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Kitchen Tour: Midcentury Design Meets German Precision

A fusion of Ideas creates an airy kitchen combining German functionality and Japanese simplicity in this 1950s home

Julia Schoppe
29 November 2016

What happens when Eastern simplicity and German functionality meet Canadian midcentury architecture? A special kind of intercultural symbiosis. This was the result when Japanese calligraphy artist Noriko Maeda asked the German architect Antje Bulthaup to redesign her residence, in particular the kitchen, in Canada’s Waterloo.

If the name Bulthaup sounds familiar, it’s because Antje is the granddaughter of German kitchen company Bulthaup’s founder and led the family-owned business in Toronto until 2012. Thanks to her experience, know-how and some brilliant design ideas, she succeeded in creating a new heart in this 1950s home.

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Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here Japanese artist Noriko Maeda and her husband
Location Waterloo, Canada
Kitchen dimensions Roughly 30 sq m
Designer Antje Bulthaup of Antje Bulthaup Architect

This story begins in the postwar period, in the 1950s to be exact. Back then, architect Sherman Wright (1907-1996) designed a split-level bungalow for himself and his family, which he had built in the Canadian province of Ontario, southwest of Toronto. In 1993, the building became home to Japanese artist Noriko Maeda, her husband, and their two daughters.

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The calligraphy artist had come to Canada for professional reasons. Until then, she and her family had been commuting between Tokyo and Ontario. When the family first found the house, with its abundant glazing, Maeda’s then 10-year-old daughter quickly recognised one of its best features. “This house is wonderful; we can see the moon from anywhere in it,” she said.

When Maeda approached Antje Bulthaup in 2009, the architect immediately saw the building’s potential. “This property is a very open and airy bungalow, based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, but from the 1950s”, says the Canadian-based architect.

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“The clients called me because they knew of the Bulthaup brand and their daughter had seen some of our projects during her architecture studies,” Bulthaup says.

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Wood and large glass panels dominate the interior. “This house is a timber-framed construction with extensive glazing. There’s a strong connection between the interior and exterior – a beautifully landscaped Japanese garden that surrounds the building,” Bulthaup says.

This is a house with a unique character, and anything but an architectural mass product. Maeda’s now grown-up daughters have always insisted on preserving the philosophy of the building and adhering to the open-plan living concept, so the challenge was much bigger for Bulthaup.

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The kitchen was to create a connection between the work area and the dining and living spaces, this being at the narrowest point of the whole space.

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“My brief was to plan the roughly 30 sq m area in order for the kitchen to become a clear and harmonic bond between the different zones, as well as the centre for cooking. In fact, it not only serves as a private kitchen for the family; it’s also often used to hold presentations of the Japanese culture and host guests and clients,” Bulthaup says.

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From the open dining area, it’s easy to see the goings-on in the kitchen. But there’s still enough privacy to savour one’s food in peace.

The bungalow’s interior design concept is very close to the traditional Japanese home layout. The kitchen, designed to be discreet, fits into the space uniformly and exists in perfect harmony with what is often called a Zen ambience – balanced and calm.

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As well as making the kitchen very functional, attention was paid to the different surface materials. “The kitchen is composed of cherry wood and stainless steel, with glass panels on the wall. The tall cupboards and display shelves are made of anthracite aluminium. The long and sculptural island serves as a guidepost between the two areas,” Bulthaup says, as well as this being the food prep area.

B3 series kitchen, Bulthaup.

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Installations like this cupboard become smart sidekicks. “The surrounding rooms, with their diverse functions, and the interior and exterior areas were connected in such a way that these zones now merge smoothly,” Bulthaup says.

The flooring is slate. All the fixtures were manufactured by a carpenter with wood veneer.

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When Maeda finds the time between her creative activity and conducting Japanese cooking classes, she and her loved ones dine on the other side of the kitchen. This area serves as a buffer zone between the studio and the private living and dining area. Transparency and simplicity are predominant here as well. Considering the result of this project, one thing is clear: this fusion of cultures did work out.

What do you think of this calm, streamlined kitchen? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.
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