Remodel Recalls Beach-Front Living of Yesteryear

When one thinks of beach-front style, the Hamptons, Cape Cod, the Florida Keys and Southern California come to mind immediately. Each style is marked by easy living and local flavor.

That’s exactly what the owners of an historic Laguna Beach home wanted their remodeled kitchen and bath to convey. They wanted to update their circa-1930s, Spanish Mission-influenced home with all the modern conveniences, while maintaining that beach-front, easy-living feel. The goal was to create an elegant, timeless, function-packed kitchen and a soothing, serene master bath.


At the same time they wanted to retain the integrity of the home’s architecture and interior style while invoking the casual beauty of beach-front living of yesteryear.

The couple turned to Gary White, CMKBD, CID of Kitchen & Bath Design in Newport Beach CA, to recreate their kitchen and bath.
“This home was built in the early 1930s when Laguna Beach was booming into a beach resort town. It is one of the many homes built at the city’s beginning that the City of Laguna Beach has set aside as Laguna Heritage Homes. These homes, when renovated, are scrutinized by the city to make sure the original character of the house is kept intact,” explains White. “[And] though the interior was not subject to such scrutiny, we agreed that we would stay in character as much as possible without sacrificing modern conveniences or safety.”

To stay true to the home’s original style, White studied homes built during the 1930s and read about the lifestyles of those who lived there when Laguna Beach, a little known seaside village, was becoming the getaway for artists and entrepreneurs of the day.

White also studied pictures of this home, which had been kept over the years, and studied pictures of Laguna Beach’s history, especially those from the 1930s.

“All of my suggestions were tempered by what I had learned,” he explains. “The style was predominantly American Federal by definition, reminiscent of the relaxed versions we saw from Cape Cod and the Hamptons to the Caribbean. [However], as each of these was uniquely influenced by its local surroundings, so were [the homes of Laguna Beach]. Here, the influence was Spanish Mission.”

The modern touches he ultimately chose “reflect the elegant style and sophistication of its current owners,” who now have a kitchen fit for an elegant formal dinner party or a quick meal for the two of them. They also have a master bath that is open, serene and studded with a plethora of tile, which was heavily used in these homes in the 1930s.


Based on the visual and written history of the beach-front town, White learned that “the choice for most hard surfaces was tile – [like the countertop, backsplash and floor tile used in the kitchen that was custom-made by Concept Studio] – not the slab stone or man-made stone dominating the market today.

“Yes, the kitchen island features a New Venetian Gold granite top with a triple ogee edge, but it was also styled to look like a piece that was not part of the original; instead, like a furniture piece that was added later, and, thus, might well have had a stone top,” he adds.

One side provides open shelves, and the whole piece is differentiated from the perimeter cabinets – which feature a Meringue glaze over soft Antique White – by a Maze glaze over pale Lace Yellow. It also has a Rohl prep sink and period-style faucet.

For all of the cabinets, White chose a nine-piece door style from Hallmark Cabinetry, with some of the perimeter cabinets featuring clear glass inserts. They are accented by a very large applied molding that “recalls the home’s English roots. A custom, flat arch was CNC-milled into this molding for the end panels in the kitchen,” adds White.

The cabinets, the island and the hood all work together to reinforce the home’s historic style. Cabinets on either side of a large window installed over the main Rohl sink and period-style faucet frame a garden view, and the choice of color on the island make it into a focal point, believes White.

He installed a host of appliances that are mostly concealed with panels that match the perimeter cabinets. These include a Bosch integrated dishwasher, a DACOR integrated warming drawer, a Sub-Zero 632 and 427R unit and a custom hood liner by Vent-A-Hood The only ones that are not concealed are the six-burner 48" Viking DCS4856GSS range and the GE JEM 32 microwave.

Carefully placed and sized windows flood the kitchen with natural light. They’re supplemented by custom fixtures White designed that “not only meet California’s stringent energy requirements, but also deliver a beautiful color temperature, brilliant task lighting and an easily controllable ambience via the use of Lutron scenic control systems.”

Specifically, most of the ambient lighting is achieved with hidden, custom-made, high-output and color-corrected dimmable fluorescent linear fixtures with task and accent lighting “going to halogen, xelogen and a touch of krypton for drama,” he explains.

“Groupings of fixtures are weaved into pre-set scenes with the use of Lutron scene controls, [so] the owners can achieve just the right ambiance for any situation,” says White.


In the master bath, too, modern amenities were not forbidden, but the original character was to be followed to maintain the integrity of the home. Custom-made tile by Concept Studio played a huge role in that, just as it did in the kitchen.

“The floor tile and the mosaic inlay in the master bath tub wainscot are the most obvious Spanish Mission details,” notes White. “They play off the predominantly off-white palette, [but the] simple, subdued, rectangular geometry of most other surfaces bring the bath back to the home’s English roots and keep the overall feel more formal, which is in keeping with the original architecture.”

Separate custom vanities – by Hallmark Cabinetry – were a requisite for the new master bath since the owners’ previous tiny bath required them to take turns. The large shower and separate tub – coupled with the private water closet – added the luxury absent from the previous bath.

While there were no completely frameless glass enclosure, pressure-balanced valves and ground fault circuit protection in the 1930s, these modern touches add functionality, notes White.

The imported English wall shower valves, rain showerhead and hand shower from Shaws of England that sit on the outside of the tile “look as they would have then, and don’t give away their modern, pressure-balanced technology,” he adds.

Wood wainscoting chases around the room and frames the tub riser and elaborate custom mosaic inlay by Concept Studio, as well as the custom tile splash above each custom tile vanity top, both also by Concept Studio.

These elements, along with the central positioning, turn the tub into the focal point that’s visible upon entry to the entire master suite.

“It’s centered under the gable and framed by windows that provide copious natural light and views of the garden which assure you each time you enter that this special place awaits to comfort you,” comments White.

Lighting is abundant during the day from the sunlit high ceilings and preserved at night with mostly hidden fixtures and carefully chosen sconces.
The guest bath, which he also designed as part of this remodel, also keeps with the home’s history. It features an inlay of tiles, each with a different nautical flag in the chair rail.