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High ceilings, large windows, an open floor plan—living in a converted factory has its perks. But there’s also a downside, as one family of three residing in the former Ex-Lax bottling building in Brooklyn recently learned: hulking structural columns. There are three giant concrete pillars peppered throughout their apartment that cannot be moved. So when they decided to renovate the space, their architects, Philipp and Kit von Dalwig, the husband-and-wife cofounders behind Von Dalwig Architecture, had two choices. The first was to take a cue from the existing setup and disguise it among Sheetrock and popcorn ceilings, but it was clear those elements only made the room feel cavelike. The second option? Work around it, not against it.

“The clients were excited about it once they understood that we were really exposing what the building was and the material in its pure essence,” says Philipp. Now the raw concrete column is situated within a large stone-topped island, and the whole concept is surprisingly airy.

The kitchen, before.
The kitchen column, before.
The kitchen, under construction.

The island isn’t your typical one (there’s no sink or cooktop integrated within it). Really, it’s meant for gathering. Three sides of the square offer plenty of legroom where guests can pull up stools, while the last is clad in shelving for cookbooks and dishes. A wide gap cuts through the island underneath the countertop, lending a sense of lightness to what otherwise could read as a heavy block. “It keeps it fairly open. It’s not your typical waterfall side panel,” says Kit.

To warm up the concrete and dark gray Pietra Cardosa countertops, the architects had a custom white oak banquette constructed in the opposite corner and turned to Copenhagen-based kitchen manufacturer Reform for smoked oak cabinets from its Surface collection. When the pair put in the order for the cupboards, they requested a surplus of panels so their carpenter could cut them down to create open shelving and clad the center of the island in the same material. When everyone—and everything—joins forces, the solutions are endless.