San Francisco is famous for its Victorian row houses, which typically feature small, dark kitchens tucked in at the back. Neal Schwartz, AIA, remodeled one such kitchen for a family of four that cooks almost every night and makes canning fresh produce an annual event. “Even though the original kitchen was inadequate, we paid attention to the spirit of the space and the way the family used it,” Schwartz explains. “It had practicality and a casual quality that I tried to keep.”
Incorporating an adjacent sunporch created an inviting, yet hard-working kitchen that meets the clients' myriad needs without overwhelming the rest of the house. To make the tidy 250-square-foot space welcoming and usable for tasks as varied as pickling and art projects, Schwartz maximized functionality where possible and finished the room with refined details. A stone-topped island, for example, offers prep space while supporting one end of a roomy drop-leaf table. Cookbook shelves cap lower cabinets. Doorway detailing helps camouflage an oversized corkboard that's ideal for displaying grocery lists and homemade masterworks. Converting a hallway bath into a powder room yielded space for an open but unseen pantry where the fridge resides.
Schwartz's material choices reflect his habit of “suggesting sustainable and nontoxic materials, whether a client asks for them or not.” Refinishing the kitchen's original wood floors saved resources and gave the room continuity. For cabinet doors and drawer fronts, he chose local, responsibly harvested domestic walnut. The room is bathed in abundant natural light during the day, with energy-efficient fluorescents providing ambient lighting after dark. With most of the glazing facing west, operable clerestory windows help manage the room's microclimate by venting hot air; discreet rolling shades do the rest.
project: Buena Vista Terrace Residence, San Francisco
architect: Schwartz and Architecture, San Francisco
general contractor: Gillispie Construction, Mill Valley, Calif.
resources: hood: Viking Range Corp.; oven: Wolf Appliance; refrigerator: Sub-Zero; windows and doors: Roto Frank of America