Open Kitchen

A San Francisco architect turns his “inefficiency” kitchen into a modestly scaled and well-lit place to cook, eat, work, and enjoy the view—–even with his back turned.

San Francisco architect Cass Calder Smith transformed his cramped, inefficient kitchen into a bright, joyous place where he can cook, eat, relax, and, if he so chooses, get some work done.
San Francisco architect Cass Calder Smith transformed his cramped, inefficient kitchen into a bright, joyous place where he can cook, eat, relax, and, if he so chooses, get some work done. Image courtesy of Cesar Rubio.

“It had no redeeming qualities,” says Cass Calder Smith of the L-shaped kitchen in his Telegraph Hill home that barely held two people. Having raised the ceiling into the attic space, Smith tucked the new kitchen into a corner, with windows along two walls pulling in postcard views of the Transamerica Pyramid and beyond.

“Because the kitchen is part of the dining room, I didn’t want to fill it with bulky stuff,” says Smith, who stashed the oven and Sub-Zero fridge into an adjacent pantry and built the cooktop into the narrow island. Painted white medium-density fiberboard (MDF) cabinets blend into the room, their bistro mirrors casting reflections off the back window.

Calder Smith's kitchen before renovations. He says the space possessed "no redeeming qualities."
Calder Smith's kitchen before renovations. He says the space possessed "no redeeming qualities." Image courtesy of Cass Calder Smith.

What Smith calls his “suburban window seat” conceals flat files where he stores materials for drawing at the mid-century drafting/dining table found at a flea market. “Between cooking, eating, and working, this is where I spend the most time,” says Smith, who rarely ventures into the living room, except to grill meat in the fireplace.

“It’s an urban kitchen,” he says, referring to the relatively modest size, especially as compared to some of the more expansive versions he’s created for clients. “Kitchens should be scaled to the size of the family and the house—–which in this case is 18 feet wide. It doesn’t have to be a grand statement; it just has to work.”

Originally published

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