When Japanese-Inspired Style Meets Mid-Century Modern

Published: February 5, 2021

Homeowners who loved their ranch-style home – but not the tiny, compartmentalized rooms within it – approached architect John Lum about creating not only a more open and light-filled, mid-century modern space but also a design that better reflected them.

“The goal was to create improved circulation, design a functional kitchen that could accommodate small and larger gatherings and infuse a calm yet bold feel,” said Lum, who is the principal of San Francisco-based John Lum Architecture Inc.

Transforming the Layout

Typical of ranch-style homes, this kitchen had 8-ft. ceilings along with a small footprint and dated cabinetry and flooring. It was also disconnected from the nearby living space, which hindered the client’s desire to entertain.

“The biggest challenge was making the space feel open without overwhelming the relatively small footprint,” said the architect. “The solution was to re-frame the roof to increase the spatial volume and to remove walls that partitioned off spaces.”

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The team first raised the ceiling by re-engineering the previous truss-framed roof with its flat ceiling to provide a cathedral ceiling in the new mid-century modern kitchen and living space. The walls that separated the kitchen from the living room and dining room were also removed, and larger windows and glass doors were added to draw more light into the space.

“We paid great attention to proportions and getting the scale of the windows and doors just right,” said Lum, who used Vectorworks to complete this design. “The height of the cathedral ceilings not only maximized the footprint but also optimized the natural light, which makes you want to stay in the space all day long.”

The previous kitchen/breakfast room was 347 square feet with an awkward layout and a low ceiling. The new kitchen is now open to the other living spaces and entry – an open area of 1,007 square feet – all within the volume of the new cathedral ceiling.

Mixing Zen and Mid-Century Modern Trends

Working closely with designer Tiffiny Johnson of Peninsula Modern, the team guided the design toward the mix of calm Japanese sensibility and mid-century modern the client wanted. Heavily grained teak was used in the cabinetry for its rich texture and warmth – as well as its association with mid-century design – and book-matched for a layered look. Small, nearly invisible pulls were installed to minimize anything distracting from the teak.

To complement the sleek cabinetry and emphasize a natural appeal, an environmentally friendly material made from recycled paper and a non-petroleum resin was used. The effect of the material mimics the look of dark slate and was even used for the island’s waterfall countertop to emphasize the space’s clean, modern lines.

A hint of color is brought in through the backsplash, which is a wall of deep green – almost black – glazed tile, laid horizontally. The backsplash creates a focal point to the cooktop while relating to the other black accents found throughout the kitchen, including the bar stools, appliances and wood graining.

“The tile’s luminous finish reflects light and anchors the space,” said Lum. “Not being a pure black gives a deeper dimension to the space compared to if we used a regular black.”

This overall mix of black, wood and deep green has another purpose: It references Japanese pottery and interiors. Along with white wood-painted ceilings and light, hardwood floors, the space has moments of both dark and light that make it feel sophisticated and inviting.

“I loved being able to see the space’s potential and coming up with a design that makes the kitchen the centerpiece of the house,” said Lum. “It was very rewarding to create a kitchen where everyone wants to hang out every day.”

Source List

Architect: John Lum, John Lum Architecture Designer: Tiffiny Johnson, Peninsula Modern Photography: Margot Hartford Photography

Barstools: RH Beverage Fridge: U-Line Cabinet Pulls: Colonial Hardware Cabinetry: Noel O’Rourke of Woodteck Construction Countertops: PaperStone Double Wall Oven: Thermador Ice Maker: Hoshizaki Kitchen Faucet: Concord Tile Backsplash: Heath Ceramics

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