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A cozier kitchen ... with new angles and curves.

Previous owners made a well-intentioned attempt to open the rear of this turn-of-the-century Marin County cottage to its magnificent setting. But the resulting 12-by 35-foot space-containing a combination kitchen, dining area, family room, and utility room-seemed cold, sterile, and overlarge by comparison with the rest of the house. And stainless steel commercial fixtures and appliances didn't help. To lighten the mood, Mill Valley architect Elida Schjuman played up the angles-and threw in a few curves.

First, she replaced a rectangular work island with an angled, two-tiered peninsula that defines the kitchen space and orients it at a 45[deg] angle to the dining and sitting areas. The peninsula relieves the boxiness and de-emphasizes the length of the single big room. The stepped wall also conceals views of kitchen clutter as meals are being prepared.

Creating a diagonal wall with open shelving (between wall ovens and refrigerator) cut a corner off the rear wall and gave a kitchen-in-the-round feeling to the work core, where ample counters surround the cook. The most frequently used areas-sink and cooktop, and the counter on the kitchen side of the peninsula-orient the cook toward both view and conversation.

On the angled rear wall, a graceful arch defines an alcove that hides a fully equipped bake center behind roll-down tambour doors. Subtle uplighting gives drama to the arched soffit and amplifies the sense of its depth.

Opposite the dining area, the architect carved out a second alcove. This one houses a glass-doored cabinet for displaying the owner's crystal and china; under-counter storage holds more china, serving platters, and table linens. The countertop comes in handy as a buffet.

An oak cornice around the perimeter of the entire space gives unity while further accenting the arches that break the whole into more graceful parts. A transom window carries the curve of the arched alcoves to the exterior wall.

The uplighting in the arches can provide a soft glow for evening dining.
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Date:Nov 1, 1990
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