19 December 2008

Here's a real-life design dilemma from my in-bin

I was asked this week to come up with a display in the showroom of a natural stone wholesaler I do a fair amount of business with. It's an honor frankly and I'm about to present him with some concept drawings. I'm in a real quandary about this because the man who asked me to come up with a display was somewhat vague about what he wanted.

Here's the space:

Now, this is in a new facility that's still under construction. This vignette I'm putting together is not a real kitchen, so it doesn't have to function as one. It needs a sink and they need to be able to store things in the cabinetry. It also needs a large island where blueprints can be rolled out and worked on. I was told that they wanted it to be clean, uncluttered and contemporary. The cabinetry needs to get out of the way and show off the stone that the counters and island top will be made from. They are after all, a natural stone wholesaler. I am going to use this slab door in either a light maple or a dark, nearly black stain on cherry.

I'm throwing this out there because I'm looking for reactions. I'll work out the  finishes and the function part later, and what I'm looking for now is a reaction to the shapes I'm throwing up on the wall. Anyone? Anyone?

So here's what I came up with:

This is concept one. The cabinets in the wall are equipped with flip-up doors and each row of them grows deeper the farther into the corner they get.

This is concept two, as well as a concept I don't like at all. All of the wall cabinets in the top row have glass inserts in them.

Concept three is a variation on concept one. In life, it won't appear to be as broken up as it does here in a black and white line art. The wall cabinets remain the same depth, but they grow shorter as each row moves up the wall. The design savvy out there will recognize that as forced perspective.

Concept four is an idea that might actually appear in some one's home some day. It's the shortest (at 102") of the four concepts and would be the most functional.

So what do you think? Do I have anything here or should I start over?


  1. Maybe it's the drawing format, but seems like they all crowd the countertop. If the point is to show off the stone, then maybe it would make sense to increase the distance between the bottom of the cabinets and the counter.

  2. Hey, thanks for you comment. I think it's the skewed perspective of the images that's making those wall cabinets seem to crowd the counter. There is a standard height that wall cabinets hang above a counter --18" and I'm not changing that. The question remains, do any of shapes of those four concepts do anything for you?

  3. Concept #3 draws me in.

    My first thought was to possibly eliminate a couple of the wall cabinets, either for a symmetrical or asymetrical "open" look and display area.

    Stone could then be set in on the back walls with perhaps additional ledge splash depending on where you set the open areas and could feature some very attractive stone...

  4. Thank you! That's exactly what I was looking for. I have a ceiling height of 125" and I want to keep things really open. I love the idea of a stone ledge. Let me play around with this some more.

  5. First opinion: opt for more stone detail.

    I have more questions for the owner of the granite showroom. Does he have other displays? Or is this one display going to be it? Do they want to show off traditional design features or ultra contemporary? If he is still vague in the answers, what style is in demand in your town?

    If it is a traditional design, that island could be absolutely stunning with a beefy triple ogee edge. Turn corners at an angle on the island to show the beauty of traditional edge details. Perhaps a curve in the island long edge for an overhang and placement of stools. Maybe add decorative posts for seating on both sides. Or add a curve on the long end for adding bar stools.

    For the perimeter cabinets in a traditional design I would add an arched opening or alcove so that you can show another edge detail in the ledge. If he sells stone sinks, allow for an apron front sink made out of a solid piece of marble.

    For a modern, contemporary display, I would focus on a linear look. Wrap the counter down the left and right sides of the island.

    I do like Kelly's concept for the back walls.
    Sounds like a fun project.

  6. Thanks Laurie. I should have been more specific in my description of the showroom and the business. This kitchen vignette is in a 25,000 square foot building. It will be surrounded by slabs of specimen stone, which is all this business sells. He needs this vignette to hold a sink and an espresso machine and then the cabinetry will get pressed into service to store marketing collateral and stuff like that. The client wants something clean and modern but not sterile. The island is pretty large, and I'm calling for the stone on the top to wrap the sides of it as well.

    His goal with this vignette is to communicate that he has good taste and that he's not too hemmed in by conventions. His personal aesthetic is pretty minimalist, but a lot of people don't understand minimalism and get turned off by it. So I need to come up with something transitional contemporary but that skewed more toward contemporary than transitional.

    There are other displays going in this showroom, though I'm the only one doing cabinetry. There will be seating areas built around stone coffee tables and things like that.

    Seeing these four ideas on this blog has been eye-opening. I hate number two and regret posting it. I love the first one and the third one's interesting too. The third one with the addition of some negative space, thank you Kelly! So well see how it all comes together. I have a meeting with Mr. Stone Wholesaler on Tuesday and I'm looking forward to seeing what I come up with this weekend.

  7. I love the first one too. Kind of reminds me of a staggered mountainside where the stone is mined.
    I love minimalistic horizontal clean lines in design, but this is out of favor with most of my traditionalist clients.

    Please post photos when it's done.

  8. Thanks Laurie. I spent a couple of hours playing around with one and three this afternoon. Thanks for the observation about concept one looking like a mountainside where stone had been mined. Talk about a selling point! Lady, you're good!

  9. Number one has a curious effect of the upper cabinets forming arrows that pull me into the scene.
    In text advertising, one finds that if the first letters of words in copy are bolded in a manner that forms an arrow, more people are pulled into the ad and it has higher click-thru rate on the Internet. (Little known secret, don't tell)...but I think the same principle applies here.

  10. Thanks! That was my favorite heading into this and it remains my favorite. I'm glad I'm not alone in that. My presentation on these concepts is still with my client and I ought to hear some feedback this week. I'll write more about it as that saga unfolds.


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