Retro Style Meets Modern Innovation
August 14, 2011 | 9:06 pm CDT

‘Green’ products and new hardware were used in the fabrication of this winning kitchen.


Bright Wood Works Inc.
St. Petersburg, FL

Project: Kitchen condo conversion
Year Established: 1981
# of Employees: 7
Shop Size: 11,000 square feet
Specialty: High-end residential.

Project Notes: The island is one piece and had to be craned into the common courtyard area of the building.

Retro has never looked more exquisite than in this winning entry for the Kitchen/Bath category. This kitchen was based on a 1920s design of a bar in Africa.

According to Michael Bright, owner of Bright Wood Works Inc., located in St. Petersburg, FL, “The design was conceptualized by a magazine clipping the client had of a very classy African bar. It was very Art-Deco inspired. They came in with [the clipping] and there was an architectural firm, Clemmons Architecture, which overall spearheaded the conceptual design. Then we tweaked it with what could actually be built.”

The building itself was also retro in style. Bright says that it was built in the 1920s and that it is one of the only buildings in downtown St. Petersburg that has any real architectural significance.

“It’s very ‘Ghostbuster-like’ on the outside with lots of embellishments and gargoyles and things. So it’s kind of neat that the interior of this build-out was so clean and the opposite, juxtaposed with the outside,” he notes.

Materials used in fabrication include: Richlite countertops, Metalfab custom stainless steel countertops, Häfele interior compartmentalized storage, Blum drawer slides and hinges, Kerfcore/Timberflex bendy-ply curved plywood and Trupan MDF.

Bright says that he chose Richlite, a recycled paper product, because of the growing green awareness in the industry. “I have been reading a lot of stuff about green, so I thought anything green that I could bring to the table would be worth pursuing. The homeowners were very receptive to creative input,” says Bright. Also, in keeping with the green theme, the doors are MDF with a clear finish on them.

In fabricating the project, Bright says that he started with skeleton parts of the island by outsourcing the plywood ribs to a local shop with a CNC router. Then the outside was skinned with bending plywood and was finished with 14 coats of paint for the final gloss finish.

The final finish was originally supposed to be Oxblood red, but it was changed at the last minute to a custom color.

“I was disappointed when they came up with the other color,” Bright says. “But, in the end, it came out great. The color is Java. It was short-listed to three different colors and they were all coffee-related. Java is the one that won. It was a custom mix.”

One of the unique challenges of this project was the fact that the island is one piece, and Bright had to come up with a creative way to get it into the building.

“We had to do it by using a crane that we parked in the alleyway. We got it up on the roof of a common area in the building and then snaked it through the back door of the loft. That was kind of a head scratcher, because there was a lot of stress on that day,” Bright laughs.

Other unique aspects of the project include the stainless steel embellishments, which required the entire skeleton of the island to be shipped to a metal shop.

“The [stainless steel] countertop, which I helped oversee, had its own set of challenges,” says Bright. “It was very unique in that it is 3 inches high and stair-stepped. There was a bunch of diecutting, template and laser cutting and all kinds of unique things that had to happen.”

Also, there is a ventilation system above the cooktop that required some creative work. The wall is approximately 2 feet thick, and Bright says the he had to “create ductwork that would go through the wall and then put in the inline blower and also figure out how to make a cover that didn’t draw attention to it.”

The cabinets above the stove were “let into the wall. We didn’t want to waste that space, so we got into the cavity of the wall and created the doors with new Blum Aventos hardware,” Bright says. “This particular product was new to the market, so once it came out, they air freighted it to us and we were trying to research and develop and figure out how to get it to work.”

Bright says that he felt gratified by doing this project despite the challenges, and once installed, the project gave the “appearance of being an original fixture in a landmark building.”

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