Before renovation, the kitchen of a 1915 historically listed bungalow in Oakland, California, had all the characteristics of kitchens of its day: dark, cramped, disconnected, with inadequate storage. The bungalow’s inhabitants–a family of four–wanted a light, open, gathering space with lots of storage. As part of a complete overhaul of the 2,500-square-foot house, architects Ian Read and Gretchen Krebs of Medium Plenty in Oakland transformed the kitchen into a midcentury-inspired berth of white and wood anchored by a near-black kitchen island. It’s now the heart of the home–warm, but without excess. Says Ian, “There’s nothing you can point to that is a luxury rather than a need for the clients.”
Photography by Melissa Kaseman.
Above: The clients’ primary goal was “to bring light and order to the kitchen.” Medium Plenty’s solution was to add abundant cabinetry, a bit of open shelving, and plenty of bright, white surfaces.
The architects wanted to inject some low-level ambient room into the room for its nonworking hours, so above the built-in cabinetry, the architects installed a strip of warm-hued LED tape to cast a glow on the ceiling. A matching strip is beneath the lowest shelf, casting light onto the counter space below. Says Gretchen, “You don’t always want to light up the space to working level if you’re just going to grab a drink.”
Above: The wall-mounted cabinets were fashioned in white oak and MDF by Treasure Island Woodworks in Emeryville. The circular cutouts that function as cabinet pulls is one of Medium Plenty’s midcentury references–this one to the credenzas of George Nelson.
Above: The kitchen island countertop is Richlite–a warm-to-the-touch paper-based composite–in Black Diamond. The facings of the integrated drawers were painted to keep costs in check. The architects note that the Richlite will patina with age, likely lightening at first then darkening again over time.
As for the color scheme, the clients wanted something “light and airy but not stark,” and in the end, the dark gray island anchors the space and adds warmth. “The idea of a light and airy room with a grounding element in the center just kind of worked,” says Ian.
Above: Appliance garages over the kitchen island feature pop-up doors.
Above: The wall surrounding the kitchen window is tiled in Ann Sacks’ Savoy Mosaics, in the Hive shape and color Ricepaper.
Above: Countertops are Caesarstone Misty Carrera, walls are painted in Benjamin Moore Silver Satin, and lower cabinets and trim are Benjamin Moore Collingwood. The drawer and cabinet pulls were sourced by the client.
Above: To minimize clutter, the architects installed a recessed exhaust hood above the island range. “We love how open it keeps the space by not having a dropped hood hovering in the center.” But the tactic, says the architects, “can be tricky in a remodel because you need to work around the structure in the floor above.” They put the hood’s blower in the attic to reduce noise. For more, see Remodeling 101: Ceiling-Mounted Recessed Kitchen Vents.
Both the dishwasher and refrigerator are concealed behind cabinet facings. The door at right opens onto the laundry room, followed by a half bath and backyard access.
Above: The open-plan dining room, just off the kitchen, is illuminated by pendant lights from Schoolhouse Electric.
Above: Around the corner from the kitchen, stairs wrap around a partial wall hiding more kitchen cabinetry.
Above: The floors are engineered European white oak, stained in a slightly lighter shade and sealed onsite. The cabinetry in the living/dining room mimics the cabinetry in the kitchen.
Above: The hallway at the top of the stairs off the kitchen showcases Medium Plenty’s custom guardrail design, made by Dialogue Design Build and Welsh Ironworks, both in Oakland. (Plus a cameo by the architects’ daughter, Mica.)
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