Architect Vladimir Radutny describes the functions required of this kitchen as basic, but the clean, light-filled space he designed looks and works well beyond ordinary. 

The homeowners—a family with young children—wanted an open, modern area at the back of the house for daily living. The front rooms in their narrow, early 1900s Chicago greystone maintain an elegant feel that reflects the history of the surrounding neighborhood; however, for the kitchen, the clients sought a more livable and durable family area while keeping a visual tie to the formal spaces.  “This space is the hinge for their lives,” Radutny says, “and they needed the kitchen to be as connected and open as possible to accommodate typical family activities. Plus, an open space also allows light more fully into the house.”

PROJECT DETAILS

Location Chicago
Architect Vladimir Radutny Architects, Chicago
Builder Harder Brothers, Chicago
Kitchen/Sitting Area Size 620 square feet 
House Size 1,950 square feet
Construction Cost $180,000

The kitchen enjoys southeast exposure, so including a lot of glass in the room made sense. In addition to sliding glass doors that open onto a terraced deck, a large picture window illuminates a stairway that leads to upstairs bedrooms and a lower-level guest suite. A floor-to-ceiling panel of acid-etched, fixed glass filters light onto a floating desk that slips through the wall to the edge of the picture window. The same acid-etched glass fronts upper cabinets, while an operable window provides additional sunlight for whoever’s working at the sink. 

The use of glass also goes beyond the basic with a mirrored backsplash, which bounces natural light around the room: A cantilevered glass dining table wraps the walnut-veneer island, producing a sculptural centerpiece for the space. Pale gray granite countertops complete the palette and, although not made of glass, a highly polished finish enhances the room’s reflective qualities.

CRAFTY SOLUTIONS

Large, open kitchens might seem easy to design, but often they need extra thought and consideration. They raise questions such as how to give homeowners a space to cook while the kids do their homework without placing them so far apart they can’t talk, or how to lay out workstations so hosts can prep in peace and still chat with their guests on the other side of the island. 

Architect Vladimir Radutny looks to fabricators to solve these challenging design issues, and the Glenwood Residence is full of examples of his work with local craftsmen:

• One of Chicago’s oldest glass fabricators—Torstenson Glass—produced the mirrored glass backsplash, a fixed pane of acid-etched structural glass behind the floating desk, as well as the wraparound glass tabletop.

• WK Custom Cabinetry crafted the upper and lower cabinets and finished the side of the upper cabinets with a shallow set of glass shelves.

• The island’s wraparound floating glass table relies on a stainless steel framework for support. Metal made the most sense as long as the welds were flawless. Radutny looked to local metalsmith Crosstree to provide such detailed work. 

“Even if you look closely, the welds are almost invisible,” he raves. “You can appreciate the construction and execution of these parts you see beneath the table. And it creates conversation when people come over on how well this was crafted.” 

“The intent is for the back of the house to feel built for today’s living,” explains Radutny about the choice of contemporary materials in contrast to the brick and wood found throughout the rest of the home. “We wanted to introduce glass and steel but also to select a material to transition between these different areas, so we used walnut flooring as the primary consistency of the material palette.” 

The walnut, steel, and glass island separating the food prep area from the desk station creates a clear circulation path for scurrying kids and rushing grown-ups. A blond brick column also acts as a circulation element and recalls the home’s traditional exterior. “It hints at the building’s history,” Radutny says.

Open shelves offer more than the opportunity for artful presentation, according to the architect, who says the ability to see objects on the shelves forces more strategic organization. “It actually changes the occupants’ lifestyle into a more free and clean way of living,” Radutny says. “You’re intentionally creating this way of living that’s lighter and less conducive to clutter.”