Drama in the kitchen
hen I first met with Stu and Bo Wolfson at their Nevada City home on Deer Creek, they expressed their desire to create a professional-quality kitchen to match Stu’s appetite and skill in gourmet cooking.
Their home is filled with arts-and-crafts furnishings and international objets d’art, and needed a kitchen to match. After assessing the existing kitchen, located in a dark space in the rear of the home, I suggested relocating the kitchen to the sitting room on the side of the house with a dramatic view.
The sitting room had windows on three sides and looked directly down on a tree-lined waterway, but had little appeal for social activity with its current features. Without heat, winter living was impossible because the old aluminum windows leaked cold air; in the summer, the heat could not dissipate since the windows did not open. A little-used half bath (accessed by walking through a closet) and an outdated wet bar would provide plumbing connections for the new kitchen, and removal of the closet and bath would open it up for an airy atmosphere.
The Wolfsons wholeheartedly approved my design and I set to work, enjoying the beauty of the location and the opportunity to collaborate with clients who have a wonderful sense of style.
Our crew started by replacing the aging, leaking windows with high-quality, exterior-clad Loewen wood windows. Raising the top of the windows and lowering the sill heights brought in maximum light, affording full views of the creek. Awning windows were placed below fixed-view windows to provide ventilation in summer. The Douglas fir windows were trimmed in a classic Craftsman molding detail.
At the Wolfsons’ request, we added a small deck off the kitchen to expand the living and entertaining area, accessed by a pair of French doors. To match the tall window design, I added an arched transom window over the doors.
The existing ceiling was divided into thirds by dark rough beams, posing another design challenge. Structurally, we couldn’t remove them without significant cost. I proposed we wrap the beams in smooth painted woodwork and intersect them with matching false beams to divide the ceiling into nine equal bays, which we lined with painted crown molding.
Our painter, Pete Madrono, painted the ceilings a contrasting pumpkin color that complemented the Swiss coffee-colored crown and beams and the natural woodwork of the doors and windows. A recessed can light was installed in each bay to provide visual symmetry. The Wolfsons chose a Frank Lloyd Wright reproduction light fixture to center on the French doors and consolidate the Craftsman feel of the room.
The kitchen cabinets have an “L” shape, with an angled corner sink to take in the view while cleaning up. The cabinetry is maple with a warm glaze on Shaker panel-style doors and mullioned glass doors on the upper wall cabinets. The island is an ample 3-by-4 feet, featuring an under-mount stainless-steel prep sink, open bookshelves for ready access to cookbooks, deep drawers for dining linens and appliance storage, and a cutlery drawer for Stu’s chef’s knives.
Appliances were chosen for true gourmet functionality. The stove is a commercial-grade Dynasty, complete with matching hood, heat lamps and a warming shelf. A Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawer was installed, offering generous space for stacking dirty dishes and a place to store them until the next use. The dishwasher drawer concept is becoming more popular in kitchens as it is far easier to load and unload than conventional dishwashers. A Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator continues the stainless theme.
Solid-black Corian countertops were originally planned, but further research proved them to be unsuitable for heavy kitchen use. Instead, we substituted Absolute Black solid-granite tops, which look stunning against the honed gray slate backsplash.
Under-cabinet halogen lights highlight the counters, and dimmers offer infinite adjustment of the lighting mood. Hickory hardwood flooring was chosen to continue the warm wood textures of the windows and cabinets, contrasting with the black granite and stainless appliances.
With a small table for two or three to share coffee on a sunlit morning, warmed by a freestanding gas stove to take off the chill, this versatile kitchen now provides a year-round center for quiet conversation, gourmet experimentation and open-air entertainment. The once under-used room has now become a focal point – bringing life and activity into a beautiful, functional space.
Andrew Wright, CR is an award-winning general contractor and certified remodeler with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. He can be reached at WrightBuilt Home Remodel & Design at 272-6657.
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