Career moves

April 11, 2011

I’m an interior designer, in case I never mentioned that. I live and breathe design in any form, really. Life is a composition for me. So trying my hand at photographic styling should come naturally, right? Well… sort of. I recently (translation: months ago but am just getting around to posting) borrowed my friend Gavin’s amazing kitchen and sweet camera skills to get creative. I severely underestimated the amount of time in preparation, which compromised our available natural light.  I guess it’s because I’m pretty specific when it comes to lining things up, assembling items on trays, etc. It’s what a designer does, right? We go crazy getting things just perfect. Luckily, Gavin’s kitchen (one of the many highlights in the 869 Compound) was rich with natural finishes and, being home to two skilled chefs, was also filled with fun accents like vintage baking pans and fresh produce to arrange (and rearrange several times).

Here’s a peek at the kitchen. It’s small but super efficient. Gavin, a mechanical engineer by trade, designed and constructed most everything, including the thick concrete counters atop (reinforced) IKEA cabinets. He also gutted the interior in the house, selectively exposing brick walls like the one – a perfect backsplash to a gorgeous Viking stove (a steal at a local scratch and dent – jealous!). The bar is outfitted with salvaged doors from the site, sanded to reveal layers of paint and history.

The long, narrow house actually sits behind another house on the lot, but is punctuated with windows that provide enough natural light for the space. The kitchen gets plenty o’ sunshine for growing herbs in the sill and keeping the small space from feeling enclosed. Gavin’s roommates – girlfriend, Alison, and friend, Adrienne – spend a lot of time in here, cooking up feasts for guests and each other. (Check out Alison’s blog here for tasty recipes cooked right in this kitchen.)

Bowls by roommate, Adrienne, and ceramist, Liz Kinder.

Cook books live nearby on the live-edge wood sill, unearthed at Manayunk Timber, a reclaimed wood yard.

We just had to feature Gavin’s Garfield glass mug collection.

Alison, a bartender, knows how to stock the bar for any occasion.

Gavin left his mark under the bar, along with the hardware on the salvaged doors.

By night, the warm glow of the island pendants and strings of twinkle lights transform the space.

While my main goal was to play around with visual display and styling in a different setting, I became concerned with representing the actual occupants of the space. Upon moving things about, I realized that I’d wanted to help create a more organized and functional kitchen. I had brought in trays and art to use – some standard IKEA accents I use all over my own home – and introduced a few new concepts to the space:

  • Trays are a great way to make things look tidy. I put all of their daily spices and such in a tray beside the range to keep things at hand. Plants became a centerpiece when grouped on a tray in the center. Trays also make cleaning a snap because you just pick it up and move it when you need the space.
  • Grouping things that are alike makes it easier to find them and looks nice. The floating shelves in the kitchen definitely called for this. We grouped old thermoses, stacked dishes by size, and arranged glasses (old pickle and salsa jars, as they’ve become accustomed to) on the shelves, adding a bowl of citrus here and a framed piece of art there to break it up a bit.
  • Texture in the details soften up the space. Kitchens are full of hard surfaces. I showed off their pretty dish linens at eye level by the range and threw a lambskin rug over a dining chair for some tactile relief.
  • Live with Art! (I have a Douglas Wilson print that says this somewhere I should totally pull out…) While Gavin and the gals have art elsewhere in the home, there wasn’t anything in the kitchen aside from some photos on the fridge and a quartet way in the corner at the other end of the space. I showed up with my Keep Calm poster (usually kept in my foyer stairwell so I’m reminded everyday) and my new Kitchen Conversions poster by Whimsy & Spice to show them that art can be alive and well in the kitchen.

All in all, we had fun. Next time I think I’ll get an earlier start. Thank you so much to Gavin, Alison, and Adrienne for letting me into your home!

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