Minimal modern: A new kitchen gets down to the basics

Mike and Isobel Sadler move every few years. They’re the third-generation owners of Charlottesville Area Builders, and they usually occupy a house their company has recently built—both to showcase new features for potential clients and to test-drive floors, appliances and so on. This summer, they moved again, to a contemporary home in Ivy looking toward the mountains. The kitchen takes full advantage of the views.

“When you’re in the kitchen, you don’t feel like you’re confined to a window,” says Mike, thinking of the traditional small-window-over-sink arrangement. “The way we oriented the house, you’re glancing out at the mountains.”

That’s because of the placement of the sink in the 10-foot-long island, and because of the wall of glass (with enormous sliding doors) that runs along the kitchen/dining/living space and before opening onto a deck. The Sadlers calibrated this design to offer both views and shelter, with a privacy wall shielding the indoor and outdoor spaces from nearby neighbors.

While their previous house (and its site) were similar, the couple did make some adjustments this time around. In the kitchen, an island design replaced what had been a U-shape. “We wanted it to have more of a flow around the island, and to be more of a focal point,” says Isobel. The resulting layout is simple and powerful, with the quartz-topped island facing into the common areas, and cabinetry by Vaneri Studio providing a kind of permanent artwork that anchors the whole space.

Inside and out, the house has a warm but minimal style, and the kitchen is no exception. “Even though it’s contemporary, we featured elements that could be included in a modern farmhouse or midcentury Scandinavian style, which are styles our clients are leaning towards,” says Isobel.

Custom cabinetry, built by Todd Leback, is certainly the centerpiece here, with natural-finish walnut on the island. Its horizontal grain goes hand-in-hand with the sense of flow the Sadlers had envisioned. Wall cabinets are built of maple, painted Pratt & Lambert’s African Night. “It’s a moody color that changes. It’s lovely,” says Isobel. “It goes from green to gray.”

The cabinetry features touch-open doors and a hidden refrigerator. A walnut backsplash and floating shelves dress up the back wall. Smooth white quartz countertops on the island contrast with dark leather-flat granite behind. “It has some depth and dimension just like the color of the cabinets,” says Isobel, adding that all the countertops in the house are flush with the cabinetry.

Many of the design choices here—leaning toward the sleek and minimal—are meant to rhyme with materials and forms in the adjacent spaces and, in fact, throughout the house: dark slate for a fireplace surround and bathroom tile, walnut shelving, white oak on floors and paneling. Matte black plumbing fixtures repeat throughout the house, and brass on the globe-shaped pendant lights echoes midcentury elements that appear in other rooms.

The Sadlers, who took over the 36-year-old family business three years ago and recently changed its name from Jefferson Area Builders, find that their kitchen makes cooking and cleaning up feel like a pleasure. “You don’t feel like you’re working in the kitchen,” says Mike, the head chef. “You’re spending time.”

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