When Mutuus partners Saul and Kristen Becker moved from their small Brooklyn apartment in 2011, to Seattle, they set out to find their first home that they could put their mark on. Saul Becker- an artist and Kristen - an Architect, were specifically looking for a fixer upper – as every apartment they have rented over the years they could not help themselves to fix up and remodel despite not owning it. “We have left a mini trail of early Mutuus projects behind us” says Saul Becker. The house was a time capsule – left virtually untouched since the 50’s with floral wallpaper in the kitchen and bright green cabinets. “We saw the incredible potential in the house as the bones were all in great shape and the work would be doing would be mostly cosmetic. The large east facing windows were shuttered with curtains that crumbled in my hands when touched – those were the first to go,” One of the distinctions that Mutuus Studio offers is their intimate connection to craft. In a traditional model, the Architects design and pass off to a contractor to build. Often there is a bit of a gap in understanding on how things truly go together and although we have no desire to become a design build firm – we do build deeper appreciation and relationships with the builders that we work with as we mutually share that firsthand knowledge. “Although we could not afford to build a house from the ground up, we liked the idea of a remodel and responding to what was already there. We saw the quirky areas as opportunities not obstacles. The advantage if a remodel is that you first get to live in the space and discover what works and most definitely what doesn’t work. You then have a good basis for design.” To keep the costs down and design ideas flowing, they built the entire kitchen themselves, including the hardware and lighting. The only item that they outsourced was the concrete countertops. The process took over three years and commenced (literally) the day after Mutuus Studio started their Seattle office back in 2016. One of the things they discovered was despite the flooding natural light during the day there was no overhead lights to cook in the evening. The lovely exposed beams were nice to look at but on the down side a great place for cobwebs. Cleaning the beams constantly over the prep areas was undesirable and with the lack of light the couple decided to drop the ceiling just barely below the beams to accommodate the recessed lighting. The result helps define the space and makes the open area feel bigger. The kitchen then had unobstructed views of both the front and backyards which was important to keep an eye on those energetic kids. The result of with the open views only left one wall to house upper cabinets. “We decided to respond to what we had to work with and integrate a full height built in refrigerator with a pantry and shelving along the only full height wall. Since the kitchen was visually connected to the living room – we wanted to make the kitchen feel like an extension of the living space and chose to go darker with the cabinets to make the cabinets feel more like living room furniture. The thought of staring at a stainless appliance from the living room felt odd too– so we decided to use a panel ready refrigerator with custom Mutuus Made pulls as some visual jewelry for the room.” “It was important to us that the things we touch and interact with every day not only are functional, but beautiful. We love patina in the work we do. We like that each of the canvas pulls are slightly different and that the custom panels coloration is not always the same tone as it was hand painted over time.” The open shelves too were added to connect to the living room to not only to store the functional glassware and dinnerware, but to display a few objects that felt too pretty to be hidden away. The open shelves extend across aligning with the existing window mullion lines and although need the effort of added dusting it was worth it to them for the functionality. I like having our countertops as clear as possible– so having the shelf above helps mitigate the clutter on the countertop. The torched stainless backsplash that is the backdrop to the open shelving were hand torched by Saul to give it almost a venetian plaster or bronze effect. The stainless keeps the panels from rusting and the backsplash without tile to clean the grout makes it beautiful and functional. Details such as corner pullouts, recessed receptacles and a hidden microwave make the kitchen feel more like a boat. Every space was considered and had a purpose. The drawers were even measured to exactly fit the oven mittens. The kitchen’s U-shaped layout posed a challenge harboring dark holes for constant clutter. A corner pull-out was used inside the corner to the left of the refrigerator and the other two corners are accessed on the outside by the bar.
“I like to have a place for everything and as a mother, the design of our kitchen responds to the real-life flow of our family and although we love how it looks, I really love how it functions. My favorite detail however would be the laundry shoot that is used constantly throughout the day.”
The added bar underneath the three Mutuus Made pendants was a game changer for their family. “The kids eat breakfast there, and it’s easy clean up. After school, the kids perch there doing homework, while the dining table stays clear and ready for family dinners”.
In the evening, the bar becomes a perfect place for a cocktail. The warmth of the three pendant lights also fabricated by Saul are also made of canvas and resin - become cozy spotlights for each guest at the bar. “There is something timeless and poetic with working with the same Belgium linen that I use for my canvases to create these lights. When the linen arrives to our studio we can smell the farm that it came from, the process of making and honoring the material is important to us and the connection to craft is what keeps us inspired.”
“If we were to capture the spirit of what Mutuus Studio is about in a metaphor of a kitchen item – it would be to design like a cast iron skillet – It is a beautiful object, it is versatile, it is functional, patinas over time and only gets better with use. That would be our hope – as designs are to be lived in and loved.”