David and Rachel Chamberlain transform their drab 1950’s kitchen into a family-friendly showcase of smart design and luxe finishes.

By Val Rasmussen | Photos by Scot Zimmerman

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

The Chamberlain’s kitchen is the hub of their Robert Fowler-designed 1956 mid-century modern home located in Salt Lake. During the  renovation, the couple removed a low sub-ceiling, relocated an adjacent laundry room, and opened up two walls. The now-open floor plan floods with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows.

All too often, his-and-her renovations end in a design tug of war, but for homeowners David and Rachel Chamberlain, theirs is a marriage made in design heaven. “Our strong suit is seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to design,” says portrait artist Rachel of her craftsman husband who agrees, “It’s really a collaboration of both of us.”

David isn’t any average cabinet maker. He’s a master of his trade, in demand by clients across Utah and throughout the country. His firm is a “hybrid shop,” he says. “We design small details and execute large-scale projects. This allows us to be hands-on and never too far from the craft.” So, what happens when a sought-after designer and his artist wife renovate a modestly sized kitchen to live large for their family of six? 

Design nirvana.

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

The island’s narrow rectangular sink adds a modern twist. A pass-through visually lessens the island’s bulk and allows light to filter into cooking area.

No question, this busy family had specific needs in mind for their home’s main hub. David and Rachel—who also team up for family food prep (“He bakes. I cook,” Rachel says)—started with these must-haves in mind: two dishwashers, a well-defined cooking area, and space for crowd flow. “I don’t like people in my work space,” Rachel jokes. “Like Patrick Swayze says in Dirty Dancing, ‘This is my dance space. This is your dance space.’ ”

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

Dual dishwashers topped the Chamberlain’s must-haves for their kitchen renovation. “We use both dishwashers every day,” David says.

Unlike many kitchens that use a “work triangle” configuration, the Chamberlains engineered a bow-tie configuration with a “cooking triangle” (refrigerator, stove and prep space) on one side of the island and a “cleaning triangle” (two dishwashers and sink) on the other. Strategically placed, the island sits off-center in the room at an efficient arm’s reach for the chef, while the island’s “cleaning side” provides more space for crowd flow and seating.

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

David and Rachel kept the chandelier above the dining table. It was left by the home’s previous owners.

David painstakingly hand-milled the chevron-pattern rift-sawn white oak floors himself. “The light color is more forgiving for a family, plus the flooring refracts light differently as you move through the room,” says David of the gleaming multi-toned surface.

A dazzling, cube-shaped, solid brass hood performs like jewelry and is set off by a striking, marble-like granite backsplash below. “After having marble at our last home, we’ll never use it again because it stained so easily,” Rachel says of the decision to use granite for the backsplash, range and sink countertops. “We wanted a stone that’s durable and has wow-factor.” The duo chose a thick slab of Caesarstone to top the island.

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

Less expensive and more durable than marble, Fantasy Brown granite provides a functional, eye-catching backsplash. Flowers by Orchid Dynasty.

The island performs as a showcase of spatial design and visual interest. Its stylishly thick countertop balances the room’s tall verticality. “If it was the same dimension as other countertops, it would feel unbalanced,” David explains. Below, a center pass-through flows light below while the bulk of the island base houses storage. Unlike trendy waterfall designs, the feature’s overhang on all sides accommodates counter seating.

“Everything looks like built-in furniture,” David says. There are no upper cabinets, open shelving or wall ovens. The refrigerator and appliances hide behind symmetrical towers on both sides of the range. “I wanted the range to be a separate unit, and not on the island where kids can touch it,” he adds.

What the kids can touch—color, spill, eat or dance on—are the durable kid-friendly surfaces like the light-colored floors, stain-resistant countertops and high-polish cabinets. Meanwhile, mom and dad got a space that’s as functional as it is fabulous. “It’s great to experiment in your own space,” David says. “Functionality is just as important as how it looks in a space you use everyday.” Rachel adds, “We like to call it our functional showcase.”

Utah Style & Design: Sleek and Savvy

David and Rachel Chamberlain with children Kingston, Gus and Georgia

Click here to see why this kitchen works.

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