Small Spaces: Jet City Kitchen

One man

Category: NW Home Articles


If you were a kid in the ’60s, you assumed that the new millennium would find you stepping out the door each morning to strap on your jetpack and zoom to work over a cityscape of domes, spires and bubbles.

Alas, 2009 has dawned and we’re still stuck in traffic, but Seattleite Robert Picardo has never forgotten the glamour of his cosmic childhood. “I loved Jonny Quest cartoons, NASA, the space needle,” he remembers. So, when it came time to redo his 1963 kitchen, “it had to be jet-age design.”

To Picardo, the essence of Jetsons-style swank was clear. It meant curves, lots of them; think a cross between a ’57 Chevy and a cocktail shaker. What he didn’t realize is that cartoon curves are easier to draw than they are to build. An initial remodeling attempt was so badly botched that Picardo cooked meals for his nine-year-old son, Kenji, on a camp stove for a long four years.

Undaunted, Picardo stuck to his laser-guns, bringing on a new team comprising Precision Construction Services and Jackson Remodeling. As a starting point, Picardo unrolled a vintage Disneyland print showing cable-strung passenger capsules soaring over the theme park’s 1955 futuristic fantasy, “Tomorrowland.” Retro colors and shapes from the poster informed fresh blueprints. “We pride ourselves on being able to execute any style,” explains Jay Lewis of Precision. “That’s a big deal to us.”

The next challenge was to fit such an ambitious design into a 300-square-foot kitchen, because it turns out that a curvilinear island and swoopy countertops take up more space than traditional square units.

Picardo was happy to nix a big fridge—”They’re built and marketed like SUV’s,” he says—in favor of refrigerator drawers hidden behind sea foam-green custom cabinetry. An intriguing little door flush with the wall glides up to reveal an old-fashioned cold box that borrows space and shade from outside to keep fruits and veggies cool year round. The surprises keep on coming in what has been dubbed “Kenji’s corner,” where a flip-up cafe table transforms the window seat into a homework station and much-loved breakfast nook.

Mod ’60s styling brings gloss to the project’s 21st-century sustainability. Along with a cabinet and tabletop recycled from the earlier remodel, low-VOC paint was used and mildew-resistant SafeTcork vinyl flooring containing recycled materials was chosen.

In what might be the prettiest space-age flourish of all, the interlocking curves of an oval dining table and its saucer-shaped docking station in the kitchen island were custom cut to maximize floor space. When Picardo’s big Italian family comes calling, the table swings out on casters to seat six. It’s this kind of clever engineering that makes this kitchen as truly modern in its functionality as it is gorgeously retro in its looks. “If you want the Jonny Quest kitchen,” Picardo says, “you can’t do it with paint, you have to do it with design.”

(Above: The island’s resin-blend countertop material Avonite ( was born in the ’80s, but comes in spot-on ’60s shades, such as this speckled hue called Sky Blue.)

Design/Build: Jay Lewis and Josh Gadsby, Precision Construction Services, Edmonds; 866.930.9922;

Co-Builders: Leif and Erik Jackson, Jackson Remodeling, S