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Kitchen of the Week: Architect Takashi Yanai’s Galley Kitchen—and Study—in LA

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Kitchen of the Week: Architect Takashi Yanai’s Galley Kitchen—and Study—in LA

September 12, 2019

Architect Takashi Yanai’s Los Angeles kitchen is the size of his clients’ walk-in closets. A partner at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (and a graduate of Harvard’s School of Design), Yanai, who was born in Japan and grew up in Santa Monica, oversee’s the firm’s residential projects: he’s a master at designing clean-lined California dream houses that are all about indoor-outdoor living.

His own recently remodeled 1950s ranch house, while much more modest in scope, is a microcosmos of the Yanai sensibility: Japanese formalism meets barefoot LA. We discovered Yanai’s place in Creative Spaces, the Poketo team’s just-published first book, and rushed to feature it: see LA Noir: Takashi Yanai’s Humble-Chic Bungalow. Today, we’re returning to take a closer look at the kitchen and its lessons in spatial economics and understated style.

Photography by Ye Rin Mok, from Creative Spaces.

Yanai and his wife, architect Patricia Rhee (also a partner at EYRC specializing in civic and public spaces) and their two children have lived in their data-src=
Above: Yanai and his wife, architect Patricia Rhee (also a partner at EYRC specializing in civic and public spaces) and their two children have lived in their 1,500-square-foot house for eight years, and remained put while Yanai was transforming it—”we set up a temporary kitchen in the garage,” he tells us.

After stripping the living area to its bare bones, Yanai put up a partition finished with marine plywood that neatly divides the new kitchen from the living room. And in place of what had been a “tired suburban kitchen,” he installed a single-sided galley using components from top-of-the-line German modular cabinetry company Bulthaup. Yanai combined these with a back storage wall of marine plywood, which conceals the fridge. And because the family was in need of a place to work, instead of building in a table or a cooking island, he added a bookshelf and desk—a Danish-modern teak flip-top design by Peter Lovig Nielsen—and turned the other half of the room into a study. Yes, there’s also a dining table with a view (see below).

The linoleum-faced cabinets and stainless-steel counter and sink are from Bulthaup&#8
Above: The linoleum-faced cabinets and stainless-steel counter and sink are from Bulthaup’s B3 line. “I opted to go without any handles, so the space has a minimal, sculptural quality à la Donald Judd,” says Yanai. The faucet is by Fantini.

Yanai installed new custom windows—”simple apertures in the white walls, like picture frames, with no jamb details or trim”—and replaced 16 recessed ceiling lights with a few well-placed spotlights. He also stripped away all the moldings: “There isn’t even a backsplash. A deep window sill and ledge at the back of the counter is in marine plywood and integrates the Bulthaup cabinets with the custom plywood cabinets. The ledge is in lieu of a backsplash and is a great place for the most-used utensils and spices, and a few favorite objects and pictures.”

The family&#8
Above: The family’s dream cutlery drawer. Their coffee pot, the Kalita Wave Drip Kettle, and other coffee accessories rest on a wood tray from Muji.
 Bulthaup&#8
Above: Bulthaup’s B3 drawer inserts of aluminum, steel, and wood can be arranged and rearranged. The family’s everyday flatware is Muji’s 18-8 Stainless Steel Cutlery designed by Jasper Morrison (which starts at $2 for a small fork); in the back, Yanai keeps “examples of other cutlery I like by Jasper Morrison for Alessi and also Sori Yanagi.”
A Draecina Marginata, a low-maintenance houseplant, rises sculpturally against the white wall: Yanai used Sherwin-Williams Superwhite. The hand photo is of Tokyo by Daido Moriyama and the penguin vases are by Japanese ceramic artist Makoto Kagoshima.
Above: A Draecina Marginata, a low-maintenance houseplant, rises sculpturally against the white wall: Yanai used Sherwin-Williams Superwhite. The hand photo is of Tokyo by Daido Moriyama and the penguin vases are by Japanese ceramic artist Makoto Kagoshima.

The floor is red oak—Yanai removed the existing linoleum and “laced in floor boards to match the house’s original ones. I stripped and refinished them with a flat sealer to create a more raw aesthetic.”

Yanai chose compact appliances: there&#8
Above: Yanai chose compact appliances: there’s an 18-inch dishwasher by Miele to the right of the sink (and next to it is the trash). The five-burner cooktop is from Gaggenau’s Vario 400 Series and the hood is “a simple vent with custom stainless housing designed to be as simple in shape a possible.”

Integrated on the back wall are a Miele Speed Oven (top), which doubles as a microwave, and a Miele CombiSteam Oven (bottom). “Since the kitchen is modest, I went with 24-inch ovens,” says Yanai. “They’re more typical in Europe and Japan, but are plenty big. And our small dishwasher is perhaps my favorite appliance.”

The room&#8
Above: The room’s plywood shelves are devoted to “shared storage” between the kitchen and study. Shown here, a stoneware Ruth vase by Mirena Kim and slipware bowls by Tenshin Juba.
 Of the choice of plywood, Yanai says, &#8
Above: Of the choice of plywood, Yanai says, “In keeping with the humble bones of the house, I wanted to work with simple industrial materials and not get precious with exotic veneers.” The black-and-white Mori Mini Sake Cups are by Masahiro Mori
More stoneware vases by Mirena Kim.
Above: More stoneware vases by Mirena Kim.
The living room is on the other side of the stainless-steel-edged partition.
Above: The living room is on the other side of the stainless-steel-edged partition.
Dining with a view. Yanai designed the table; the hanging light is by Remodelista favorite Olivier Abry of Wo and We in France.
Above: Dining with a view. Yanai designed the table; the hanging light is by Remodelista favorite Olivier Abry of Wo and We in France.
  Yanai opened up the entire back of the house to the yard: &#8
Above:  Yanai opened up the entire back of the house to the yard: “the doors slide open on the outside to disappear when seen from inside without fussing with pocket details.” A book of his work was published last spring as Ehrlich Yanai Outside-In: New California Modernism.

Here’s more compact kitchen inspiration:

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