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The New York Times

“Playing the New Angles in the Pocket Kitchen Game.” Louie, Elaine. November 12, 1998.
see full article online here

SMALL kitchens are often efficient, but rarely airy. When Victoria Koppel, 36, bought a co-op on the Upper West Side, she was unfazed by the 8-by-10-foot kitchen. It was enormous by her standards. ''It's twice the size of my last kitchen,'' said Ms. Koppel, a producer with MacKenzie Cutler, a film-editing company in Manhattan.

To renovate the space, she hired Robert Young, a Manhattan architect. The final budget was $19,000.

''I wanted a vista -- a horizontal kitchen not interrupted by a refrigerator,'' Mr. Young said. To create an uncluttered surface, he installed a dishwasher and two under-the-counter refrigerators. (One is also part freezer and ice maker.) The refrigerators cost $900 and $1,100. He kept the original oven.

Mr. Young, 29, made the dark space bright with stainless steel for appliances and a back splash. He made it light with birch-veneer shelves, stools and cupboards. He designed every inch of the kitchen to be functional, as if it were a ship's galley.

Drawers and cabinets were designed without knobs. Instead, holes were cut into them. ''There's no extra hardware,'' Mr. Young said, which means there is less to bump into.

The stainless steel gleams, but not in a cold, industrial way. Mr. Young varied its textures; a tinsmith on the Lower East Side, for instance, quilted the stainless back splash with a rectangular grid pattern, which adds a soft shimmer. To make a storage area under the counter look glamorous, Mr. Young made a beaded curtain to hide detergents, brushes and sponges. He bought a 100-yard roll of nickel-plated brass beads at Canal Surplus and used a wire cutter to snip strands to the right length. For a curtain track, he used a piece of plastic electrical conduit. The conduit was cut to fit the curve of the counter.

Seldom has a can of Ajax been so tenderly concealed. It took Mr. Young an hour and a half to make the beaded curtain. ''The original budget was $10,000, but every centimeter was custom made.'' Ms. Koppel said. ''And although the budget doubled, it's an investment.''

The counter space, too small for a rectangular sink, has two 15-inch round stainless-steel sinks, neither one big enough for a large pot. She has, however, been able to turn out dinners for seven in this kitchen.

Ms. Koppel is expecting eight guests for Thanksgiving. How is she going to wash the roasting pan? ''Zabar's is doing the turkey -- not me,'' she said. What about the platter? She said she planned to rinse it over one sink, and to pour the water off in the other.

The wall above the counter and beneath the cabinets is painted four shades of green, from gray-green to olive, turquoise and sea foam.

''The colors are close but different,'' Mr. Young said. ''So you wonder, is it the quality of light that makes the color look different, or is it the color of the pigment itself?''

On the shortest wall of the kitchen, Mr. Young recycled shelves from Ms. Koppel's previous apartment, then added a birch-veneer counter and two stools, creating a tiny space for coffee for two.

In a final nod to detail, and to match the appliances and back splash, Mr. Young replaced the plastic intercom with one made of stainless steel.