Walls of glass allow for casual entertaining
Jewel box kitchen
John Granen
Robert Graham and Cindy Chin's kitchen once a 'cold cave' now exudes warmth and light.

Cooking with family and friends was always great fun for Cindy Chin and Robert Graham – at least in theory. For 15 years, the dark, outdated kitchen in their 1929 Tudor-style Seattle home had soured the experience. “It was a cold cave of a place – inhospitable and worn out,” recalls Graham, the family cook.

Their architect, David Coleman, removed visual barriers to the adjacent dining room and backyard deck by replacing interior and exterior kitchen walls with bold, elegant steel doors containing large glass panes. Within this transparent boxlike container, a center island accommodates a stainless steel cooktop and oven, and a work surface of fossilized limestone.

In the evening, small, low-voltage track lights illuminate the room with a rich caramel glow. Now Chin and Graham can socialize without interrupting food preparation, and entertain the way they like to – surrounded by their guests with everyone in conversation. “You can open the doors and use the whole space when people visit,” Chin says. “It’s so generous.”

DESIGN: David Coleman/Architecture, Seattle (206/443-5626) 

Improving your kitchen

“A kitchen must be well designed functionally but give way to mood and feeling,” says architect David Coleman. “That’s ultimately what makes a space endearing – and successful.” Here’s how to make your kitchen a more efficient and personal working and gathering space.

  • Connect it to the outdoors where possible, so you can take advantage of good weather for eating or entertaining outside.
  • Organize the space so that the cook and the guests don’t get in each other’s way. Here, the island puts the range on one side – close to the sink and the refrigerator – away from the main path to the deck.
  • Vary the cabinet treatment within a limited palette of materials to create visual interest and to indicate special functions. In this kitchen, glass cabinets highlight dish storage and contrast handsomely with other cabinets and drawers (for pots, pans, utensils, and tableware) made of jewel-toned ribbon-stripe mahogany and bird’s-eye maple.
  • Make every inch count: Consider running cabinets from floor to ceiling to avoid the dust-and-grease-catching shelf that often tops conventional partial-wall cabinets. Also, shallow cabinets make great pantries.