Denise Gee -- Interior Design, 3/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Precision is crucial for a certain Dallas husband and wife, an oilman turned race-car driver and an architect turned artist. So is time spent with family, friends, and the beauty of nature—all of which can be appreciated in the pool house on the couple's ¹/³-acre property in Highland Park. The 5,300-square-foot structure, an elegant two-story box by Cunningham Architects, is part art studio, part guest quarters, and part garage for vintage cars and new motorcycles. But the heart of this glorified cabana is a party-ready kitchen.
Its focal point is a massive island clad, front and back, in cherry—a wood the couple love for its color and texture. Cabinetry and paneling are cherry as well. For a twist, the grain runs horizontally, subtly infusing the space with energyand intimacy. The wood's reddish tones also contrast with the gleaming stainless steel of counters and appliances and the cool blues of water and sky, visible through the front window wall.
Upper cabinetry would havebeen a visual obstruction, so the couple decided to go with-out it. After all, a kitchen in a pool house isn't the same as the everyday, family kind. Increasing storage capacity was not as crucial as maintaining fluidity. Likewise, sealed concrete flooring—fine for both high heels and wet feet—flows from the kitchen to the dining area and out to the pool, and two sliding glass doors permit unencumbered movement back and forth.
For parties, the kitchen cabi-netry needed to look furniture-quality. “They asked me for a kitchen where people could stand around and feel like they were in a living room,” Cunningham says. His minimal yet artful design allows the space to be a perfect catering venue for dressier occasions—with the garage, conveniently behind, used as a prep area and the island, with its double sink, serving as a bar and sideboard. The island can also, quite simply, be a place for pizza spreads when the couple's college-age daughter has friends over.
Right in front of the island, the dining area's two rectangular cherrywood tables combine to seat 12 in matching cherry chairs. A third table, normally in the library on the balcony above, can be brought down to join the others.
Though most of the ground level is double-height, the L-shape balcony extends over the kitchen and dining area. Here, the balcony's underside is clad in tongue-and-groove pine normally used for decking. The planks keep sound levels in check while contributing to the interior's down-to-earth look. Or, as Cunningham puts it: “The lighter color lifts the ceiling in a humble way.”
Humble, maybe. Overall, the effect is almost templelike, thanks to the white-painted I beams standing at 8-foot intervals along the window wall. “I usually go with dark gray or black, but that would've made them too dominant,” Cunningham explains.
“This couple really appreciate careful detailing,” the architect goes on to say. It's obvious that he does, too.