When designing this expanded and remodeled kitchen in a 1932 Seattle home, architect Nils Finne faced a common dilemma. “We thought, how do we do a kitchen that dovetails with the older home but seems fresh, 2007?” he says.

Finne and his staff answered his own question with a sophisticated interplay of textures and patterns against a light putty-colored background. Randomly spaced recessed niches are spread out across the painted wood ceiling, mirroring the random-width oak floorboards. “The variable slots align with the recessed lighting,” he says. “It was a way of integrating the lighting into the ceiling.” Custom cabinet fronts feature a raised, reedlike pattern designed by Finne and cut by a CNC (computer numerical control) router. When the rear of the house was demolished to make way for the enlarged kitchen, parts of the original brick exterior walls remained in place to mark the line between old and new. A backsplash of rustic plaster tiles and a limestone fireplace surround add to the textural variety.

Above the three-sided fireplace sits a wood-fired pizza oven, something the owners had dreamed about for years. In addition to spacious food prep areas, the 500-square-foot room contains a reading niche and a corner breakfast nook with a steel-and-mahogany table custom designed by Finne. Natural light pours into the entire space through the north wall's bank of steel-framed windows, chosen to honor the steel windows of the original Tudor Revival house. “The whole kitchen becomes a place they never leave,” says Finne.

Project Credits
Schultz Miller Construction, Seattle
Architect: Finne Architects, Seattle
Project size: 500 square feet
Construction cost: Withheld
Photography: Benjamin Benschneider

Resources: Backsplash: Pratt and Larson; Dishwasher/steam oven/plate warmer: Miele; Fireplace/pizza oven tile: Ann Sacks; Oven: Dacor; Paint: Benjamin Moore; Plumbing fixtures: Elkay, Hansgrohe, and In-Sink-Erator; Range: Wolf; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero; Vent hood: Ventahood; Windows: Hopes.

Premium Blend Smart space planning and a mélange of different textures save this Newport, R.I., master bath from a humdrum fate. “It's such a tiny room, and it faces north,” says architect Peter Twombly. “We were looking for ways to elaborate on it and make it interesting.” He and project architect Gale Goff covered the wall behind the tub with staggered rows of curved cedar strips for a woven-wood effect. Handsome little pegs hide the screws that hold the cedar in place, punctuating the wall's graphic look.

Twombly and Goff mixed a stone vanity counter with metal accents like brushed chrome fixtures and a bronze towel bar. (The bar also serves as a handrail for the husband, who uses a wheelchair.) Small beach stones collected by the wife are interspersed with slate floor tiles, whose streaks of warm and cool tones pick up the colors of both metals. An antique shoji screen slides back along the birch plywood tub enclosure so the bath can borrow natural light and bay views from the wife's painting studio next door.

Rather than devote precious spaceto a hamper, the architects devised a pass-through that leads from a cubby under the sink to the laundry room on the other side of the cedar-clad wall. And the vanity mirror, indirectly lit by recessed incandescent strips, sits on a small tilt for the husband's ease of use. Though the bath isn't big, its contributions to the owners' quality of life are large indeed.

Project Credits
Croyworks, Newport, R.I.
Architect: Estes/Twombly Architects, Newport
Project size: 90 square feet
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Warren Jagger Photography

Resources: Paint: C2 Paint; Plumbing fittings: Grohe; Plumbing fixtures: Gerberit and Porcher.

Soft Touch The most well-laid-out kitchen in the world won't work unless it creates a welcoming atmosphere. That's why Amory Architects decided to infuse this Brookline, Mass., kitchen addition and renovation with a series of curves and oval forms. “One of our goals in all our projects is to make people feel good every time they walk into a space,” says principal in charge David Amory. “Kitchens have lots of hard surfaces, and part of our goal here was to soften that.” He and project architect Chris Brown designed a sinuous wall and desk for the room's office nook, and a slightly vaulted kitchen ceiling to carry the eye toward the backyard. A central oval skylight lets the sun's rays fall onto a similarly shaped, custom-made island table. Even the cabinetry features curved corner shelving to match a rounded-off counter corner.

Amory and Brown worked with the clients to choose colors and materials that would support the soothing effect of all those curves. Honed granite counters and a tumbled marble backsplash form matte surfaces that complement the quiet gleam of stainless steel appliances. And a gentle, nature-inspired palette of off-whites and light greens complements the room's organic shapes. A wall of storage on the kitchen's south side features ribbed-glass fronts on the upper cabinets; above them, paneling made of painted plywood and half-round molding highlights the ceiling's subtle curve. Natural-finish maple cabinets mix with painted ones and contrast against the darker oak floor. “We wanted a balance of materials,” explains Amory.

Project Credits
Dolan Contracting, Canton, Mass.
Architect: Amory Architects, Boston
Project size: 269 square feet
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Greg Premru

Resources: Dishwasher: Bosch; Lighting fixtures: Alkco, Arroyo Craftsman, Lightolier, and Tech Light; Oven: Wolf; Plumbing fixtures: Franke; Range hood: Gaggenau; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero; Wall tile: Stone Source; Warming drawer: Wolf.

Trunk Show Too many cooks in a kitchen design usually spells disaster. But a group approach proved to be just the right thing for this Concord, Mass., project. Homeowner Dawn Epstein is an accomplished woodworker with her own furniture-making studio. She hired local cabinetmakers and designers Kochman Reidt + Haigh to help her overhaul her kitchen and interior designer Sue Kwasnick to advise on color selections. The KR+H team included Paul Reidt, Karla Monkevich, and Hannah Swartz. “[The design process] usually doesn't work well with so many people, but in this case it did,” says Reidt.

The new room's most striking aspect is its circular pantry, detailed to look like an enormous tree trunk. Prima vera, a blond tropical hardwood, forms the tree's “bark,” while sapele comprises the leaf and branch details. Slumped glass fills in the leaves, transmitting light from inside the pantry. “It's a magical, magical spot,” says Epstein. “For all its aesthetic interest, the pantry is also functional—everything is right out in front of you.”

Prima vera also makes up the room's base cabinet doors and drawerfronts, while the wall cabinets consist of quilted maple doors with sapele framework and accents. “Dawn has a remarkable appreciation for woods,” says Reidt. “The whole project is really a celebration of that material.” Arts & Crafts details on the wall cabinet doors are borrowed from the 1908 Greene & Greene-designed Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif. A carved sapele breakfast bar rises up over the granite island countertop to supply a casual dining spot for Epstein, her husband, and their daughter. And a freestanding hutch and built-in corner cabinet, along with the rest of the woodwork, relate to some of Epstein's furniture pieces. “Paul drew out my aesthetic in the cabinetry,” she says.

Project Credits
Kistler & Knapp Builders, Acton, Mass.
Designer: Kochman Reidt + Haigh Cabinetmakers, Stoughton, Mass., and Dawn Epstein, Concord, Mass.
Interior designer: Interior Visions, Newton Centre, Mass.
Project size: 450 square feet
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Steve Rosenthal

Resources: Backsplash tiles: Trikeenan Tile Works; Dishwasher: Asko; Fittings/fixtures: Grohe; Paint: Benjamin Moore; Range: Wolf; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero.