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Watery Views Marry a Zen Sensibility in Contemporary Seattle Home

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There is a gentle charm to the easy zen aesthetic of Seattle’s Courtyard House by DeForest Architects.

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Set right on a lakefront and overlooking Mount Rainier in Seattle, Washington, the house is fully open to its stunning maritime views.

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Cheery sun-drenched bedrooms are so close to the lake that they seem like they are on a houseboat moored at its edge.

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The house is quite narrow, sandwiched between the lake view in front and the street, and its floor-to-ceiling glazing can completely open both sides like a pavilion.

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Opaque turquoise glass obscures the view into the house from the street side…

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…while the view out is created to provide a private garden view with a zen sensibility.

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This wall of opaque turquoise glass creates privacy and ample daylight for large showers in identical bathrooms, with spa-like wood panelled ceilings.

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Their interiors have a much earthier vibe, with rammed earth walls and very contemporary cylindrical wash basins.

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The bathrooms are along the street side, while their bedrooms face the lake.

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Another zen touch is the seamless transition between indoors and out – note the wood floor to wood deck - along with the huge expanse of glazings that can be completely opened up.

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Industrial strength steel stairs contrast with the soft blonde wood kitchen with its spacious islands to each side.

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With its casual flavor of Japan in its use of wood ceilings and modular screens, the architects have created a gentle and charming lakeside home.

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Design Dilemma: Wood Cabinet Options

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It’s true that painted cabinets have been the fashion of the last few years. But let’s face it, wood cabinets are a keeper and will always remain a mainstay in kitchen cabinetry, even after the painted look has come and gone. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one, unpainted wood doesn’t show the chips and stains that painted wood can over time. And it’s amazing how adaptable unpainted wooden cabinets actually are, able to move from modern to rustic to traditional looks with ease.  Let’s take a look:

 

Modern

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In the kitchen above, homeowners achieved a very modern, casual and cheery look by pairing light pecan cabinets with a lime green wall and acqua kitchen island. Countertops are a gray Caesarstone. Wood has a way of pairing well with color, as it can prevent bright colors from overpowering. Light- to medium-tone wood cabinets work best with tropical colors like these, but if you’ve got dark wood cabinets and want to try this look, go a shade or two deeper with the wall color.

 

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Above, another take on the modern look. This homeowner has combined Mahogany wood cabinets with accent cabinets made of Imbuia, otherwise known as Brazilian Walnut. The look is sophisticated, sleek and utterly simple. Countertops are kept a basic off-white, as are walls. The two kitchens above show how unpainted wood doesn’t have to look “rustic.”

Industrial

Unpainted wood can be a natural in industrial kitchens, as the wood is a  warm counterpoint to cold surfaces like stainless steel, which are usually prominent in an industrial kitchen.

The kitchen below has elements of different styles, including rustic, modern and industrial. Notice how the light wood brings all these elements together with great ease, combining well with stainless steel as well as the painted cabinetry with pulls that have more of a rustic feel.

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In the industrial kitchen below, dark wood holds it own when combined with exposed brick walls and industrial lighting built of pipes and exposed light bulbs. Again, wood has just enough gravitas to seem fitting in such a setting, but it always feels welcoming.
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And who says wood is only appropriate for cabinets in the kitchen? In the kitchen below,  warm wood shelving and countertops mix perfectly above stainless steel cabinetry.
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The industrial kitchen below, this time from Barcelona, Spain, uses salvaged wood on both the cabinetry and dining table. A small refrigerator is integrated into the cabinet at the end of the workspace. A cupboard behind the glass and bamboo partition holds another larger refrigerator and freezer combo.
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Here’s another view below.
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Transitional
In the Maryland kitchen below, a clean modern vibe stays clean, but never veers too much away from the traditional. The dark wood works particularly well in this context.
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Contemporary Kitchen by Bethesda Kitchen & Bath Remodelers Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.

Retro 70s

The Australian kitchen below looks like it came straight out of the set of The Brady Bunch. The only thing missing is housekeeper Alice! And yet, there’s something of a contemporary vibe going here too. The sleek unpainted wood looks fabulous.

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Rustic/Beachy
Did someone say beachy? Wood can do beachy! Below, unpainted light oak island combines wonderfully with wood cladding of the sort used on ships, which has been appropriated for the wall in back of the stove and countertop in this beach house.
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Have we convinced you yet? If you are considering a kitchen remodel but had discarded the idea of using unpainted wood in favor of lacquered or enameled painted cabinetry, think again! Wood is warm, versatile, easy-to-maintain, and likely to stay in style for far longer than other options.

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A Japanese Style Stone and Steel House Floats Atop a Cliff

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South African interior designers and architects GASS Architecture designed the Westcliff Pavilion project in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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The house is raised above the ground.

Stone harvested on the site itself is used in the structure.

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In a mind-bending twist this stone wall also “floats.”

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The elegant, timeless aesthetic has a zen touch to it.

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A bath tucked right in the wide open window is like the garden-access bath room in a traditional Japanese home.

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The Japanese effect also comes from the modular proportions of the black steel framing.

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The cliff-top site offers a uniquely private, tranquil hiding place in the trees at the ridge.

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Steel framing was chosen to touch the ridge as lightly as possible.

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The result is a simple and elegant contemporary home that feels like it floats within its wooded tree canopy – while enjoying magnificent views over the city of Johannesburg.

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A Three-Storey Garden Library in Zadní Třebáň

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Mjölk architekti have built a unique three-storey garden library that breaks all the rules.

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The second floor is really just slats of pine laid wall to wall.

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What appears to be the third floor is really just a seating rim around the top of the second floor bookcase.

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Only the ground floor boasts any furniture.

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The Library has an opening roof, “so the top of the house can be used as an observatory” say the architects.

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The three “floors” of the curious structure are accessed  via an internal ladder.

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This ladder is cleverly integrated so it looks like part of the booksheves.

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A wicked sense of childish glee informs the rudimentary structure.

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Is this unique garden retreat just an observatory/reading nook?

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Or have its Czech builder/owner/architects actually fulfilled a boyish dream of a making playful secret clubhouse?

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Design Dilemma: Warming Up An Industrial Kitchen

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Kitchens have gone industrial in the last decade or so. Stainless steel appliances, concrete countertops, industrial lighting, white cabinets and white subway tile have ruled the day. We’ve loved the trend, but sometimes we yearn for a feeling of warmth and homespun comfort — you know, the kitchens of yesteryear.

Recently, we happened upon this kitchen in a San Francisco Victorian, done by Schwartz and Architecture  that manages to deftly walk a very fine line. It feels modern and sleek with even a bit of an industrial edge and plenty of stainless steel, but it also feels warm, woodsy and homey. Let’s take a closer look:

Centerstage in this light-filled space, which evolved out of an exterior porch,  is a custom island / drop-leaf table. It can convert from a casual family dining area to seating for twelve. Open shelving and a series of custom ledges keep the kitchen feeling casual, yet modern at the same time.

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Here’s another view:

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What we love so much about this kitchen is it’s simplicity. Clean lines and few fancy adornments highlight the beauty of all the wood. A stainless steel backsplash is the perfect industrial complement to the warm wood. The stainless steel also works well with the industrial swivel chairs and the industrial-look countertop.

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Part of the open kitchen functions as a pantry:

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The picture below puts the kitchen in context, demonstrating how it grew out of an old porch.

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And here is a view of the home from the front:

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The architects describe the former kitchen as “undersized and isolated from the life of the current house.” ” Our work updates this ad hoc space, bringing it into the natural flow of the rest of the structure, and creating a stronger, more modern relationship to the rear yard.”

We applaud a successful kitchen remodel that manages to stay modern and warm while working within a Victorian context. Good job!