Mellow yellow: A vibrant city kitchen stays surprisingly calm

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To keep things affordable, Alloy sourced a lot of the materials—cabinetry, plumbing fixtures—from IKEA, and mixed in other elements like butcher block counters and a stainless steel backsplash. Photo: Andrea Hubbell To keep things affordable, Alloy sourced a lot of the materials—cabinetry, plumbing fixtures—from IKEA, and mixed in other elements like butcher block counters and a stainless steel backsplash. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Stephanie Tatel and Christian McMillen had only a vague idea of what they wanted their new kitchen to look like—nothing too firm or detailed, but they knew it had to be functional for a busy family of four. Enter Alloy, a Charlottesville-based architecture and design studio that specializes in construction and production.

“We didn’t really know what we wanted and, in a way, they kind of told us what we wanted,” said McMillen.

From the beginning, Alloy, McMillen, and Tatel worked together to make an old and tired space look and feel more modern.

“Part of the reason we went with them is that we share their design aesthetic,” said Tatel. “We didn’t want a country kitchen.”

The original 1950s-style kitchen, with a brick fireplace and an impractical entryway that cut counter space in half, made way for stainless steel appliances, wood countertops, and white cabinets with frosted glass doors. The end result is a bright, functional space that meets all the family’s needs.

McMillen and Tatel bought the property in August of 2012 and spent some time remodeling the kitchen and basement office. During the couple of months of construction, the family relocated to the basement with a makeshift kitchen—inconvenient, sure, but made for some fond memories. Even now, reminiscing over before-and-after photos, their kids’ giggles are proof that sometimes dismantling and rebuilding can be fun.

“There is nothing from the old kitchen left,” said McMillen—only the hardwood floors from the dining room remained in place. The old cabinets were poorly maintained and were replaced with sleek IKEA cabinets, white on the bottom and with frosted glass for over the counter.

“[Alloy] helped us figure out where to save money,” said McMillen, like the installation of a stainless steel backsplash. “We didn’t want an overdose of stainless steel,” but just that little bit of sheen added extra texture.

The light feel of the space is broken only by the bright red marmoleum floor, a durable bio-based linoleum. Although the kitchen’s overall footprint remained the same, a few key alterations transformed the space into something much more functional. First, the refrigerator now sits where there was once a fireplace. The awkward entryway was also closed off to give the family uninterrupted countertop and cabinet space. The result is a perfect balance between functionality and style.

The butcher-block countertops run throughout the U-shaped kitchen.

“The wood gives it a much warmer feel. It offsets the cold of the stainless steel,” said Tatel.

Tatel adores the big white ceramic sink that sits opposite the row of glass cabinets. Even though it takes up a bit of counter space, it organically fits with its surroundings.

“The space is big enough for more than one person to be here at one time,” she said, looking around the kitchen. “It’s open but not completely open.”

Next to the kitchen is a dining room that features clearstory windows and a big dining table. The same space is home to a mini mudroom with floor-to-ceiling cabinets and a custom designed coat-and-backpack rack. For a high-traffic area, it doesn’t seem frenetic.

“It feels peaceful to me,” said Tatel.

The breakdown

Kitchen: 196 square feet

Dining/living: 298 square feet

Deck: 285 square feet

Primary materials or finishes: Cabinets from IKEA, Pella windows.

Lighting: Ceiling lights from Y-Lighting.

Plumbing fixtures and appliances: Sink (BREDSKAR), faucet (TARNAN), range (FRAMTID), dishwasher (RENUG), and refrigerator (NLITID) from IKEA.

Other notable, custom, or innovative features: Custom deck screening, maple butcher block countertops by McMaster Carr, stainless steel backsplash by NHE. A large center island is topped with limestone, and the bar (bottom right) is kyanite, a mineral that, in its raw state, is a blue crystal that expands irreversibly when heated. The home’s original architecture featured a double parlor separated by a large arch. Dixon (below) designed the renovated kitchen, which stands in the same footprint as its earlier incarnation, to employ the same element, keeping it separate from—but visually connected to—the dining room.

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