Homes Photo Credit: Martin Tessler

Kitchen Special: Scandinavian-Inspired Style in Calgary

Scandinavian design meets a playful sense of style in a Calgary kitchen made for a fun-loving family.

Johnston emigrated from England and had a lot of nostalgic collectibles. Architect Robert Pashuk incorporated open display into the cabinets for a rotating showcase.
Johnston emigrated from England and had a lot of nostalgic collectibles. Architect Robert Pashuk incorporated open display into the cabinets for a rotating showcase.

“How do you live?” It’s a simple question, but an illuminating one for a designer about to create a two-storey home for his clients—and it’s always where architect Robert Pashuk starts. To his delight, the answer he received from Calgarians Sara Simpson and John Johnston was a perfect combination of open-ended (leaving Pashuk’s firm lots of room for creative innovation) and quirkily specific (providing jumping-off points for a few interesting challenges).

The dining set is a mix of seating styles, with an important chair at the head: it belonged to Simpson’s grandmother.
The dining set is a mix of seating styles, with an important chair at the head: it belonged to Simpson’s grandmother.

Since family—the couple have two kids, ages seven and 10—and casual entertaining occupy much of their time at home, Simpson told Pashuk they wanted a “modern but playful feel—nothing too serious.” (The couple underlined that request by purchasing a vibrant orange Viking range before their new kitchen was designed.) But they were particular too: they wanted windows that would satisfy Johnston’s longing for the huge Georgian-period variety he’d fallen in love with while attending the University of Edinburgh; Simpson hoped for an ideal place to indulge her love of rolling out swaths of pastry dough, along with a perfect kitchen-window seat for her mother to curl up in with the grandkids.

Homeowners John Johnston and Sara Simpson spotted staggered pendant lights in local restaurant Model Milk and decided to emulate the look at home.
Homeowners John Johnston and Sara Simpson spotted staggered pendant lights in local restaurant Model Milk and decided to emulate the look at home.

Thanks to a terraced plan that follows the natural downward slope of the property, the design of the kitchen, located at the back of the house, allows for 12-foot ceilings, creating space for seven-foot-high windows looking into the backyard. A nine-foot-long butcher-block island gives Simpson room to roll; Pashuk also installed a cushioned, L-shaped bench under the window for her mom (and no doubt myriad other kitchen visitors) to enjoy. A salvaged beam from the property’s original bungalow acts as support for the kitchen’s pendant lights.

Orange is Johnston’s favourite colour—as seen in both the Le Creuset kettle and, more impressively, the Viking range.
Orange is Johnston’s favourite colour—as seen in both the Le Creuset kettle and, more impressively, the Viking range.
The storage garage is actually cantilevered on the outer wall of the house, creating valuable storage space for small appliances.
The storage garage is actually cantilevered on the outer wall of the house, creating valuable storage space for small appliances.

Perhaps most strikingly, Pashuk found a way to upend the predictable formality of a long strip of cabinets stretching across a kitchen wall. Instead, the architect designed the reverse-Shaker cupboards to look like an assembly of boxes strapped together at varying levels. “It’s playful,” says Pashuk, “but it’s not a one-liner.”

The farmhouse sink is slated for dish duty (a prep sink on the island handles cooking needs), so Simpson wanted it placed in front of the window.
The farmhouse sink is slated for dish duty (a prep sink on the island handles cooking needs), so Simpson wanted it placed in front of the window.

Smart Tips

1. Opt for drawers under the counters rather than cabinets. It’s easier to pull plates and pots out of large drawers than to root around at the back of a low, dark cupboard.

2. Incorporate meaningful, personal elements into an other­wise sleek kitchen to give it a warm, conversation-worthy appeal.

3. Make your everyday dishware part of the scenery with a glass-front or partial sliding door on one or more cupboards.

4. Don’t be afraid to use a variety of woods in the kitchen: a combination of fir and maple provides a warm yet modern effect.

5. Embrace unusual places to display art in the kitchen, where wall space is at a premium. Don’t be afraid to break the rules by hanging a piece higher, lower or in a tighter space than you normally would.

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