Sleek, Eclectic Kitchen

Designer Jane Ellison maximizes a U-shaped kitchen by creating efficient cooking and eating zones.

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Work with what you have, and sometimes the results are unexpected. Designer Jane Ellison of Jane Ellison Interior Architecture transforms an odd U-shaped floor plan into separate functional zones — an area for chic cooking and a cozy banquette for meals.

Describe the homeowners' wishlist.

They wanted a functional space for family with four small children, including a table for homework, games and projects and floor space for play and storage.

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What were the homeowners' design problems?

The biggest problem was the odd-shaped kitchen/breakfast area with a door to the garden dividing the space down the middle. We had to make the layout of the kitchen function well, but still be able to have the parents keep their eye on the kids while they cook. We also needed to create enough floor space for small kids so they're not under feet.

How did you overcame the biggest obstacle in this space?

We created a U-shaped kitchen floor plan on one side of the door to the garden and breakfast nook/banquette area for homework and projects on the other side with room on the floor for play, all in view of the cook. Lighting the banquette area with a two-story ceiling-cable light was the best solution to bring light over the banquette table.

How does the end result match up with your original vision?

The odd-shaped space made cabinet layout tricky so two drawers that are side-by-side cannot be opened at the same time, only one at a time. Not too big of an issue.

What lessons did you learn?

The limestone flooring is beautiful but cold, though nice in the summer.
There wasn't room in the budget for heat under the stone, which would be lovely on a cool winter morning. Also, stone is hard and unforgiving when kids drop something on it. Hardwood and cork are softer surfaces.

What are the "hidden gems"?

The hidden gems include the unusual square window pattern, the kitchen sink wall painted brick red and open shelves for easy dish access. There was concern that the stainless steel countertops would be too sterile, but over time and with lots of use, it gets a soft aged patina. The stainless steel inlaid detail in the white laminate cabinet doors is easy to do and adds lots of character, and the U-shaped kitchen floor plan is very functional with no wasted steps for the cook.

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