Designer Bill Cordray and wife Brooke pulled out all the stops when cooking up a new kitchen for their small Salt Lake City home.
By Brad Mee | Photos by Scot Zimmerman
Even after 13 years of designing kitchens and cabinetry for homes—ranging from big-budget mountain homes to hip urban lofts (and winning national design awards from SubZero and GE)—Bill Cordray remains modest about his masterly ability to craft a spectacular kitchen. So, it came as no surprise that when asked about whether he’d be open to showing off the new kitchen he and his wife Brooke created for themselves in their small 1,800-square-foot Canyon Rim-area home, he was reluctant. “It’s not all that,” he claimed. Wrong. This kitchen may be short on size, but it is very big on that. Consider the Himalayan Salt wall, for instance, or the island’s modified waterfall design. And then there’s the modern soffit edged with light. The list is long.
As with many of Bill’s projects, this new kitchen was reborn from the remodel of an outdated, inefficient space. He and Brooke spent two years designing and planning this new kitchen before removing a wall separating the old dining and cooking areas and then tearing everything else down to the studs. Their goal: create an open kitchen that connects to the outdoors and caters to Brooke’s passion for cooking and the couple’s love of entertaining and relaxing at home. They did all of that and more. “It’s hard to put a value on how much this kitchen has improved our lives at home,” Bill says. Brooke agrees. “I’ve always wanted a ‘Billy’ kitchen,” she says, branding her husband’s acclaimed work. “Now we have one and its everything I hoped it would be.” While there are many elements that make this kitchen a winner, these 12 top our list.
1. Custom Island
“It was all about giving the barstools a home,” Bill says, describing the inspiration for his distinctive waterfall island design. Rather than conventionally running the quartz countertop down opposite ends of the island, Bill used Pental quartz to frame only one end of his island and then used it along one side to create an L-shaped nook for counter stools at the island’s end and along the adjoining side. The design isn’t just eye candy. “It’s much nicer visiting when you can face each other rather than sitting side by side,” he says.
2. Corner Nook
The Cordray’s cozy new breakfast nook performs long past the first meal of the day. “We sit here all of the time,” says Brooke who, along with Bill, eats, works and relaxes in the charming space. Bathed in views and dappled sunlight flowing through broad windows, the nook feels like it has one foot outdoors. To link it with the rest of the kitchen, Bill designed a narrow wall at the end of the bench that connects to the perimeter’s lighted soffit. Marble backsplash tile dresses the wall surrounding the nook’s windows, storage drawers hide in the base, and attached back cushions provide comfort and anything-but-fussy style.
3. Dual Sinks
Bill advises clients to install two sinks if they have the space. In the Cordray’s kitchen, the large basin sits beneath a new perimeter window while a smaller prep sink is strategically positioned in the island opposite the range. “The prep sink let’s me work while facing guests seated at the island or while teaching small cooking classes,” Brooke explains. The couple chose single-basin sinks (they handle large pots and pans with ease) and passed on stainless steel, instead choosing Blanco Silgranit. “It’s so easy to clean, and I love the dark brown color,” Brooke adds.
4. Horizontal Lines
“In contemporary design, everyone likes horizontal lines,” says Bill of this recurring design element in the kitchen. The room showcases them with horizontally oriented open shelves, wood grains, a modernized soffit and decorative “kerfs,” or notches in the cabinets’ doors and drawer fronts.
5. Two-tone Cabinets
Notable in the kitchen’s design is the upper cabinets’ two-tone treatment. The cabinet boxes are elm and their doors are painted white. “It’s a small kitchen and by making the upper cabinets light rather than dark, it feels more spacious,” Bill explains.
6. Expansive Tile
Lenox gray marble tiles cover the walls completely, running from the countertops all the way to the ceiling. “It’s a unifying material,” Bill explains. “You don’t want to see random pieces of drywall that break up a cohesive look.” The elm cabinetry has very little visual movement and the gray-toned tile adds just enough interest without being overwhelming, he explains. “We wanted something that would never look dated but wasn’t boring,” Brooke says.
7. Surprising Window
The Cordrays didn’t want to loose the generous light that flowed through an old doorway’s opening, so rather than boarding over the gap, they installed a door-sized window fronted by floating shelves, a countertop and open storage shelves below. A wine rack and pull-out spice drawers frame this lower opening. Light now washes over the west side of the kitchen and offers views to a secluded patio.
8. Recessed Refrigerator
Taking advantage of a jog in the wall between the dining and kitchen areas, Bill positioned the refrigerator so that it appears to be a mere 12-inches deep from its right side as seen from the entry and dining areas. The fridge’s left side connects with the countertop at full depth. “I didn’t want the space to feel congested and the recessed refrigerator helps keep it open,” he says.
9. Outdoor Link
“We bought the house because of its connection to the yard,” Bill says. To unite indoors and out, the Cordrays limited themselves to only a few upper cabinets making room for large windows that draw in natural light and frame views of the backyard and patio areas. A kitchen door opens to a spacious deck located directly off the kitchen. Brook adds, “It’s our outdoor living room much of the year.”
10. Salt Wall
Bill and Brooke transformed a blank wall into an dramatically illuminated niche by insetting a plane of back-lit, brick-stacked Himalayan salt blocks. It’s not just for looks. “Himalayan salt is said to give off negative ions that offset the radiation emitted from appliances and electronics,” says Brooke, explaining one of the material’s reported health benefits. Glass shelves add unobtrusive display space to the feature.
11. Room to Roam
“The most important part of any kitchen design is the space planning,” Bill says. Guided by the shape of the room, he and Brooke divided their modestly sized open kitchen into three zones—the main cooking area, the dining space and the window-framed corner housing a nook. The room’s island sits at the center of the kitchen surrounded by wide walkways. “We wanted generous passages,” explains Bill, who devised 46-inch-wide alleys between the island and counters.
12. Stylized Soffit
A wood-faced, modern soffit defines the L-shaped perimeter of the ceiling. It also visually unifies a mix of elements running along the two adjoining walls including the refrigerator, hood space, upper cabinets and the sink and nook areas. Along the soffit’s edge, a narrow trough houses LED lights that accentuates the room’s clean-lined design and injects a glowing shot of hip, sophisticated style. “It’s one of my favorite features,” Bill says of the illuminated channels.
See what’s cooking in this kitchen here (you don’t want to miss out on this delicious recipe).