We live in the age of stuff. As an architect who specializes in kitchens and other interiors, I get to restore some semblance of order. But early in my architectural practice, I grew frustrated by how far removed architects typically are from the materials and processes of building. That's why I became a cabinetmaker.
An uncut board is like a blank piece of paper, gently asking what I will make with it that would be more desirable than the board itself. As an architect, I find the voice of the board hard to hear. As a cabinetmaker, I have heard its simple question eveiy time I approached the tablesaw.
What follows is an informal set of rules I try to follow when deciding how each board can best be put to use.
CABINETWORK SHOULD ADD TO THE ROOM, NOT TAKE AWAY
Built-in cabinets should be just that—built in—not placed around a room like furniture. In this living room (right), I needed to accommodate a variety of things: my client's pre-Columbian art collection; pockets for the heavy drapes and a valance for each of the exterior sliding doors; the mantelpiece; and extending all around the room, a clerestory with light behind frosted glass to extend the sense of space and to convey a feeling of warmth out to the edge of the room. Inside the room's framing, I established a secondary wall that defines the apparent limits of the room. The depth behind the wall varies. It is shallow for the curtains, deeper for the cabinets. Openings through that wall create various niches, clearly subordinate to the room itself. Done this way, the built-ins have become one element, and their contents add to the space of the room instead of subtracting from it.
A secondary wall of MDF allows display casesy drapery pockets, cabinets, and valances to be recessed. As a result, the built-ins don't seem to rob space from the room.
WHERE POSSIBLE, USE GLASS DOORS AND LIGHT CABINETS FROM THE INSIDE
Upper cabinets almost always have more impact than lowers, and deserve more attention. Where possible, I use glass doors— either frosted or clear—for upper cabinets. This kitchen cabinet (right) features a glass door with a sandblasted design. The glass allows a brightness that a solid door does not. Glass also allows me to put lights inside the cabinets.
In the evening, with the other lights off, the pockets of light from cabinet interiors create a pleasant warmth not unlike twilight. My "sunset" theory says that light coming from the side is much more enjoyable than light coming from the ceiling. One source for flexible lighting is Bend-A-Lite (www.bendalite.com).
Window dressing. Framing a window with a few shelves, a glass-door cabinet, and a connecting arch make it especially eye-appealing.
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