written by Melissa Dalton
Spokane: An Old-World Kitchen for a New Log Cabin
As someone who has long loved to cook and bake, Danielle Layne had fantasized about her ideal workspace. “It was one of those dreams of mine to design my perfect kitchen,” said Layne, who is also an assistant professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane, where she directs the graduate program in philosophy. When Layne and her family settled into a log cabin there years ago, the existing kitchen did not come close to the vision. “The countertop was made of bathroom tiles,” remembered Layne, noting that when she kneaded bread dough, “it just felt gross because all that bread would get stuck in the crevices of the tile.” Layne reached out to local interior designer Emily Mejia of Emily Anne Interior Design to make her longtime dream a reality.
Built in the early 2000s, the log home was new, but synced well with Layne’s fondness for the old. “She really just loves the Old-World feel,” said Mejia. But first, the cook and baker needed more room to move. Teaming up with Old Hat Workshop on construction and cabinetry, Mejia started by knocking down a wall and appropriating a nearby mudroom to enlarge the kitchen’s footprint. This freed up space for Layne’s top tier must-have, a large, butcher block-topped island unimpeded by pesky grout lines, a prep sink, or any appliance.
As far as looks go, according to Mejia, Layne asked for “Old World meets Steampunk and sexy.” The designer knew it would be important to balance new material selections with the existing chunky log architecture. To do so, Mejia anchored the space with an arched stone-clad alcove for Layne’s forever stove, a luxe 48-inch, French-style range with eight burners, two ovens, and brass detailing. The alcove looks like it’s always been there, and the stone wraps the kitchen wall and continues into the dining room.
Custom cabinetry in a moody green tone complements the prevailing highlights of the logs and melds with the natural stone. The additional wood cabinetry by the back door is a pantry fashioned to look like an antique ice box. To get that “Steampunk sexy” vibe, Mejia wove in unexpected pieces, such as the glossy, handmade backsplash tile behind the stove and a gorgeous black soapstone counter with dramatic veining. Exposed electrical conduits and sleek black metal hardware add an industrial vibe.
Now it’s a kitchen that Layne loves using every day, whether experimenting with a new bread recipe, such as challah, which she baked for the first time during the pandemic, or weeknight standbys including pizza and quiche. “Some people paint. Some people draw. Some people sing or play guitar. The way I unwind, and the way I love people, is by making them a good meal,” said Layne. “So, this is a place where I get to do a little bit of my art.”
Seattle: A Cramped Tudor Kitchen Lightens Up
Funnily enough, Carolyn Hanson’s kitchen remodel didn’t start with the room itself. Rather, it began when Hanson, who works in education, reached out to architect Jill Rerucha of Rerucha Studio to discuss new furniture arrangements. “She just wanted to talk to someone about why they never used their living room,” said Rerucha. But the problem, it turned out, wasn’t the sofa. It was the entire first floor.
Hanson grew up in Laurelhurst, and after living away for years, returned to the neighborhood in 2009 and bought a 1924 Tudor-style home. By 2014, she and her family, partner Josh Caspers and two children, were experiencing first-hand that truism of old houses: that they can be quaint and charming on the exterior, but cramped and segmented into small rooms on the interior, making it feel a bit gloomy. “(There’s wasn’t) a lot of transparency through the house, which is why I think it can feel dark and old,” said Rerucha.
On that first visit, Rerucha suggested opening up the floorplan and connecting the living spaces in one fluid move, allowing views into adjacent rooms which would make the layout feel bigger and let the sunlight spread around. “Carolyn liked the idea of letting the light in,” said Rerucha.
The Caspers Built team removed an unnecessary hallway and implemented Rerucha’s design, which doubled the size of the kitchen without adding on to the house. The game changer was the installation of a wall of windows looking into the back garden. The windows are tall, stretching from counter to ceiling, but the proportions and panes maintain the scale of the other windows in the home, so they fit in with the older architecture.
The room’s finishes veer toward modern, but have an earthy quality, which anchors the space in the new open plan. Custom cabinetry made of rich chestnut wood is topped with substantial concrete counters, and the stove backsplash is a rusty-colored handmade glass tile from Ann Sacks, offset by the greenery outside. Hanson found herself appreciating Rerucha’s eye for detail throughout the process, as the architect made sure the woodgrain on the cabinet faces aligned, and specified a sleek metal shelf under the windows that’s underscored by an electrical plug mold, so the outlets don’t become focal points on the backsplash. “I think of Jill as more of an artist than as an architect,” said Hanson.
These days, the entire first floor fits the flow of family life. “We utilize the whole space now,” said Hanson. Instead of the forlorn breakfast bar from before, there’s a dedicated nook with a built-in bench where the kids can do homework. Rather than a single window over the sink, the entire back wall is filled with foliage year-round. When Rerucha noticed how Hanson liked to leave notes for family members on post-its, the architect planned for the pantry door to be covered in blackboard paint, so they could have a central spot to do the same, which “just makes it a lot more fun,” said Hanson.