A Kitchen of Color and Convenience, at Any Height

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On paper, Paula and Greg Jacobson's Rockville kitchen contains the elements of a standard upscale remodel, yet the finished design is full of their taste and style.

Comfort and color define the space. Kitchen designer Deborah Krasner adjusted surface heights and suggested ways in which Paula, a part-time cooking instructor who has arthritis and fibromyalgia, and Greg, who is a foot taller than his wife, would both be happy working in the room. Krasner says four zones -- hot, cold, wet, dry -- trump the old triangle theory of equidistant access to stove, sink and fridge.

The couple started with Spanish Gaudi tiles in mind as inspiration, but the final palette is all Paula. Greg is colorblind.

Here are five features that make the Jacobsons' kitchen livable and lovable:

1. Krasner advised against using a different color for each chair, but Paula had to have a range: "I can't help myself. I go for the vibrancy every time." Her husband chose the chairs for style and comfort. Tall bar stools would have been uncomfortable for Paula, so the island's seating area was kept at dining-table height.

2. The backsplash is a showstopping focal point made up of circle-shaped tiles Paula found at Architectural Ceramics in Rockville. There are four sizes and seven colors: eggplant, plum, robin's-egg blue, navy blue, red, yellow and lime green. Each color is used elsewhere in the room, including in the seating. The gas cooktop and wall ovens are set lower to accommodate Paula, who is 4 feet 10 inches tall, but the soapstone countertops along the "hot" wall and on the "cold" sink wall are at a standard 36 inches, a height suitable for her husband.

3. An 11-foot-long island might cause extra steps in the kitchen, but Paula stays on the cork-flooring side of the island when she's cooking, with access to all work zones. The island is 32 inches tall, a lower counter height that is comfortable for her. Paula had saved a magazine photo of the blue Kohler sink; "I saw it and had to have it," she says. They made sure to incorporate the color in the tile backsplash.

4 Vertical pullout pantries put staples on display: "It's possible to see everything in them and helps prevent my buying items I already have," Paula says. She and her designer worked to limit the number of overhead (and less accessible) cupboards. Dishes, glasses and mugs are in drawers next to the dishwasher.

5 The kitchen has 13 drawers that were fitted into the normally unused toe-kick space, below where standard lower cabinets would end. They work especially well for Paula because of her height; it's easier for her to reach down than up.

Bonnie S. Benwick

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