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All-star kitchens: three examples show how to make the heart of the home more functional, airy, and stylish.

1 Warm and modern

In this Orinda, California, kitchen, chatting with the cook is easy and comfortable: There's a built-in couch right near the range. It's one of the highlights of a remodel that opened up a 300-square-foot kitchen. The kitchen was formerly part of a long corridor that connected the living room with a small breakfast room. One wall of the kitchen hid a stairway.

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Architect Lindy Small extended the kitchen into the former breakfast room so there would be more space to chop, cook, and spread out appliances in an L-shaped layout. This change allowed her to open up the stairway, turning the railings into an architectural feature and dramatically expanding the space. The new kitchen is about 430 square feet.

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The railings and the cabinet that forms the back of the couch establish a subtle horizontal banding that repeats throughout the kitchen, helping to unify the space.--PETER O. WHITELEY

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2 Flexible finesse

Seattle architect David Coleman opened this 250-square-foot galley-style kitchen to adjacent rooms and used subtle level changes to define each area. The flexible plan makes the space ideal for breakfast for 1 or a dinner party for 10.

The kitchen now overlooks the dining room, which in turn opens to a terrace via large lift-and-slide glass doors, making both interior spaces feel larger. "I like to blur the line between interior and exterior space where appropriate," Coleman says. The pivoting floor-to-ceiling windows at opposite ends of the kitchen also accomplish this. The large single panes ensure that there is no visual interruption between inside and outside. By pivoting out from the bottom and in from the top, the windows allow air to circulate without letting in rain, making them particularly appropriate for Seattle's climate.

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The change in floor level--the kitchen is two steps above the dining room--is key to how the space functions. "The sight lines are such that when seated at the dining table, you aren't looking right into the dirty dishes," Coleman explains. The elevation also gives the homeowner an enviable vantage point from the range.

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--JIL PETERS

3 1920s with a twist

The traditional U-shaped plan gets a new lease on life in this 195-square-foot San Francisco kitchen. The sink occupies the bottom of the U, and the range is at the open end. To create a visual connection between the kitchen and a small adjoining breakfast area, architect Jerome Buttrick positioned cabinets beneath the countertops and along the range backsplash instead of blocking views with overhead cabinetry. As a result, the room feels bright and expansive.

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In addition to the extensive storage under the counters, every inch of the countertop is useful for food preparation, serving, or display. "People think that to have good workspace and storage, you have to have miles and miles of cabinets and countertops," Buttrick says. "But if you are smart about it, you don't need that."

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The ceiling has a series of recessed panels that contain incandescent downlights to further brighten and define the space. There wasn't room for double ovens, so Buttrick chose a generous-size range and built in smaller appliances along the range wall, including a food steamer and a microwave.--MARY JO BOWLING

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DESIGN: Lindy Small Architecture, Oakland, CA (510/251-1066)

DESIGN: David Coleman/Architecture, Seattle (www.davidcoleman.com or 206/443-5626)

DESIGN: Jerome Buttrick, Buttrick Wong Architects, Emeryville, CA (510/594-8700)

RELATED ARTICLE: GREAT IDEAS

* With the couch at its center, the sitting area plays many roles for a busy family. It has a desk for a home office or homework center, room for a small television in the end cabinets, hidden storage in pullout drawers beneath the cushions, and storage and display areas on the outside faces of the 44-inch-tall cabinet screening the end of the couch.

* Sliding doors made of vertical-grain fir and sandblasted glass create a simple and elegant camouflage for the pantry beside the stair-way.

* Natural woods reinforce the feeling of warmth. The breakfast table and couch surround are mahogany, most cabinet fronts are beech, and walnut is used as an accent for a cabinet built into the stair railing. Bamboo flooring adds lightness.

* The almost graphic clarity of the design continues overhead with white-painted beams that stand out against an unpainted wood ceiling.

RELATED ARTICLE: GREAT IDEAS

* Frosted glass for windows that face the neighboring house maximize daylight while preserving privacy. Clear glass is used for higher panes.

* Coordinating colors and materials create a balanced look: The floors are quarter-sawn, face-nailed oak tinted to complement the mahogany cabinet fronts and window and door frames.

* The study/office space fits into an alcove beside one of the pivoting windows and is separated from the kitchen by a single-step level change. "It is still in the middle of everything but is tucked off to one side," David Coleman explains. It puts inevitable clutter out of sight.

* The simple, extendable Tara faucet from Dornbracht (www.dornbracht.com or 800/774-1181 for distributors) maintains the clean look of the kitchen. It can lengthen to reach the far corners of the sink.

* To create a feeling of solidness and grandeur, the French limestone countertops sit on stone side panels rather than on wood. Underneath, the wood cabinets act as paneling.

* Slate tiles extend from the dining area onto the terrace, making a smooth transition from inside to outside.

RELATED ARTICLE: GREAT IDEAS

* Honed--instead of polished--granite for the counters creates a softer look that doesn't dominate the space.

* A storage wall that's away from the main traffic area puts occasional-use items in one place, leaving the kitchen uncluttered.

* Open shelving above the sink and near the dishwasher holds everyday tableware.

* Drawers instead of deep shelves behind each cabinet front make it possible to slide out the contents and see everything without bending down.

* The understated detailing references the 1910s and 1920s with subway-tile patterning (tile from Waterworks, www.waterworks.com or 800/899-6757 for store locations) and a gooseneck faucet (from Franke KSD www.frankeksd.com or 800/626-5771 for distributors). Leaded-glass cabinet fronts echo the window panes.

* Built-in wine storage under one of the counters beside the door to the dining room holds 15 bottles in a grid.
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Title Annotation:kitchen remodeling projects
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U900
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:1067
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