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The Architect Is In: Daniel Piechota Talks Kitchen Overhaul

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Apr 25, 2015 01:03 AM
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by Meredith Swinehart last modified Apr 24, 2015

Architect Daniel Piechota points out that the story of his firm's recently completed San Francisco remodel starts out like that of many others: A sturdy but uninspired house—this one built in the 1930s as part of a large San Francisco housing development—needs an update. The owners want to respect what's already there, but want to insert modernity "in a tasteful and elegant way."  But different people want different things at home, which is where the sameness ends and the client story begins. In this case, said clients are former professional chef Randy Windham (of now-closed Monk in SF) and entrepreneur and tech consultant Larry Halff. The pair wanted space to cook and eat; to display their art collection (think Ellsworth Kelly and Serrat); and they (wisely) wanted to keep an eye on adding real estate value to their home.  Enter architect Daniel Piechota of Sagan Piechota Architecture in San Francisco (a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory ), and the renovation program developed in this order: First, the kitchen, for the happiness of owners who Piechota describes as being "more passionate about food than anyone else I know." Next, a basement overhaul, for real estate value—which required dropping the house's foundation by two feet but turned a two-bedroom, one-bath house into a three-bedroom, 3.5 bath. Through it all, they brightened the space with white paint and improved the flow of the house to create a more modern experience from room to room. Architect Daniel Piechota is available for the next 48 hours to answer any and all questions. Using the Comments section below, ask away! Photography by Joe Fletcher .  Above: The new, entirely custom, kitchen is comprised of vertical grain walnut cabinetry, white Caesarstone countertops, and flooring in character-grade oak. (I asked about the cost of "character-grade" wood—with knots, sapwood, and defects that give the wood its name—not remembering if it was cheaper or more expensive than any other kind. Piechota chuckled in reply: "It used to be the cheaper option, but now the look is so popular that it's the more expensive one.") Above: A walk-in pantry corrals the refrigerator, two ovens, and other appliances. The nook at the back left is a coffee bar, where the couple's espresso machine lives. Its opposite on the right is a specialty prep space with a sliding glass appliance garage. The pantry's shelving is open for ease of use. (But tucked in the kitchen's back corner, out of sight when required.)  Above: The old kitchen was a failure not for lack of space, but for poor layout. Like many San Francisco homes, it had an awkward closed-in porch off the kitchen. Subpar additions had taken their toll, and part of the foundation needed repair. There wasn't much space to prepare food, and the chef and his refrigerator were on opposite sides of the room. In the end, the project required tearing off the back side of the house and starting over. Above: The owners entertain frequently, so they devoted a transition area between the kitchen and dining room to a wine and cocktail bar. The backsplash is lined in white tile from Heath Ceramics.  Above: The owners found this hand-carved marble sink—more than 100 years old—while traveling in France. Piechota set it over a stainless steel counter and chose a wall-mounted faucet rather than struggle with mounting a modern faucet into the ancient sink. Half of the marble piece functions as an integrated drainboard.  Above: The dining room required only modest updates. The architect retained an existing bay window—the source of the room's ample light—and finished the walls without baseboards for a modern look. They narrowed the opening between the kitchen and dining room, and clad it in the same vertical-grain walnut used in the kitchen. An exception to the effort to open up the house, here the architect decreased flow between the kitchen and dining room. "It makes the dining room a little more formal," says Piechota. Above: On a modern staircase into the former basement, a wood screen is a brilliant solution to code requirements for a handrail; instead of triangulating a solution in the awkward space, Piechota added a wood screen to serve as a guardrail while adding some mystery to the staircase at the same time.  Above: As in the dining room, the bedroom required only minimal updates. The architect replaced the floors and lighting and removed the baseboards, then added blackout curtains to darken the room. Beyond the window, he added a handrail to an existing "balcony," making it usable. Above L: The master bath has a clerestory window that runs from the shower to a toilet enclosure. The floor is made of the three largest limestone slabs the team could find, in order to minimize seams. The walnut cabinet and mirror are custom, and the mirror is backlit with twin incandescent tube lights integrated into the mirror. The sinks and countertop are Caesarstone, and the shower tile is from Heath Ceramics. R: On the main floor, a coat closet became a powder room with a marble sink and similarly lighted miror.  Above: The architects retained the original entry staircase, complete with original treads. But it got an update: its dark wood bannisters and handrail were painted in instantly modernizing white. This is the only "traditional"-looking area in the house, complete with baseboards. Above: The kitchen opens onto the backyard via a three-paneled glass door that folds entirely to one side. The backyard was previously dominated by the existing deck, so Piechota trimmed its square footage in a new mahogany version. The landscape design is by Lutsko Associates .  Above: A plan of the main floor shows the newly improved flow of the house.  Above: Owners Randy Windham and Larry Halff.  Architect Daniel Piechota is available for the next 48 hours to answer your questions. Using the Disqus tool below, ask away! See all posts in our Architect Is In series, including:  Tile Intel: A Budget Remodel with Heath Seconds The Architect Is In: From the Ashes, a Modern Barn The Architect Is In: Porch Appreciation from Connecticut The Designer Is In: A Midcentury Dream on the Upper West Side More Stories from Remodelista The Power of Pastels: A Color-Blocked Family Loft in France The Bohemian Life: Designer Lauren Soloff at Home in LA Prefab for Two: A 290-Square-Foot House for $24,000






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