Past is present Regional history informs this kitchen remodel by Willis Watts

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Regional history informs this kitchen remodel by Willis Watts
View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled cabinetry, countertop, floor, flooring, furniture, hardwood, interior design, kitchen, laminate flooring, room, tile, wall, wood, wood flooring, white, gray
View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled to a traditional contemporary design. A wider island was installed to fit in with the open plan living. A natural colour scheme was used throughout.

It is one of our universal truths that even unfortunate circumstances can lead to an opportunity for innovation. Sometimes it can be as simple as adding a level of amenity that was previously lacking.

Designer Willis Watts was asked to remodel this open-plan kitchen and living area following a fire, and says that while the structural changes were few, the result is both functionally and aesthetically superior to its predecessor.

"The kitchen occupies the same footprint as before, but I've reconfigured the space to allow for a larger island and for improved circulation in and around the area."

For the design, Watts drew inspiration from a traditional Southern style where horizontally stacked planks create a negative detail effect.

"I wanted to express some of the character of the house, a 1940s bungalow, in the design for the kitchen, as well as referencing a wider historical context, and then overlay that with a modern functionality."

For those familiar with the references in the design, the classic treatment is immediately apparent, while the sleek finish and hardware impart a contemporary feel that gives the kitchen a universal appeal.


View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled ceiling, countertop, flooring, home, interior design, kitchen, living room, real estate, room, gray
View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled to a traditional contemporary design. A wider island was installed to fit in with the open plan living. A natural colour scheme was used throughout.

The look also facilitated the addition of extra storage, through the bank of cabinetry that runs along the wall past the casual dining area.

"In the former space, this had a standard painted drywall finish. Using the style I have, I've managed to create a cohesive look for the entire kitchen area, and have increased the overall storage by over a third," says Watts.

The design also has another, less obvious, benefit. The space contained by the wall houses a powder room and the laundry, the entrance to which is now concealed within the cabinets.

"From a purely cosmetic angle, that seamless integration has to be my favorite element. It has created a true separation between the two rooms that elevates the entire scheme."

"Another element I feel works really well within the space is the island. I pushed the rear wall of the kitchen back by about two to three feet to accommodate the wider island, and I'm pleased with the stronger visual presence this has created."

"The true test of success has to lie in the practicality of the kitchen. Aside from the door to the powder room and the hood surround, every other cabinet or drawer provides functional storage. Very little of the space is extraneous, which means every item has a space. From the smallest spice bottle to the largest appliance, each is to hand as needed."

View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled cabinetry, countertop, cuisine classique, floor, flooring, hardwood, home, interior design, kitchen, laminate flooring, room, tile, wood, wood flooring, gray
View of kitchen by Designer Willis Watts. Remodelled to a traditional contemporary design. A wider island was installed to fit in with the open plan living. A natural colour scheme was used throughout.

Also high on the designer's list was a desire to minimize the environmental impact of the project by reducing the carbon footprint.

"There is an historical precedent for this as well, in that when the house was built, local materials and labor would have been used.

"Luckily, we were able to salvage the existing flooring, which has been cleaned up and restained. The tile used for the backsplash is made for and supplied by a local distributor, and of course local contractors were used," says Watts.

Likewise, the designer sourced feature pieces from the surrounding region.

"Pieces such as the casual dining table, which is a repurposed trolley, help to add authenticity to the design. Their provenance nicely ties in the local angle, as well as the sense of history, and contributes to the modern-classic feel that I set out to achieve with this project."

Nov 30, 2011
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