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Creating a Functional Kitchen with an Eco-conscious Design

Nature’s soothing palette and eco-conscious design were the focus of this organized family kitchen?

Credit: Jo-Ann Richards

Locally sourced BC fir brightens up this eco-friendly kitchen

Nature’s soothing palette and eco-conscious design were the focus of this organized family kitchen

The tranquil lakeside view and lush natural setting that inspired Michelle and Kam’s West Coast-style kitchen is not visible from the street. Once inside the home, though, there’s no missing it. Even before the full wall of nine-foot-high windows leads the eye down a stone path to the lake, a full complement of natural materials – inside and out – wraps visitors in warm, soul-soothing ambiance. 

“We wanted to take full advantage of our beautiful lake and nature view, so we made that a priority and built the kitchen around it,” says Michelle, who worked diligently with designers to help create the ideal kitchen for her family of four. 

View from the Kitchen

The kitchen in the 5,500-square-foot south-facing home is bathed in sun all day, making the windows and patio sliders that open up seven feet wide a natural choice. Wood, stone, and porcelain elements create a stunning visual connection with the stonework and garden in the yard beyond the kitchen. 

Functionality is the focus of this spacious area. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

Retired architect and longtime friend Stanley Kwok helped Michelle with the initial concept for the space, and Zebra Group developed the working drawings and completed the design elements. The fine details and functional elements were Michelle’s work, which was inspired by the images and ideas she collected from magazines.

“We made use of high-quality natural materials throughout to give it a warm, West Coast feel, but intentionally stayed away from trying to make a bold statement,” says Michelle. “We want guests to feel relaxed and comfortable to be themselves in our home.”

Deliberate Details in the Kitchen and Dining Room

Custom fir cabinets and granite countertops lay the foundation for finer details that pull the design together, such as the onyx-shaded pendant lamps and chandelier that lend an earthy timeless quality to the otherwise contemporary design. 

Dry-glaze ceramic tiles in off-white on the floors and backsplash offer the impression of hardwood with practical maintenance, and two rows of one- by three-inch porcelain tiles resembling tree rings create visual interest in the backsplash. Frosted glass sliders softly divide the kitchen from the pantry and from the adjacent mud room. 

Natural elements pull through to the dining area. Thatched panels of reed grass set in resin offer a softened separation between the dining area and the entranceway. Fir cabinetry beneath the panels offers storage for special occasion dishes. Pottery is displayed in a central column of open shelves set into the cabinets. 

Natural outside elements are drawn indoors with the living area’s decoration. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

The focal point in the dining area is an extendable table with a squared metal frame and deep brown tinted-glass top. Leather-backed chairs mimic similarly styled barstools in the main kitchen area, and a series of pendant lights with onyx shades ties in with the lights hanging over the island.

Full Kitchen Functionality

Bringing the outdoors in created a warm, simple beauty in a space that also has to be highly functional. “The floorplan was designed so that everything we need to work in the kitchen is just steps away,” says Michelle. 

The wall oven, steam oven and warming drawer set to the left of the 30-inch sealed burner rangetop leave room underneath for extra-wide drawers where cooking utensils are kept. Narrow pullout drawers on either side of the range keep spices, condiments and oils close at hand. 

Everything has its place in the well-organized kitchen. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

Double under-mount sinks are set into the island directly across from the range. A built-in soap dispenser, flip-out sponge trays, and a pullout garbage disposal make for quick cleanup, as do two built-in vac sweep pans at floor level.

Using Every Inch of Space

A key component of reducing clutter was making use of “dead space” in unsuspecting places. Vases and beer mugs tuck into cupboards in the back of the island, and flat items like placemats and cutting boards are hidden in the four-inch toe-kick drawers.

Using inventive storage methods to outfit the kitchen ensured every square inch of the space was well used. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

Slow-close, full-extension drawers offer two types of organization systems: adjustable sectioning slats, and a Rev-a-shelf pegboard system where pegs are configured around items to create almost any shape.

It was this careful planning, says Michelle, which more or less eliminated the potential for serious challenges in the design. “We spent a year in planning nearly every single detail of our home prior to breaking ground,” she says. “We also had an amazing group of people to work with.””

Adding Eco-elements

The design isn’t just about function and form. Reducing the impact of the home on the environment was also important. 

Ample storage area was an important eco-conscious design decision. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

A full-sized pantry, for example, houses all dry and canned goods, meaning fewer trips to the grocery store. The kitchen features low-VOC finishes on the walls and the custom fir cabinets constructed from B.C.-grown wood. LED pot lights, high-efficiency appliances and a flow-adjustable faucet cut back on energy and water consumption. 

The home runs on a geothermal heat system, with a horizontal loop embedded in the lake. 

“We feel it’s important to be conscious of the environment in our daily decision-making, especially with the magnitude of decisions involved in building a house,” says Michelle. “The way we live our life now will determine the future for our children and future generations.”

Space Savers

Breakfast Nook

A cozy breakfast nook is the perfect place for the whole family to use. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

The eight- by four-foot banquette is an informal place for everyday meals, conversation and kids’ homework. Bronze wipeable fabric seat cushions and a melamine tabletop with a marbled pattern bring practicality to this area. Pull-out drawers under the bench in the banquette store and organize kids’ games and books, and the seat cushions lift up to store extra items in the corners.

Computer Corner

While areas like these are predisposed to clutter, ample drawers and shelves keep everything organized. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

A recess accommodates a space-saving 28- by 58-inch desk and provides a central place for 
computer use and everyday items that may 
otherwise end up in a “junk drawer.” Drawers on either side flank the work area, and each member of the family has a cubby for mail, notices, and personal items.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.