The Art of Reduction
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
"In kitchens, planning and process are as important as product," says Chris Tosdevin. Accordingly, the vice president and design director of Bulthaup relies on his architecture training from the University of Leicester as much as the precision of his German-manufactured kitchen systems—enough, in fact, to become involved at the design development stage for the California residence of painter Yasuko Bush. Tosdevin worked with Tim Nicol Architects to integrate the kitchen with the rest of the Laguna Beach house, a 5,100-square-foot four-story reflection of the artist's Bauhaus leanings.
Placed at one end of the third floor—the house's open-plan public level—the 200-square-foot kitchen benefits from views of the Japanese-inspired gardens and direct access to a bamboo-planted patio, via sliding glass doors. For the inside, Tosdevin used Bulthaup's Los Angeles showroom to introduce Bush, an avid cook, to the company's design philosophy and to illustrate how it would govern the positioning of appliances. From there, it was plan and go.
To play off the gray-stained oak floor, Bush and Tosdevin chose the System 25 kitchen, which combines ebonized oak, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel with translucent glass for door fronts. A 12-foot-long island dominates and organizes the space. "All the key appliances are on one side," Tosdevin explains. They include the cooktop, oven, refrigerator, freezer, cleanup and prep sinks, microwave, and pair of pantries. Two cooling drawers are incorporated into the island itself. As an axiom of efficiency, says Tosdevin, "Water and fire must be on the same side of the room."
"The other side of the island is invitational," he continues. Here, four of Stefano Giovannoni's curvy stools allow friends and family to sit and chat with Bush without impinging on the intricate choreography of her cooking.
Similar thinking governed storage placement. Cabinets for dishes, serving pieces, and stemware are located out of the activity zone, near the house's central stairway of industrial steel. (So someone can set the table while keeping out of the cook's way.) Ultimately, Tosdevin cites "streamlined design" and "unobtrusive appliances" as the kitchen's great appeal: "The intent is for the room to be a functional piece of furniture."
Two dining options are contiguous to the kitchen proper. When it's just Bush and her husband, they choose Werner Aisslinger's swiveling brushed-nickel chairs at a stainless-steel table, all on castors. For more formal occasions, the venue shifts to Jean Nouvel's gray-lacquered steel table. It's surrounded by Antonio Citterio chairs covered in a raffialike cellulose-cotton blend.
For preprandial cocktails or after-dinner drinks, guests gather in the adjacent living area. It's furnished with Citterio seating, the firebox is filled with black lava chips, and a 48-foot-wide deck spans the front elevation.
The kitchen's aesthetic also extends to the studio below, while guest quarters, also downstairs, and the main floor's master suite are equally austere and gallerylike. But the design works on all levels—for the artist, chef, and gracious host.