Launch Slideshow

kitchen: light duty

Architect Heather McKinney enhances the limited amount of natural light in her kitchen by using aluminum-framed frosted glass doors, clear glass shelves and artificial lighting.

kitchen: light duty

Architect Heather McKinney enhances the limited amount of natural light in her kitchen by using aluminum-framed frosted glass doors, clear glass shelves and artificial lighting.

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    Thomas McConnell

    Appliance towers flank the workspace along the walls and obscure views of its counters from adjacent living areas.

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    Thomas McConnell

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    McKinney Architects

    Floor plan

Architect and recent empty-nester Heather McKinney, FAIA, jokes that the refrigerator in her new loft is practically obsolete. She and her husband chose the sustainably built building, in part, because of its urban location. Work, restaurants, entertainment, and such grocery options as Whole Foods and the farmer's market are just steps away.

The fridge may be empty, but McKinney's kitchen is wholly appealing nonetheless, thanks to energy-efficient appliances and nontoxic materials (many of which can be or have been recycled). The 200-square-foot space is also brimming with storage to contain, among other things, the six sets of china the couple has accumulated over the years. (Frequent visitors ensure every piece is used with some regularity.)

Aluminum-framed, frosted glass doors and clear glass shelves help keep the copious cabinetry looking airy while also reflecting light into the room. The cabinets' wenge wood veneer balances the pale palette. “I always encourage clients to use veneers,” McKinney explains, “because they use less-exotic wood but still look rich.”

Although the kitchen captures some rays streaming in from a two-story window wall in the living room, its siting near the back of the apartment meant some artificial illumination would be required. To fill in where natural light can't, McKinney speced a C-shaped track with low-voltage lamps, low pendants over the island, and soft undercabinet lights. “An even amount of illumination lets you go with lower wattage,” she says. And because the fixtures are independently controlled and dimmable, “you save energy and fill the space with light only where you need it.”

architect: McKinney Architects, Austin, Texas

general contractor: Leonard Duke, Austin

cabinetmaker: Arte Design, Austin

resources: dishwasher and range: Jenn-Air; plumbing fixtures: Dornbracht Americas; refrigerator: GE Consumer & Industrial (Monogram); tile: InterfaceTile, Waterworks