Some cooks love how an open plan kitchen can turn meal prep into a party. Then there’s the owner of the Prairie Dog kitchen. She’s the cook in the family and loves having company—especially when they stay clear of the kitchen while dinner’s being made. She and her husband wanted an open plan living area that would have a delineated cook’s space yet still encouraged gathering. Architects Jane Treacy and Phil Eagleburger came up with a great answer: a kitchen island with a raised surround to shelter the cook but not isolate her. To join a conversation, she just has to peek over the surround, like a prairie dog.

The couple sought a kitchen that would play well with the modernist style of their co-op building, Washington’s Watergate complex, which was built in the 1960s. The island doubles as a sleek armoire, uniting kitchen and living room while separating them enough to define both spaces and keep cooking chaos out of sight. On the kitchen side is a prep area with a 2-foot-deep Corian countertop, plus drawers and cubbies to keep ingredients and tools close at hand. On the living room side are drawers and cabinets—ample storage for glasses, dishes, and tablecloths. Custom cabinets offer warmth and texture, their stained vertical-grain fir lending contrast to the neutral surroundings.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.