A Completely Dysfunctional Nevada Kitchen Becomes Everyone's Favorite Spot for Parties
Members of Chip and Susie Hobson’s dining club could be forgiven for wanting to hold all their dinners at the couple’s Reno home. Or, specifically, in their eat-in kitchen, an airy volume featuring clean-lined cabinetry and filled with light. Recalling the U-shaped kitchen, cramped dining area and breakfast nook that originally made up the space, architect Jack Hawkins laughs, saying, "It was completely dysfunctional."
The Hobsons don’t dispute his assessment. When they bought the 2,500-square-foot house, which was built in 1968, they knew they had work to do. "But we didn’t think we needed another thousand square feet to make it more open and livable," says Susie. "We wanted to stick to the footprint."
Susie met Hawkins while she was working for the Stremmel Gallery, which Hawkins remodeled, and liked his aesthetic. After hiring him to redo their family room, they wanted to do more. But cost was a concern, and then their second child was born. Eight years passed, and the kitchen wasn’t getting any better. Susie, an avid cook, took to storing pantry items in the laundry room. "You do it because you don’t have a choice," she says. "But every day it starts bugging you more and more."
They called Hawkins, and pondering the couple’s requirements, he started sketching. The rooms faced south, to a derelict rudimentary deck, sizable yard and swimming pool. "You had all these little apertures—a tiny window over the kitchen sink, a crappy bay window in the dining area, and a 1970s slider that didn’t work," Hawkins says. "I thought, How can we clean that up so you get that indoor/outdoor effect?"
Working with longtime collaborators—like contractor Darin Murphy, cabinetmaker Ben Wilborn, and steel fabricator Paolo Cividino—helped Hawkins get the detail he wanted while controlling costs. He began with the entry, reconfiguring the landing to the adjacent living area, the kitchen, and the upstairs bedrooms. What looks like a sleek, paneled wall in the living area now holds the built-in refrigerator, cooktop, and oven on the other side."It was a simple move, but it totally transformed the space," he says. Chip agrees: "You open the front door and see straight through to the backyard."
Replacing the awkward warren of rooms with a kitchen/dining area enhanced the feeling of expansiveness, and floor-to-ceiling African mahogany cabinetry solved the couple’s storage dilemmas. There’s even an "appliance cabinet" for things like the toaster oven and microwave. "Everything has a place," marvels Chip. "There’s little if anything out on the counter."
Function and aesthetics also influence the hot-rolled steel dining table and counter that extends from the kitchen island. To accommodate groups, a wooden leaf attaches to one end and pockets into a steel niche in the cabinetry.
To open the space to the rear yard, Hawkins settled on a 22-foot-long triple sliding glass door. Set flush with the refinished white oak floors inside, a new ipe deck with cement bench seating makes it a popular spot for parties.
The couple and their children (Annika, 15, and Luke, 12) use the kitchen daily. Susie doesn’t miss her trips to the laundry room for provisions. "I don’t want to walk a mile to get ingredients. Here, everything is right at my fingertips."
Hawkins is ready for the call to implement Phase II of the plan, which in-cludes a lap pool, new plantings, and a pool house/office/guest room. "He has a complete vision," says Susie. "He’s been saying, ‘Are you guys ready for that new front door?’ "
Kelly Vencill Sanchez
Dwell's Los Angeles-based contributing editor.