In remodeling an apartment, the choice of material for a kitchen backsplash is usually a late-stage design decision. But in a compact London home for a young family, by Daniele Petteno Architecture Workshop, it was the key that unlocked the whole project. A large piece of fire-resistant glass set behind the sink and cooktop doubles as an internal window into the adjacent master bedroom, flooding the countertop with borrowed daylight and creating long views between rooms to enhance their apparent size.
The 760-square-foot apartment occupies the entrance level of a townhouse built in the 1880s and subdivided in the 1960s, when windowless kitchens were inserted in the middle of each floor. Petteno’s reconfiguration is a contemporary interpretation of a typical 19th-century plan: two large high-ceilinged rooms face front and back, with a small second bedroom and two bathrooms tucked behind.
The big rooms are defined by two L-shaped volumes—white closets in the bedroom and black cabinets in the open-plan kitchen and living room—whose short sides overlap to partition the space. High-level bedroom storage sits above 7-foot-tall kitchen units to form a deep reveal to the internal window. “By treating the volumes not as walls but as objects set into a room, we preserve the perception of a single space 35 feet long and 15 feet wide,” says Petteno.
With countertop space in short supply, the visible accumulation of culinary paraphernalia was averted by concealing a coffee machine, toaster, and kettle within an appliance cabinet to the left of the counter. The desire for an uncluttered appearance also informed the specification of German-made cabinets with handleless fronts in Lava Black laminate, with metal channels powder-coated to match, and black convection and microwave ovens.
Neat, unfussy detailing reinforces the sense of precision. The junction of walls and ceiling is articulated by LED-lined shadow gaps, and a hood sits flush with the soffit over the cooktop. For bedroom privacy, a Venetian blind over the window draws out of sight behind closet doors. In subtle counterpoint, the black quartz countertop has a textured finish like natural slate.
At the back of the counter, against the window, potted herbs grow in a shallow trough. From the bed, which is raised on a 2-foot-high storage podium for better sightlines, this miniature kitchen garden blends with a prospect of trees through the living room windows.
Views inside the apartment, of the family itself, are equally important. “People like kitchen islands because it is pleasant to face somebody while you cook,” says Petteno. Likewise, from a built-in desk in the bedroom, the parents can supervise their daughter playing in the kitchen. Operating in a confined space and with no choice but to place the counter against a wall, the architect has turned what might have been a dark corner into the open heart of the home.
Size: 65 square feet (kitchen); 760 square feet (apartment)
Completion Date: November 2014
Daniele Petteno Architecture Workshop
329-339 Putney Bridge Road,
London, SW15 2PG
T +44 (0) 20 8617 9318
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Mix of metal and timber studs as internal structure for the new partitions.
Metal studs supplied by: British Gypsum
Windows existing historical windows refurbished
Fire-control doors, security grilles:
Black ‘L’ furniture manufacturer: Spacecucina
Side splashback: 8mm toughened glass, white painted on the back and ‘frosted’ on the front.
linear lighting under the suspended cabinets:
Floor and wall tiles: