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Marmoleum surfaces, subway tiles and traditional booth seats enhance the fifties diner look of this family kitchen

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Many homeowners request a restaurant-quality kitchen, but not so many want to re-create a fifties diner. But that is precisely what the owner of this new kitchen wanted, say architects Emily Little and Paul Clayton of Emily Little Architects.

"The owner liked the idea of a kitchen for a short-order cook – a place where she could provide diner-style service for the family," says Little.

The new kitchen was part of an extensive remodeling program that created a large family home from two former duplexes. As the kitchen occupies the original garage space, there was plenty of depth to provide a series of separate work and seating areas. These include a traditional dining booth with bench seats, a curved bar, pantry, and separate food preparation area – similar to the back-of-house facilities in a restaurant.

The materials, notably the stainless steel countertops, white subway tiles and the Marmoleum floor, table and bar tops, also reference the fifties diner concept.

"For this project, we specified dark orange Marmoleum inset with yellow circles," says Little. "We wanted to create a fun atmosphere – this is a very lively family kitchen. The simple geometric elements repeat a theme that appears elsewhere in the house."

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Little says Marmoleum was also specified for its environmental status, as it is a natural linseed-oil based product with no off-gassing.

Another influence in the design and materials was the owner's interest in Japanese culture. Simple maple cabinetry features in the main kitchen area, while a Japanese tansu-style cabinet in front of the stairs has rift-sawn, book-matched white oak doors.

Overhead display cabinets have orange-painted interiors, reminiscent of a Japanese lacquer box. Again, these were designed to enliven the kitchen. Similarly, colorful doors on a microwave cabinet repeat the colors of the walls and furniture, further enhancing the whimsical look.

First published date: 04 April 2008

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Credit List

Architect Emily Little, AIA – principal, Paul Clayton, AIA – project architect, Emily Little Architects (now Clayton Levy & Little Architects, Austin, TX)
Doors and windows Aluminum-clad wood from Kolbe & Kolbe
Flooring Marmoleum; red oak
Cabinetry Maple
Tansu cabinet and bar front Rift-sawn white oak
Countertops Stainless steel; Marmoleum, sealed with paste wax and installed by Fashion Floors
Wall tiles White subway tiles from Paltile; Häfele rack system
Paints Benjamin Moore
Screen on stairs Translucent glass panels with imbedded reeds by Lumicor
Stair railing Hand-forged iron by Todd Campbell, Fisterra Studios
Kitchen sinks Franke main sink; Elkay preparation sink
Faucets Grohe
Water dispenser Insta-Hot
Range and ventilation Wolf
Refrigerator Sub-Zero Story by Colleen Hawkes Photography by Thomas McConnell