Category: Kitchen remodeling, over $100,000

Location: Claremont, Calif.

David Gautreau

Contractors and designers: Ty Otjen, Mark Ashworth, Dave Robertson, HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, Claremont

Like an M.C. Escher print, every layer of this project is intricately pieced together, forming a house that functions effortlessly but also dazzles the eye. “Everything is a sculpture,” one judge noted. “The geometry is amazing.”

The bones of this modern 1976 house were solid, but not spectacular. The original floor plan did not take advantage of the beautiful view of the San Gabriel Mountains. Designer Ty Otjen of design/build firm HartmanBaldwin chose an angled addition to reach out to the rugged landscape. A less dramatic, straight addition, he notes, would have taken up too much of the already narrow side yard.

The 370-square-foot addition fulfills the homeowners' wish list: to capture the views of the mountains, enlarge the kitchen, and connect the kitchen and family room.

The addition is not only angled outward — it is angled upward. Otjen raised parts of the ceiling from 8 feet to 15 feet. During the first drafts of the design, Otjen thought about creating an open loft above the kitchen. But the vaulted ceiling fit better with the rooflines of the original house and still provided dramatic height. The designer also chose to use the same tongue and groove wood ceiling found in the original house in the addition. “We wanted to keep the good from the original house and strengthen it,” he says.

David Gautreau

Though a large light well brightens the room and the recessed cans provide overall lighting, Otjen still had to address the need for task lighting in the kitchen. To provide useful light for cooking and prep work, he added sleek wood canopies above each stretch of cabinetry to hold downlights. A divider with built-in cabinetry keeps the adjacent living room separate yet open.

To meet earthquake codes, the team installed a steel column between the two rooms. Instead of hiding the structural element, the design highlights the tapered column, which includes a niche housing a bronze statue.

The shapes and ingredients of the kitchen all contribute to the overall geometric design. However, the straight lines are softened with playful elements that reflect the homeowners' personalities — the circle window over the sink, the playful tile, the cabinet knobs, and cone pendant lights. As one judge simply stated, “They took every opportunity to get it right.”

Otjen says that having a design/build system allows the team to evaluate each detail for both form and function. “Everyone has the same goal,” he says. “To take the opportunity to make it work is not good enough. We want the best possible solution.”