ISSUE 2  |  Back to Basics 2016

Kitchen of the Week: A Monumental Marble Countertop

January 14, 2016 2:00 AM

BY Margot Guralnick

We recently explored a midcentury mountain house in North Vancouver updated for two history professors by Susan and David Scott of Scott & Scott Architects. Some people (us included) were enchanted by the succinctness of the kitchen with its weighty marble counter and open storage (“I love the rawness here and the materials selected. It’s rare to see this kind of restraint,” wrote one reader); others saw dust traps and the need for a dishwasher. (“Will we snicker about this kitchen with its 1,763 pounds of marble (and no cupboard doors) in 10 years?” someone asked.) We had to return for a closer look.

Photography courtesy of Scott & Scott Architects.

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Above: The kitchen is in a fifties post-and-beam house situated near the base of the Grouse Mountain gondola. After considering a range of options for the room—including an island, small table, and compact appliances—the owners opted to keep the space open and to make use of the existing fridge and range, both by Viking. “One of the clients is German and is particularly fond of oversize North American appliances,” David told us. “To him they have the charm of muscle cars.” They gained storage by deciding to do without a dishwasher, and focused the design on a center-of-attention counter with integrated sink.

Scott & Scott Architects kitchen remodel

Above: The counter weighs 800 kilos (approximately 1,763 pounds) and is supported by a joinery ash base that looks slim but is designed to support all that weight. “Ash is very strong,” says David. “The weight is distributed to many legs, so each is only carrying a reasonable amount. There are also machined stainless steel and brass adjustors on the bottom of the legs that are robust and allow each leg to be precisely leveled to distribute the weight equally.”

Open storage is mixed with closed joinery cabinets of solid ash with a Woca lye and soap finish. About once a year, the soap gets reapplied to maintain the look. (Learn more in Remodeling 101: Easy Whitewashed Scandi Floors.)

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Above: The marble came from the Hisnet Inlet quarry on Vancouver Island, near where the Scotts built themselves an off-the-grid cabinThe measurements of the counter— 24 inches deep and eight inches thick—were determined by the sink depth and the height of the drawers on either side of the marble. The brass faucet is a Vola.

“We would have detailed the counter differently had we been working with a standard two- to three-centimeter slab,” says David. “The intent with this installation was to make use of local materials in a manner that is monolithic—because the economics of its fabrication weren’t limited by shipping and distribution logistics. We are very fortunate to live and work in an area where materials are available in unprocessed and raw sizing. This often allows for substantial detailing to be achieved at a cost comparable or lower than using smaller unit components that are laminated or reconstructed.”

Vancouver kitchen remodel by Scott & Scott Architects.

Above: The ceiling has three-by-five-inch tongue-and-groove structural decking between the beams, all original and newly restored. The architects lightened the wood by adding a cloth-applied pigmented oil to the decking and a Woca lye wash to the beams. The walls are painted with a limewash from Kreidezeit of Germany.

The owner’s pottery collection—a mix of studio and secondhand pieces—is displayed on the open shelves. As to the practicality of open versus closed storage, David commented: “There are advantages to both approaches; we don’t have a strong position on whether one is better than the other. In this house, the books are concealed in a plywood block in the living room and the kitchen objects are displayed. This may be the opposite approach to many houses, but it’s a reflection of the scale of the spaces in this house as well as the personality of the owners.”

Scott and Scott Architects kitchen remodel with marble sink counter | Remodelista
Above: The counter stretches for eight feet (the wooden fill strip between sink and wall has since been painted white). Above the window, the work area is lit by a linear LED light manufactured by MP Lighting of Vancouver.  The inset range hood, shown below, also has a light—and that’s all, David tells us, that the kitchen requires: “The house is primarily naturally lit” —he says, and adds in response to a reader’s comment about overcast North Vancouver, “there’s a very high quality of natural light that comes through the existing windows. They also connect the kitchen to the front yard and back.”

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Above: The drawers and cabinets have invisible touch-latch hardware. The Marble Mortar and Pestle is available from Williams-Sonoma.

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Above: Cutting boards and pots and pans—all of wood, metal, and white enamelware—are stored under the counter.

David’s advice for maintaining marble? “Let it age.”

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Above: The kitchen ends in a pantry unit of rotary-cut Douglas fir plywood that’s open to the sun-filled entry. The range is set in a niche painted with a Farrow & Ball clay-based paint that’s more durable than the surrounding limewash. Note the flush Broan hood, which also has a light. (Learn about ceiling-mounted recessed kitchen vents in Remodeling 101.) The floor is the existing concrete, originally glossy and now smoothed to a matte finish.

See the rest of the project at A Midcentury Mountain House Artfully Updated.

Go to Remodeling 101 to learn about the Pros and Cons of Marble Countertops.