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  • Writer's pictureZ Group Architecture & Interior Design

Part 2: Q + A on Residential Kitchens with Seth Hmielowski

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

In this multi-part interview series, we are discussing kitchens, both commercial and residential. The Interview for this month’s topic covers residential kitchens and have been conducted with our Principal, Seth Hmielowski. Specifically, we will be discussing Novo Ferrum, Dulcinea, and Elysium residences.

Here is a little background on each project:

Novo Ferrum comes from the Latin meaning renewed iron, which is the embodiment of this earthy residence’s experience. The natural elements of wood and stone create balance against the strong panels of iron, which are clad to the exterior of this modern single-family home renovation. As a transition metal and a critical element in nourishing life on Earth, overtime iron reacts when exposed to oxygen and moisture in the air. This reaction produces a transformation that renews the iron into iron oxide and changes its color from silver-gray to brilliant shades of brown, orange, and red. The use of iron in the Novo Ferrum residence creates a forever changing exterior design and color palette that engages one’s senses from season to season and year to year. The exterior evolves and becomes refreshed naturally overtime and merge the residence into its surroundings with color and texture that only nature itself can create.

Dulcinea is a single-family residence that optimizes the sweetness of Aspen’s historic West End.

Yet also rising to the inherent challenges of Aspens historic West End’s small lots, capitalizes upon them, and marries them with all that makes the West End a joyful place for family, community, and nature. To the South is Aspen Mountain, North is the bright and sunny Red Mountain, directly across the street is a luscious park and the Red Brick Arts Center, a hub of local Aspen arts and culture. Z-Group Architects and the homeowners wanted to create a home that exemplified the area attributes to create something that visually, spatially, and experimentally conceptualizes these notes of the Aspen score.

Elysium, in Greek mythology, is defined as “a place or state of perfect happiness”. Our design seamlessly brings nature into this home, which is a perfect reflection of happiness to us! Elysium’s linear floor plan naturally fits into the 36-acre landscape, while taking full advantage of the stunning views of the Elk Mountain Range. The front approach to the home is formal, yet playful as stone walls separate the garage and home from guests while large glass windows providing a teasing peak into the home and breathtaking vistas. Stone, steel, and glass seamless flow between indoor-outdoor living spaces, complete with floor to ceiling glass walls that hideaway to open up the entire North East corner of the home. The boundaries between these living spaces and the breathtaking vistas vanish as living and kitchen spaces become ideal for entertainment.

Q: Often it is said that ‘the kitchen is the center of the home’, as in the place where family comes together. Can you talk about Dulcinea and how the kitchen was designed as a place for the family?

A: “Ya, so the homeowner is a baker, a huge baker, and the center island was to be a focal point, she wanted the family to gather around and be part of dinner making. Even if they weren’t actually participating, they were present. So this was that center point, that center island. ”

Q: Are there any kitchen trends that you see happening at the moment?

A: “White, everyone is going white. I am also starting to notice that although everyone is going grey and white, there is this trend towards the pastels might be coming back… so lookout! We’re seeing some of that with the designers in New York City and Los Angeles. This is where the pastels are starting to make there way back.”

Q: Are you seeing any trends in kitchen design that particularly like or dislike?

A: “We’re seeing that everything is going contemporary. The dislike is that they are starting to get a little sterile, much like a model home, and you’re starting to lose that warmth. That welcoming aesthetic, you know? That’s probably the dislike. And the Like is the details, the craftsmanship, and the fine lines.”

Q: How does Z-Group solve sterile contemporary design issue?

A: “A warmer stone or tile will often offset the really hard or harsh feel of the contemporary sterile kitchen.”

Q: Some renovations and homeowner’s needs require a compact kitchen either by

desire or due to limited space. Could you tell me about a project where you addressed such a scenario? What were the issues, and what were your solutions?

A: “In Novo Ferrum, it was a major renovation and we had to stick with the existing floor plate and square footage. We couldn’t expand any further than what we had. In order to address this issue, we basically had to make the kitchen much more efficient. Back when the home was built, architecture was boxy and big. So we decided to make the kitchen like a Ferrari, the fast little luxurious Ferrari. We had some real challenges there and some really cool solutions that the homeowner was thrilled about.”

Q: Could you discuss a project where you had ample space to design a large kitchen for entertaining? How do you approach a large entertaining kitchen?

A: “So on both the McLain Flats residence and Elysium you have a family area and also a catering area. They are designed for having a caterer and having the caterer be part of the party. They are designed for entertainment with large islands and a clear delineation between where the chef needs to be, preparation, drink service, and interacting or watching. As an everyday kitchen they are huge, but when doing true entertainment they work out perfectly.”

Q: Is there anything that you specifically love about Elysium’s kitchen?

A: “Well Elysium, with regards to the kitchen, is that sliding open door that is just awesome! We were thinking while putting the door in that this is such a great climate for this. The homeowners had their very first party in late Fall. It was chilly and they opened it all up. The guests had to bundle up a little bit, but they loved it! Everybody spilled outside wither their cocktails and the music was blaring inside and out. It brought the party outside into the yard yet they were still connected to the kitchen. It was perfect and so awesome!”

Q: Is there a sort of balance between family functionality and living/dinning spaces in a home?

A: ” We do that with a change of materials or a change in elevation on the island. Maybe it’s a change in ceiling heights, too. Something to break it up the space, so that it’s not just one large big element.”

Q: When designing a residential kitchen, what sort of questions do you ask a homeowner ?

A: “Do you cook? That’s the first one. And personally, I don’t cook. So when it comes to a kitchen, I want it to look awesome! I want it to be looking trick. So, ‘Do you cook?’ and ‘Do you really cook?’ or ‘Do have people that cook?’, ‘Do you entertain?’, ‘Do you have big parties?’, ‘Do you have a caterer come in or do you have a chef come in?’. All those things play a factor. ‘Do you have kids, family, grandkids?’ as well. We have to figure out how the homeowner is actually using this space on the day to day. A lot of the time it’s “well I make coffee”. OK, so I’ll give you a coffee machine. So some cases they might not be big cooks, but they throw big parties with caters.In this case, we have to design the kitchen around a day to day small function, but also have the bigger part of it be the catering and display kitchen. It all depends on how the homeowner plan to use it.”

We will be continuing to interview our team and sharing our insights on architecture and design. So… Stay tuned for part 3!

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