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Photos: Duo Dickinson

Guest architect Due Dickinson is the principal of Duo Dickinson Architect in Madison, Conn. His latest book is Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want. www.duodickinson.com.

Curves have a bad reputation—in the construction world, at least. They’re often assumed to be the whimsical, impractical idea of some nutty architect or designer. They require patience and precision to lay out in the field. They’re time-consuming to build—always the case when rectilinear and flat-stock building products are asked to bend. Curves are more costly, too, because custom work is required. But when space is tight and moveable walls are limited, creating curves isn’t just reasonable, it’s warranted.

This apartment kitchen remodel involved an existing floor plan that had to be crunched to accommodate high-intensity use, with both kitchen and eating area shoehorned into a 10-by-15-foot room. To make matters even trickier, only one wall could be moved. After we pushed that wall back a couple of feet, we had the space to position a working island in the middle of the room. Curving the island at both ends encourages gathering at either end. The curves create more floor space in which to stand around, and they eliminate pointy corners for company to bang a hip on. Here, curves are the perfect solution: The owners, diehard cooks, have an unobstructed work area to themselves while their wine-drinking guests stay clear of the stir-frying yet well within easy conversational range. A couple of other strategically placed curves opened up other parts of this cramped kitchen. Rounding corners off the built-in table at the eating nook enlarged the kitchen doorway by several inches, and a gently arcing pantry cabinet—rather than a rectangular one jutting out into the room—makes for easier traffic flow.

Before

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Cramped Quarters This tight apartment kitchen needed more space in order to work for its owners. Due to structural limitations, expanding more than a little beyond the basic plan wasn’t an option.

  • The door swings inward, occupying space and banging into the counter.
  • A 5-foot-wide space between the wall with counters and the one with the sink and the range means that the cook is scurrying back and forth—a lot.
  • Space on either side of this counter is wasted.
  • The kitchen doorway is just over 2 feet wide—too tight to accommodate normal traffic.
  • The range appears to be floating in space, with no landing area alongside it to set down hot pots.

After

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Curve Appeal They take time to lay out, and they require custom work, but in this tight kitchen, curves are a smart solution, providing better circulation.

  • A rounded island encourages gathering on either end, creating more standing around room and eliminating pointy corners.
  • Moving the wall a couple of feet made room for the centerpiece of the kitchen, its rounded working island.
  • Curved pantry doors jut out into the room less than rectangular ones do, allowing for more floor space.
  • At the eating nook, a built-in kitchen table with a rounded end helps open up a path to and from the doorway, encouraging better traffic flow.
  • In addition to allowing more gathering space, the rounded end offers access to the prep sink from many angles.