This 90-Square-Foot Kitchen Feels Airy After a Scandinavian-Style Renovation
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This 90-Square-Foot Kitchen Feels Airy After a Scandinavian-Style Renovation

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By Melissa Dalton
L.A.-based design duo Taylor + Taylor juxtaposed board-formed concrete with blond cabinetry and statement tile for a wow worthy kitchen renovation.

Whereas others might look at a board-formed cement wall in a basement and see, well, a concrete wall, Jess and Jonathan Taylor, the design duo behind the L.A.-based firm Taylor + Taylor, were inspired. 

The couple had purchased a virtually untouched 1952 house in east L.A. and that concrete wall became the backdrop for a new guest kitchen in the basement. 

"It was really the starting point of the whole design," says Jess Taylor. "As designers, our goal is to always try to incorporate the existing surroundings whenever possible, utilize them in practical ways, and be inspired by them."

Before

Before: There was an existing kitchenette in the basement that the couple removed, so they could relocate the kitchen against the concrete wall and expand its size. 

Before: "We basically just blew the walls open to expose the cement board form walls and use that as the backsplash," says Jonathan Taylor.

"As we conceptualized this space, we've always been drawn to modern Scandinavian approaches and this notion of really minimal, functional spaces," says Jonathan. Additionally, the couple had recently returned from a vacation that provided them with further design inspiration. 

"We just got back from Mexico City for our 10th anniversary, [where we saw] the workspace that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shared," says Jonathan. This motivated them to adopt a pared back aesthetic that highlights the room’s utility: "The utility itself brings about beauty," says Jonathan.

After

The couple opted for light-hued cabinetry with exposed edges and no hardware, custom-built from marine-grade ApplePly. Having the cabinets custom-made ensured that they could take advantage of every square inch in the small space.

The kitchen is just 90-square-feet, so the couple needed to make sure to pack a lot of function in the small space. Their biggest challenge was right-sizing the appliances. "We had to familiarize ourselves with these tiny European appliances that can fit in this certain context where you still have the full functionality," says Jonathan, noting that since the firm is L.A.-based, they’re used to designing for more sprawling residences as opposed to dense, urban environments with smaller square-footage. 

"As we went along, we realized there's a real need for introducing some other element that had some overt modernism in it," says Jonathan. To that end, the pair discussed the striking floor treatment with their friend, the L.A.-based designer, social media consultant, and art director Anne Sage, who connected them with Fireclay Tile. From there, the couple combined pieces from Fireclay’s Fallow and Grange line, which they painstakingly arranged until they achieved the effect they were after. "The tile was a really fun component to play with," says Jess. 

"We started to piece together this idea of a floor that's all just geometry and chaos, but that still honors the monochromatic elements of the space and highlights the bluish-gray-green tones of the original cement walls," says Jonathan.

Shop the Look
Ank Ceramics Sparrow Coffee Dripper
Pour-over coffee cone in satin white with iron black speckles. Thrown on the wheel. Glaze is hand-mixed, food safe, and dishwasher safe, although hand-washing is always preferred. Fired in an electric kiln to 2200 degrees.
Schoolhouse Banded Porcelain Planter
Individually thrown by hand on the potter's wheel, these handsome porcelain planters have been finished with a transparent glaze and adorned with midnight blue, hand-scraped detailing. A drainage hole at the base empties into the integrated lip for appropriate plant hydration.
Modern Scandinavian Design
Designers from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland have long pursued the shared goal of social equality through design, believing that well-designed everyday goods not only enhance daily life, but should also be the birthright of all.

"The wonderful thing about this line of tile from Fireclay is that there's no order minimums," says Jonathan. Considering that the designers were dealing with such a small footprint, this meant that they didn’t have to order more tile than what was needed.

The wall of cabinetry conceals a washer/dryer unit as well.

The couple installed a window over the sink to brighten up the dark basement space. The counters are stainless steel, so as to cede nicely into the concrete wall rather than compete with it. 

The designers developed the preliminary schematic for the tile, then refined the layout on site. "We wanted to bring in six or seven different tiles that were all geometric and make it such that there's no pattern, there's no repeat. Everything is unique," says Jonathan. "Once we had the tiles, [we] laid things out and confirmed and made some adjustments. Everything is just a little different when you get it in real space."

Open shelves balance out the hard-working wall of cabinetry opposite. "In a space like this, every fraction of an inch matters," says Jonathan, and making room for display and a sense of openness is also important.

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