These Cabinets Slide, Unfold, and Open to Conquer Kitchen Clutter

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By J. Michael Welton / Published by Dwell
In Chapel Hill, a renovated kitchen takes painterly cues from Piet Mondrian.

In the mid 1990s, Darren Selement visited an exhibition of artist Piet Mondrian’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City—an experience that has had a lasting influence on the musician, writer, and graphic designer. Consider it the Mondrian effect: "It was about how he went from a Cubist period, to a period of trees," says Darren, "to inevitably blocking off everything in colors." 

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Embracing the natural environs of their family home—a 1970 Deck House nestled among 175-foot-tall tulip poplar trees—residents Darren Selement and Cathryn Rich updated the kitchen with a rich material palette of wood and stone. Cherner barstools are paired with custom, cherry-stained alder cabinets by Holiday Kitchens, Barocca soapstone countertops, and flooring from Globus Cork.

Fast-forward to 2015 in the college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Darren, his wife, Cathryn, and his daughter now live in a 1970 home originally built by Deck House (now the Acorn Deck House Company), which specializes in custom prefabricated homes. Common of the style, the home is made from a post-and-beam building system with an exposed structure and expansive deck.

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A before shot of the same kitchen.

Since purchasing the property in 2013, the Selements have now begun to renovate it: "When we bought it, it felt closed off. We  opened it up and are slowly rebuilding it," says Darren. Tackling one room at a time, the family started with the kitchen, tearing out a sliding glass door that led nowhere. In its place, they designed and built a wall of cabinetry that draws inspiration from the work of the early 20th-century Dutch artist. "No two cabinet doors are the same size, and the grain matches up, horizontal to vertical," Darren says. "It’s my little vision of Mondrian shapes."

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The refrigerator is by Jenn-Air, and the oven cooktop and dishwasher are by Thermador.

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Outfitted with sliders and hardware from Häfele, the deep built-in cabinets glide open.

He developed the wall of cherry-finished alder wood in collaboration with Chelsea Armstrong of LuxeMark, a kitchen and bath company based nearby, in Raleigh. "We wanted to make it art, but not a monolith," says Darren. "Chelsea helped make it a highly functioning kitchen." Other new additions include a built-in chef’s pantry, LED-lit from the inside and measuring seven feet tall and four feet wide. A scrolling door opens to reveal a toaster; a microwave rolls out on hidden bearings. 

Placed on the periphery of the pantry, below a soapstone counter, a dishwasher with an LED light glows a vivid cobalt blue. It’s a strategic spot, situated next to a corner cabinet concealing a trash bin and a roll-out tray for place settings and utensils. "Three things can open at once and are accessible in three dimensions," Darren explains, of the new plan that maximizes efficiency. 

"It’s a puzzle," he adds, of his new art-inspired, functional kitchen sculpture. Better yet, it’s Mondrian in three dimensions. 

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Former Brooklynites, Darren and Cathryn purchased the property in 2013. The passive solar home sits on a sloping site to optimize sunlight.