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Lucky Midcentury

Regional Award Winner KDC 2006-2007

Transforming a soulless kitchen into the heart of the home brings an academic couple closer to themselves, and the people and world they live in.

Designer Lesley Hayman Sager recalls her client expressing how she felt in her old kitchen: "I hate this kitchen so much, that when I am in it, I feel I do not exist." Owners Melanie and David, political science professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were so repelled by their trite oak cabinets and monochromatic color scheme that they hadn't entertained much in the eight years that they'd live in their otherwise-grand midcentury dwelling in one of Madison's most historic neighborhoods.

Inspired by Melanie's frequent trips to Asia for academic work, and the home's clean lines and existing Shoji screens and exposed ceiling beams, Sager introduced an Asian and Arts and Crafts vibe to the kitchen and even employed the Japanese method of designing in units. Basing the measurements of every feature, drawer and cabinets to be divisible by three—a number considered auspicious in the Chinese culture—informed the entire layout for a clean, orderly aesthetic. "She's an academic and always in her head," says Sager. "So when she gets out of her head, she needs the space to be organized!"

Painted maple cabinet edges are slightly sanded to recall vintage Asian furniture, and the fronts of the upper cabinets are crafted of simple Shoji paper, sandwiched between panes of glass. The subtle pattern and sheen of the backsplash above the counters is actually a combination of low-glass and high-gloss red lacquer. The red, black and white palette is softened by warm bamboo flooring and the stainless steel Sub-Zero, which Sager applauds for its ability to fit flush with the cabinetry and maintain the room's serene aesthetic. Zoning the sink into the island, away from the Wolf 30-inch Duel Fuel Range allows the two cooks to work together in comfort. Today the academics share hospitality and meal preparations with faculty and students on a regular basis. The experience is much more casual and interactive—and every gathering feels auspicious.

In this kitchen

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This kitchen does not feature any Sub-Zero products.

This kitchen does not feature any Cove products.