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On Second Thought

An architect gives two of her earlier kitchen designs fresh new looks

(page 1 of 2)

Claudia Skylar remodeled this kitchen in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood
In the old kitchen, photographed for Decorating Remodeling magazine (shown below), small windows were all but invisible among the patchwork of cabinets, plants, and shelves. A sleek hood and a single line of shelving opened up the space.
 

In the old kitchen, photographed for Decorating Remodeling magazine, small windows were all but invisible among the patchwork of cabinets, plants, and shelves. A sleek hood and a single line of shelving opened up the space.
size 240 SQUARE FEET
type KITCHEN REMODEL
location UPTOWN

It isn’t often that most of us get to revisit work we did two decades ago and improve upon it. Yet architect Claudia Skylar recently had the chance to do just that not once but twice. In both cases, clients asked Skylar to redo kitchens she had designed for them around 1990. “Both families had babies then,” she says. “Now the babies are in college.”

Babies grow up, styles change . . . and 20-year-old kitchens start to look dated.

In the first home, located in a historic part of Uptown, what had looked modern after the first redo—white and maple cabinets, blue/green-and-white checkerboard backsplash and island countertop—now looked, as Skylar puts it, “worn-out.” This time around, the homeowners wanted to create a more streamlined, open-feeling space while retaining an island.

Given that they have fairly contemporary taste, one of Skylar’s challenges was to create an updated look that wouldn’t seem out of place in a 1914 home. She bridged the gap by choosing white recessed panels for the island cabinetry, echoing the home’s traditional white-paneled entryway and dining room. To tie in with the clean lines of the kitchen, though, the panels are full overlay, with no space or frames between them, and feature contemporary drawer pulls.


The family room now flows easily into the kitchen via a small addition, outfitted with a banquette and dining table, that replaced an old porch.

The island also plays with the balance between light and dark, a contrast to which the wife was particularly drawn. The walnut butcher-block countertop matches the richly striated walnut-veneer cabinets created by Steve Wettengel, Skylar’s longtime cabinetmaker, whom she met when she did this kitchen the first time. Now nearly all the cabinets extend to the ceiling, visually enlarging the space.

Wettengel also created matching built-in cabinets for the family room, a narrow sun- porch now joined to the kitchen thanks to an addition that replaced a small outdoor deck. “Steve’s cabinets make this family room work,” Skylar points out, because they provide extra storage without making the room feel smaller, as freestanding units would have done.

Skylar says she was skeptical, at first, of the clients’ choice of white cork tile for the floor, but the wife loved the way it contrasted with the cabinetry, and it has proved to be quite durable.

 

Photography: Kate Roth
Styling: Arden Nelson

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