a felled Amer­i­can Elm from Sloan’s work­shop site. The end re­sult is a kitchen that hon­ors its mid­cen­tury dwelling while beau­ti­fully meet­ing the mod­ern needs of the home­own­ers.




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