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.”
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.
“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.”