Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The kitchen as 'home central'

The kitchen looking into the dining room in one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses.
For all the architectural bombast with which Frank Lloyd Wright garnished his buildings from soup to nuts, he minimized the kitchen as the "workroom" of the house, sparing it the eye-catching elements that would tempt one to linger there. It was merely meant to get in and get out of, so one could enjoy the main living/dining attractions when dinner was served and cleanup was done.

Photo by Jeremy Mason McGraw, courtesy of Pinterest and 417homemag.com
But this understated side of Wright never caught on, as contemporary kitchens like this one show. As a home's rear kitchen/mudroom entry is used more often than the formal front entrance, the kitchen has supplanted the living and dining rooms as the home's social center and focal point, for its ability to combine both of those functions fluently.

Photo by Jeremy Mason McGraw,
courtesy of Pinterest and 417homemag.com
This one certainly tempts you to stay and eat and talk with its elegant island counter/bar. The blacks, creams and rusts of the chiseled-edge granite top dramatizes it as the space's socio-gastronomic centrifuge. Its woodwork, like the paneled cabinetry, is custom-milled and walnut-stained with living/dining-room furniture finesse, which also conceals the refrigerator and freezer to make the kitchen more fine than functional. The twin lampshaded chandeliers of scrolled cast-iron dangle enough dining-room delicacy before you to make your breakfasts, quick bites or gourmet helpings worthwhile here.

For all its flair, this kitchen roughs it a bit for balance. The chandeliers hang from a structure of hand-hewn ceiling beams reminiscent of colonial New England architecture. This primitive spirit also comes out in the rugged fieldstone wall and segmental brick arch that frames the stainless steel Wolf range in a "fireplace hearth" context. The Italian-inspired tumbled-tile backsplash unifies the artful with the craftsmanlike in a way that complements the chef's creations.

But Wright's Usonian vision of interspatial flow is not foregone here. Living, dining and food-prep areas are wholly contiguous. This arrangement turns the dining room into "spillover" space from the bar for large dinner parties. It also enables ready retirement before the Venetian-finished fireplace after supper. Umber-glazed autumn- gold walls unify all spaces into one big happy eat-drink-and-be-merry experience, proving Wright right on walls as barriers to full living but wrong on kitchens as mere machines for living. 
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