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Symmetry in motion

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Art and personal objects combined with linear design create a modern kitchen with a classical touch


Today's kitchens are often defined by function, but the modern and sleek appliances we buy sometimes seem out of place with the classical features of a home. A renovation can herald a return to tradition and personal style.

In this kitchen renovation, architect and designer Mary Douglas Drysdale turned to classical design elements to create a living space around a traditional-looking kitchen. The first of these elements is symmetry.

"The previous space consisted of a small triangular kitchen and adjoining room, both with an eight-foot ceiling. We opened these up and excavated down, which increased the roof height by two feet. We then changed the location of the windows and doors to line them up."

The staircase entrance is now in line with the dining room table, and one of the exit doors. The table is centered in the room. Symmetry is encouraged through the repeated use of clear geometric forms such as spheres, cubes and rectangles.

At one end of the space is the kitchen, which takes up the entire back wall. It features wall-to-wall cabinetry and a centered kitchen island that acts as a boundary and bar.


While the cooking-associated appliances are still visible, cupboards and cabinetry conceal systems such as air conditioning vents and speakers. The refrigerator doors were integrated to look like the pantry doors. Cabinet detail is continued around the side of the kitchen island to conceal power points.

Custom-made wood wall panels, limestone tiling and cream-colored Tibetan rugs define the light color palette. As well as providing a sense of light and space, this palette also acts as a canvas for the personal art that decorates the room.

"Despite the precision of modern appliances and technology, it is important to incorporate the hand, and remind the eye of the individual," says Drysdale, referring to hand-painted fabrics, glazed custom-made cabinetry, stenciled crown moldings and the paintings hanging on the walls.

While some design elements are functional, others add style and ambiance.

The spaciousness of the room prevents the cabinetry and personal objects from making the kitchen look cluttered.

At the opposite end to the kitchen is an informal sitting area. Although the color base is still cream, brightly-colored accessories correspond with the painting on the wall, which was sourced by the homeowner. Wall-mounted candelabras continue the classical context.

"Paneled walls and chandeliers were traditionally reserved for formal eating areas or libraries, but incorporating them in a modern kitchen gives the space a classical formality," says Drysdale.

French doors open up to a patio. Drysdale landscaped this courtyard garden to fit the traditional but playful theme. A wall was constructed to obscure a view of the neighboring house.

The double doors enable natural light to stream through the room, which is reflected by the interior color scheme.

First published date: 26 September 2007

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Credit List

Designer Mary Douglas Drysdale (Washington, DC)
Kitchen manufacturer Precision Cabinetry
Cabinetry Hand-painted and glazed wood cabinetry by Billet Collins Studio
Countertop Granite
Flooring Antique Gold Jerusalem limestone
Doors and windows Pozzi from Jeld-wen
Dining furniture Niermann Weeks
Chandelier Niermann Weeks
Kitchen sink Franke
Faucets Mico
Oven, microwave and dishwasher Miele
Cooktop Viking
Refrigeration Sub-Zero