Interior Designer Lori Dennis fashions a show house kitchen for the future with sustainanle products and green ideas
November, 2006 | By Megan Fulweiler | Photographs by Mark Tanner | Styling by Lori Dennis
Imagine a well-informed, professional couple in their late 30s or early 40s. Big architecture and design aficionados, they frequently turn up at gallery openings, museum exhibitions and magazine parties. Generous philanthropists, they also contribute to numerous charitable causes and regularly attend benefits. Their aesthetic reflects their California lifestyle, which includes shopping at Whole Foods and doing lots of yoga.
Who are these people? They are the fantasy husband and wife whom Beverly Hills—based designer Lori Dennis—principal of Dennis Design Group—conjured in her mind when she was recruited to design a kitchen for the Contempo Homes Showcase in Palm Springs, California, earlier this year to benefit Habitat for Humanity. “I would say this couple would probably be members of the National Resources Defense Council,” explains Dennis. “They are completely involved in sustainable living.” Recent purchases made by the pair, she muses, might include a hybrid luxury car and a solar phone-battery charger.
Naturally, such eco-conscious individuals would want a green home; a home that helps protext the environment and conserves resources, which is why they would have turned to Dennis, who employs sustainable techniques and products in all her projects.
“It’s up to each client. But, in general, my decorating style is simple, elegant and as friendly to the environment as possible,” explains the designer.
The open-plan kitchen/dining room—located in a 3,500-square-foot mid-20th-century-style house in the prestigious Royal Palm Estates section of Palm Springs—was idea for this fictional duo who, in Dennis’s mind, love to cook and entertain. The designer implemented her green philosophy using sustainable materials and energy-saving appliances that have received the U.S. government’s Energy Star rating for efficiency, which limit the impact on global warming. The kitchen floor is a handsome terrazzo made of natural and recycled products. “In Italy, terrazzo floors have endured for thousands of years,” Dennis explains. The countertops include responsibly harvested butcher-block on the island and CaesarStone—a long-lasting composite stone made up of recycled and natural products.
Since many household paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can evaporate into the atmosphere and harm the ozone layer, Dennis opted to paint the walls with a chalky-colored low-voc paint. The fitted cabinets feature a contrasting dark, low-VOC stain, which sets off their sleek steel handles and drawer pulls.
Plenty of windows keep the space flooded with natural light and save on heating costs. But since California sometimes endures soaring temperatures, Dennis also cleverly incorporated a few visual tricks. “The reeded glass fronts on several of the cabinets suggest flowering water. Water triggers a cool sensation, which makes you less likely to turn up the air conditioner,” she claims. The water-hued tile back-splash—in addition to being a snap to maintain—serves the same purpose.
Accessories and art reflect the globe-trotting couple’s interests in art as well as the environment. Among the most eye-catching is a mosaic fashioned with bits of recycled glass. When the sun sweeps in, the tiny shards sparkle. The frame is a metal window frame salvaged from an old trailer. “It’s a great piece—reminiscent of that old adage about one’s man’s junk being another man’s treasure,” Dennis says. The innovative mosaic is also a subtle reminder: creativity—along with thought for our precious planet—makes beautiful things happen.
The stunning contrast of dark cabinets and light counters lends the kitchen drama. Drawers at the island’s end boost organization and keep a lid on clutter. “The high-end restaurant faucet is a fun fixture for people who do a great deal of cooking,” says designer Lori Dennis.
The light-catching portraits—made with recycled glass—are from one of the designer’s favorite sources, Livingreen, based in Culver City, California. Sure to be mistaken as herbs, the plants are carefree succulents. The designer wrapped the tile back-splash around the corner to the edge of the peninsula “to create a strong, neat line,” Dennis says.
Natural light from above casts a soft glow—not a harsh glare—on the island, adding to the room’s welcoming ambiance. Butcher block is a hardworking surface for contemporary and traditional kitchens, Dual wall ovens facilitate large gatherings.
left: Green planning translates to buying appliances sized to fit your needs. Oversize appliances waste energy; undercounter appliances, like this convenient Sub-Zero win fridge, require less energy. For frequent entertainers, a separate roost for wine allows more refrigerator space for other items.
opposite: “The blue outdoor sculpture ties in with the room’s palette of taupe, blue, red and sand and draws the eye toward the refreshing pool,” says Dennis. Comfy upholstered chairs are a mealtime treat.
Cook up your own green kitchen using Lori Dennis’ recipe:
- Bring nature inside. Ample light and ventilation ensure a healthier home. “Here, the kitchen opens to the dining room for a nice cross ventilation,” Dennis says.
- Be a power saver. When purchasing an appliance look for the Energy Guide label, which lists the appliance’s annual energy consumption.
- Mind your materials. Opt, when possible, for recycled materials that will limit impact on the environment and can also cut costs.
- Choose organic linens. Dennis selected 100 percent organic cotton dish towels and aprons. “They have fewer pollutants to cling to your skin,” she says.
- Conserve water. Along with a water-saving faucet, choose low-maintenance plants like succulents and cacti.
- Light right. Try color-corrected efficient fluorescent lighting. Use dimmers and occupancy sensors to control light.