Carmel, a city on California’s Central Coast, is home to some very fine examples of an architectural style that is indigenous to the Golden State — Mission style. In fact, the small home where this kitchen remodel took place was built and occupied in the 1930s by Sir Harry Downie, the man who was then charged with the 50-year reconstruction and redevelopment of Carmel’s historic Mission. Today the two-bedroom home is owned by a couple who use it as a second home.
In their view, the only problem with the home was its small eat-in kitchen and mud room area. Cramped and chunked into three rooms, the space needed to be opened up and remodeled. The couple approached Julie Young, CKD, at Carmel Kitchens & Baths Etc. looking for a new design that would unify all of the 220- sq.-ft. space. Young brought in Chris Whitney, CR, of C.R. Whitney & Son of nearby Marina, Calif. to execute the engineering and construction.
The client’s objectives were to hold onto the historic style of the home’s architecture while updating it for two cooks and entertaining up to six guests. “We wanted our kitchen to be a warm, well-planned space for cooking, entertaining and dining,” the client told Young. “It should reflect and honor the historical traditions of the home’s Mission-style architecture.”
It is clear that the home’s builder and original owner, Sir Harry Downie, held very true to the Mission style, a style to which he was dedicating much of his professional life. The Mission style as reflected in this home is characterized by thick whitewashed walls; dark supporting timbers; a barrel-tile roof; a porch; clay-tile flooring; and understated color expressed mainly through decorative tiles in key spots.
In this home, these existing decorative tiles were found mainly around the fireplace. It was their color and pattern along with other details that would go on to serve as primary touchstones from the original home within the new kitchen. The problem was that finding a match was problematic, if not impossible, says Young. The tiles were originally made by a Solon & Schemmel in San Jose, Calif., which ceased production in 1953. In the end, it was important enough of a detail that Young commissioned new versions to be remade by hand in the cuerda seca style. To that end, Linda Shields of Atherton Tile Co. was brought in to study the design and create the new tiles to serve as the trim and backsplash decoration.
“As much as possible, we wanted to emulate the color and design of the historic fireplace surround,” says Shields.
The massing of the fireplace also provided a visual starting point for the kitchen’s vent hood. Framed in wood, the vent hood was built of lath and plaster and echoes the shape of the fireplace mantel. It even borrowed the squiggly line and dot detail from the mantel.
“We wanted to strike a balance between the old and the new, and we found these touches to strike just the right note,” says Young.
Demolition and construction
In working on this home, as in other historic homes, Chris Whitney says he took extra care to investigate the structure of the home before proceeding with demolition. The wall between the main kitchen and the mud room was load bearing. Therefore he took pains to insert a new support beam above the rafters of the room and installed a 4x4 post to carry the new load. By placing the new beam above the rafters, the ceiling height in the unified space would be the same.
Curiously, the mud room floor was also 5 in. lower than the rest of the kitchen. To create one clean, open space with which to build out the kitchen, Whitney framed out a new floor in that space. This also required him to remove the old back door frame and to reposition its header 5 in. higher. Other infrastructure issues included installing a new water main from the meter to the house, the installation of a P-trap in the bathroom, installing proper fitting and correcting a waste-drain slope. Once this was complete, construction was able to proceed.
The kitchen construction, says Whitney, was relatively straightforward. First, there was prep to do for under- and over-cabinet lighting. Then came the cabinets, the porcelain farm-style sink, and the stained concrete countertops. Whitney says that he did spend extra time with his subs to educate them on the history of the home and the builder’s contribution to the restoration of the town’s Mission. It was then that Whitney says he modeled and set expectations for superior craftsmanship in the home.
“In smaller rooms, like this, the details really seem to show,” says Whitney. “With the cuerda seca tiles and other key details, we really focused on precision and superior craftsmanship. On bigger jobs, the big picture can cover some issues. But that was not the case on this job.” |
ExpensesFloor repair $215
Electrical fixtures $800
Sheet metal $956
Hauling/dump fees $1,618
Plumbing fixtures $2,150
Tile material $9,613
Tile labor $10,237
Cabinets * $23,040
Profit ReportGross sales $92,988
($88,486 minus $25,190 for cabinets
and plumbing fixtures)