APTOS, CA— When thinking back to the 1960s, questionable style choices such as psychedelic mini-dresses with fishnets and go-go boots spring to mind. Kitchens of that era suffer the same fate, with images of matching avocado-colored refrigerators and ovens leaving their mark.
When Ione Victoria walked into this cramped, disorganized and very dark 1960s-style kitchen, she may have felt like she stepped into a time warp. Victoria, who serves as designer and owner of Paradise Interior Design, based here, explains: “On my first visit to the house it was quite clear that nothing had been changed since the original construction in the 1960s. For this multi-million dollar vacation home property, it was definitely time to replace those ‘builder specials.’”
Victoria notes that the homeowners gave her a big design edge when planning for this challenge. “My clients were design savvy and had a great vision of how they wanted to update this upper level area. They were looking for a modern and artful place to relax and entertain – without rebuilding the whole house,” she notes.
In turn, Victoria wanted a fresh, open space that reflected today’s lifestyle on the California coast. “Together, we made a great team,” she offers.
Important to the clients was their ability to cook and entertain with ease in the redesigned kitchen. “[Since both clients’ enjoy cooking], each now has a separate prep sink on their side of the kitchen,” says Victoria. “Being a guest for dinner is like going to a show. You might even get invited to play!”
Victoria also added substantial wine storage near the wet bar area of the kitchen, which gives the clients easy access to their wine collection while entertaining guests. The angled rack freed up the previously cramped feel of the space, as the individual compartments stagger back with the angle of the wall.
Proper lighting also played a key role in the room’s overall design, as Victoria needed to overcome pre-existing structural challenges to create a layout filled with natural light. Well-placed task lighting further enhanced the space, creating a spacious and airy environment.
A Lightened Load
The original construction of the home posed various challenges for the designer, but ultimately those obstacles added to the stunning visual of the finished project.
Victoria explains: “The kitchen and dining areas are very large – approximately 600 square feet, almost triangular in shape and separated only by a floating support wall to the living room. The entire ceiling is vaulted redwood beam, 15-feet tall at the highest point. A designer challenge [indeed].”
She continues: “Open-beam ceilings leave no place to hide transformers, outlets and wires. In fact, the original track lighting attached to the main crossbeam was so high that its light never really reached any surface.”
Her first change to the layout was to improve the lighting – both from a structural and aesthetic standpoint – which she accomplished by installing a monorail system and various fixtures. She also worked in design changes to improve the room’s natural light.
The main ceiling support beam had to be integrated into the design, while the beam, which abuts the island, was wrapped with stainless steel and capped at the nine-foot level to end at the same height as the monorail. The result was that multiple-length fixtures could be put into place for the various task and spot lighting needed for the layout, bringing the light to a useful level.
Separate switches and dimmers were also installed so that the lighting could be easily adjusted. Undercabinet fluorescent and halogen lamps were installed in the custom hood to improve task lighting, while two large operable skylights were added over the island to utilize natural light.
She concludes: “The joy of daylight and fresh air was well worth the trouble of cutting into the heavy Spanish tile roof.”
Taking advantage of the now-airy feel, Victoria made a point of accommodating the clients’ vast height differences by staggering the heights of the countertops and cabinets. This allowed the clients to cook, entertain and relax in a space with ample traffic space and visual interest.
“My clients both love to cook: He’s the tall chef and she’s the short baker,” she says. “Taking into account their height differences and the large open spaces, we decided that staggering the counter and cabinet heights would not only help them function better, but would also create multiple levels of view. This really helped add interest to what might have otherwise looked like a big cafeteria.”
Specifically, Victoria lowered the Miele espresso machine, installed a Sharp Insight Pro microwave drawer, created three full-pantry pullouts and even lowered the island counter for the baking area to improve comfort. The island also includes a mixer lift for ease when baking.
The main sink in the kitchen is located on the inside corner of the island between the work areas so both homeowners can easily use it without crossing paths.
The island itself is a complex multi-level, multi-use structure, with the plumbing and electrical hookups located in a center cavity. The access panel is disguised as a cabinet door, hiding all of these necessities and further easing any electrical conflict created by the original construction.
The countertops are Amadeus granite, similar to the chiseled backsplash along the perimeter cooking area. White glass cut in curved shapes makes up the countertops on the raised portion of the island countertop as well as the breakfast booth.
The toe kick on the island is wrapped in stainless steel to add contrast between the floor and cabinet and tie in the stainless steel standoffs used to support the glass counter.
The kitchen also features many customized design elements. Victoria teamed a Thermador cooktop with a custom ventilation hood from the Vent-A-Hood Custom Series.
“To create artistic interest on the extremely high wall behind the cooktop, we decided to showcase the custom ventilation system using a large, hand-chiseled piece of granite,” she explains. “With so many angles in this structure I was looking for any way to introduce alternate shapes and textures as softening agents to take the ‘edge’ off.”
The custom cabinetry designed by Victoria features highly figured Anegre wood with a clear finish, solid maple interiors and a Euro-construction door style. Blumotion drawer guides from Blum enhance the ease-of-use factor.
“We chose a clean Euro style door and stainless rod pulls to help simplify a complicated space,” she explains.
Because Victoria designed the cabinets, she was able to make adjustments to them on-site when needed to avoid costly delays and damage to the cabinets. She created storage space for a broom closet, a message center with full desk and bookcase upper, among other items.
She continues: “To ensure design freedom and quality, I prefer to use custom cabinetry. This particular floorplan didn’t have a square corner anywhere and, consequently, the island was the same odd shape. Using custom cabinets in this design was the best way to ensure a good installation.”
The lack of square corners posed an equal challenge when it came to laying the flooring.
As a result of its distinctive design, Victoria decided to lay all of the room’s hardwood flooring on a natural diagonal line to avoid conflict with the existing angles of the building. “It helped create a sense of movement and it softened the angled interruptions,” she comments.
The flooring material selected – 36"x4-½" maple gray hardwood flooring by Hartco – “was a wide plank pre-finished maple, stained in a sort of drift gray that would hold up to heavy [everyday] use by family members, as well as pets,” she remarks.