Courtney and Patrick Stanton had stumbled upon a true rarity in Seattle: A Wendell Lovett MCM home in original condition (Part 1). Although the house had been carefully preserved, the new homeowners couldn’t tolerate the tiny kitchen.
“We really liked the architectural style of the house, so when we decided to redo the kitchen, we wanted to maintain that; that’s why we brought Mike and Grace in.”
Patrick had attended college with architects Mike Mariano and Grace Kim, now principals of Schemata Workshop in Seattle. They already knew Lovett’s work and this home, specifically.
“Lovett was one of the early modernists. This piece is considered to be an important project for him, done during an early phase of his career when he was heavily influenced by the Miesian idiom and the idea of using production components to create minimalist dwellings,” says Kim.
“A good example [of that] would be the kitchen cabinets. They were not made of high-quality materials: The lumber was pretty low-grade plywood, and the cabinet faces were Masonite, while the drawer pulls were simple aluminum angles screwed to the faces.
“The kitchen was almost the first thing you saw as a visitor or resident returning home; it was a very forward thinking move to liberate the kitchen and give it prominence,” she explains. “But despite Lovett’s good intentions, the kitchen is tiny and, with the bookcase and cabinets, it felt very hemmed in. Courtney and Patrick wanted to feel more connected to family and guests when preparing meals, so we removed the upper cabinets separating the kitchen from the dining room, as well as the bookshelves that closed off the living room.” One of the first decisions Schemata made was to bring Kerf Design into the project. “Kerf has a certain aesthetic that doesn’t always lend itself to all projects or clients,” Kim says, “but it suits our sensibilities as a firm—Nathan’s work is very honest and clear—something we strive for in our work, also.” Nathan Hartman runs a tight crew of five at Kerf Design, working with architects and homeowners to design and build furniture and custom cabinetry from plywood and laminate. The through-tenon joinery is visible, and instead of applied knobs or pulls, there are hand notches. “I’d seen the listing when the Lovett house was on the market; I thought it was a cool house, so we were really excited when we got the call to work on it,” Hartman says. “It seemed like if Kerf had been in business when the house was built, there’s a pretty good chance we would have been the cabinetmakers for the project. The things the architect and the [original] owners were trying to accomplish were very similar to the style that we do.”
Both the Stantons and Schemata agreed. With a typical turnaround of about six weeks from final CAD drawings to finished cabinets, Kerf also fit the bill for a quick project timeline. “We work on the micro level—drawers over here, a door here, a pullout for a specific need you’ve identified. Sometimes the first design we show a homeowner is the way it goes, and sometimes it takes a few iterations,” Hartman comments. “We were worried that the homeowners were going to miss all of the upper cabinet storage,” says Kim. “I first suggested some open shelves between the kitchen and dining room, but Courtney was smart: When they moved in, she didn’t put anything into any of the uppers to see if she’d need them. She confirmed that she wouldn’t.” To open up the space to the dining area, Schemata proposed losing the fridge and opting for Subzero drawer refrigerators; these would go into an island cabinet facing the living room, giving the homeowners that view they wanted. Some details from the original kitchen were incorporated into the new design: the way the cabinet cases would attach to the posts with spacers, the slanted backs and the use of blue laminate.
“Kerf seemed very European or Scandinavian, with the exposed edges and simplicity; we lived in Finland for two years, so we really liked that style,” says Courtney. And so Patrick and his dad razed the kitchen, beginning the 10- week process.
After starting the project, Patrick had to recruit yet another team to help finalize the renovation. Read more about how he managed the tight timeline in part 3!