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The “Urban Kitchen” Design Project – minimalist, green, modern, utilitarian, efficient, gritty

by Chad Ludeman on March 25, 2008 · 9 comments

in Design,kitchen

This post started in response to a friend of mine, Matt Pappajohn, who happens to be a custom cabinet maker and wanted to have a go at building a modern and green kitchen for our project. He wanted me to give him a general idea of what we would be trying to design prior to a meeting with himself and ISA, our fearless architects, this Thursday.

Brian from ISA originally came up with the term “urban kitchen” that we are applying to our design here. The kitchen will most likely be for the 120K house only as our budget is slightly larger for that home and we are really making a prototype for possible future”urban kitchens” with Matt. Matt owns and runs Pappajohn Woodworking with his brother, Ian. They also rent warehouse space to a bunch of local artisans and woodworkers. One of these companies that may be helping with the project is Erector Sets as they have some nice CNC equipment.

Design Guidelines

Our main guidelines for the design are included in title of this post – minimalist, green, modern, utilitarian, efficient and gritty. The design should have simple, clean lines that lends well to affordable construction.

I am not a huge fan of using veneers and would like to try and focus on using some of the available green sheet products available on the market today that would be suitable for cabinet making.

We will be trying to make the design as open and airy as possible by having more open shelving than usual. Preferably, we will have no upper cabinets and use only open shelving. We may also reduce costs and keep some open shelving in areas near the stove/oven on the lower levels where large pots and pans may be stored. Also, larger and fewer drawers are preferred to keep the cost of hardware down while maintaining storage space.

Lastly, I hate how our large American refrigerators stick out like sore thumbs in today’s kitchens and since we don’t have the budget to buy a sleek, built in model, we will need to be creative in how we keep the fridge from looking ridiculous in our design.

I have written two other posts on kitchen design to date where some more insight into our design strategy can be seen so far.

Kitchen Inspiration

Below are some of the inspirational kitchen designers that I really like. Some of these are a bit too modern or sleek for what we are going for but I like the lines and concepts in them. The Hansen kitchens are by far my most favorite and I think they capture the perfect mix of custom cabinet making, natural materials and modern design.

Props to Justin at materialicious for turning me on to most, if not all, of these inspirational kitchens!

Boffi Table Kitchen

Boffi Kitchen

Boffi Kitchen - Side View

Terry Dwan

Only One by Terry Dwan

Only One

Libero Kitchen by Terry Dwan

Libero Kitchen

I really, really like this open lower shelving & drawer design

Libero Kitchen - Bar

Hansen Living Solid Wood Kitchens

I’m a bit obsessed with Hansen’s kitchens…



henrybuilt hb20

henrybuilt m series

Layout Options

The image below is a very rough sketch of a couple possible kitchen layout configurations we have kicked around so far.

100k kitchen layout options

Right now the top runner is the upper left layout that contains a simple L-configuration where the peninsula is an open, boffi style table that a few people can sit around and is as open below as possible to let light come through the space from the back of the house.

The top right layout is one of the original thoughts we had that hides the fridge, oven and tall cabinets under the stairs and leaves a sleek island in the middle, dividing the ground floor space.

The bottom right is a more traditional layout with a seperate island. I am not crazy about this due to its standard design and need for a totally separate piece that does not seem as inherently cost-effective as the other options. It also takes up a bit more floor space and reduces the flexibility of the layout for the future homeowner.

Lastly, is a new concept on the bottom left that has a deep cooking island with seating in the middle that is flanked by the fridge, sink and deep storage on one side and shallower storage on the other side for dishware and other more attractive kitchen items.

Next we will try to work up some sketches of possible cabinet designs prior to our meeting on Thursday.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Urban Kitchen Design Update |
April 10, 2008 at 2:10 am
Budget Reduction - Goodbye Custom Casework. Hello IKEA. |
July 31, 2008 at 4:10 pm
Recap of Pappajohn Custom Cabinet Meeting |
September 10, 2008 at 7:55 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 moderns-r-us March 26, 2008 at 2:28 am

Nice set of inspiration pics!

2 Rob March 26, 2008 at 5:45 pm


I love the inspirational photos! I particularly like the ones with a furniture feel that have closed drawers. I dont like the open drawers, as kitchens can be messy and I would not like cleaning a kitchen like that. Perhaps its just the way I cook.
I also really like the idea of using a green sheet product instead of a veneer. I love the look of clear finished mdf and I imagine a similar effect could be obtained with wheat board or some other similar product.

3 chad March 27, 2008 at 11:59 am

Agreed Rob. I love the space underneath the cabinets that gives it a lighter feeling and doesn’t make the kitchen feel so clunky with a bunch of closed boxes.

We’ll have to see what everyone thinks of open shelving. I think this is where some of the urban feel comes in where people don’t mind having things exposed a bit more, especially if it makes things more accessible while cooking.

4 Susan September 13, 2008 at 11:57 pm

As a kitchen designer, I applaud your choices for inspiration. There’s some beautiful work there, and proof that you needn’t overload a space with cabinets to make it functional.

I would like to add that, while I don’t see a need for actual drawers, matching roll-outs and other functional aids in the base cabinets would be a great help. Without those, things are going to get stacked and jumbled, which makes for inconvenience and mess. People are more likely to keep things neat (important in an open space) if it’s quick and easy to put things away. Having to juggle past stacks of pans and things to get things out or put them away if access is fast.

Don’t think you’ll have a problem with open shelving in your market. You might consider some closed storage mixed in for those items that look unsightly out in the open.

5 kitchen design November 24, 2008 at 3:59 am

This is really insane stuff.

6 bethann January 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Hi, for more modern inspiration, check out Valcucine on our site and We also love Bozzeo for a clean look that is produced in the US.

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