With combined living areas on the rise, hallways are becoming an endangered species. The few that remain usually link private spaces and serve as a display area for mementos. This not-so-big house in Sedgwick, Maine, has one of those. But its circulation showstopper is this short spine tucked behind the open kitchen. Architect JT Loomis, of Blue Hill, Maine–based Elliott and Elliott Architecture, pulled kitchen cabinets away from the wall to generate a useful nook, creating a circular path around the busy kitchen and windows on every wall.

Using both sides of the cabinetry is efficient and “strengthens the presence of these freestanding objects sitting in a larger space—the cabinet bank and the fireplace,” Loomis notes. The back of the cabinet bank holds audio equipment, file cabinets, and a desk. On the far side is a wall of open shelving that’s almost floor to ceiling. Thicker shelves handle long spans without sagging, while a depth of about a foot creates a shadowbox effect around a window. “With an operable window at seated eye level, you get breezes at the desk,” Loomis says. “It’s at your back, but as you spin around to grab a book you can look out into the patio garden just outside and the woods beyond.”—Shelley D. Hutchins