Kitchen Creates Cooking Oasis, Redefines Home’s Function

In the current climate of high home prices and rising interest rates, the owners of this southern California home found that it more prudent to stay in their home rather than purchase a new one.

However, they have two pre-adolescent children, which magnified the fact that their home was becoming increasingly more cramped. The couple knew they would have to rework their home to create the room they desperately needed.

“The family came to the same conclusion as so many others: to get the home they wanted, it made more sense to keep their existing home and use their huge ‘bonus’ home equity to remodel than to start over with a new home at 2005 prices,” recalls Heather Moe. The lead designer with La Jolla, CA-based South Pacific Kitchen and Construction, Inc., she designed a new kitchen for the family.

Moe’s remodel plan called for an addition that accommodated a new breakfast nook and increased work space in the kitchen proper. Her plan also garnered the “Best Professional Kitchen” award in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine’s 14th annual Kitchen of the Year contest.

“The original 12'x15' kitchen was large enough for [the husband and wife] to work together comfortably. But it wasn’t sufficient once the family had friends and family over for their frequent casual nights of entertaining. A 180-sq.-ft. addition allowed room for both a peninsula for breakfast and snacking, as well as a sizeable, 54"-round nook with seating for eight,” explains Moe. To bring this vision to life, she worked with Jim Besemer Construction in San Diego, CA.

Moe began by removing the pantry from the kitchen.

“The old pantry was a 36"Wx24"D, floor-to-ceiling cabinet set next to the refrigerator. It was in the way because it sat next to the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen,” elaborates Moe. “The new pantry was moved to the under-used deep closet under the stairs.”

Located on the family-room side of the kitchen, this formerly awkward space now was carefully fitted to provide “a charming walk-in pantry” with deep storage, tall storage, whole walls of mini-shelves and a free-swinging door that didn’t interfere with kitchen’s flow when it was opened. “[The wife] loved the fact that her kitchen was no longer boxed in, but integrated with the family room and the new nook,” notes Moe.

The kitchen is now organized around several central work areas, all triangulating off the island. As Moe explains: “The multiple cooks in this kitchen have to be able to do their jobs inside the kitchen and use the island. [And] the guests have to be safely segregated to the exterior and seated at the peninsula, but still within socializing distance.”

While Moe’s overall functional plan presented few physical design dilemmas, she still faced the conceptual design challenge of reeling in her client and, ultimately, defining and interpreting her functional and style needs.

“The main driver on this project was the [wife]. She loves to cook and to entertain,” explains Moe. “[However], her main problem was that she loved everything. Before she hired a designer, she had already started not just the kitchen, but also the much bigger project of remodeling the whole house. She had too many, rather than too few, ideas of what she wanted, and she was overwhelmed.”

As Moe further defines it, the primary challenge was “to organize the process and ease the stress on the wife.” To that end, Moe began with the appliances. “Because the wife took cooking seriously, these were the easiest choices for her to make, and she could step forward with confidence.” Moe helped her client choose a host of appliances that met her myriad cooking needs. The choices included a DCS cooktop, a GE Monogram refrigerator, a DACOR microwave, a set of Thermador ovens and a hood liner, a Bosch dishwasher and a KitchenAid warming drawer.

“Once the appliances were in place, I took [the wife’s] many design ‘favorites’ and organized them into three color boards: a warm monochromatic design with terra-cotta hues and cherry cabinets; a harder-edged, high-tech look with black and white, and a dramatic, classical plan with warm ivory cabinets and contrasting green serpentine granite countertops,” explains Moe.

Ultimately, Moe says the wife “quickly settled on the [last] scheme, especially after we viewed the spectacular Safari Green slabs up close at Arizona Tile’s slab yard in San Diego. The translucent serpentine was both more expensive and more fragile than other options, but its brilliant black and ivory veins provided enough visual excitement and emotional investment to carry the project.”

She continues: “Although we flirted with some contemporary touches – notice the unusual light fixtures, custom-made and imported from Italy – the wife and I really felt that this home was meant to comfort, not to challenge.

“For this reason we stayed with a traditional, somewhat Old-Country look. The wife’s dishes and artwork were already coming from this direction, and we felt it reflected the family’s very real commitment to their idea of home as a refuge.”

The other choices then began to fall into place. “Our other kitchen decisions were just variations on the theme: [for example], rich ivory perimeter cabinets by Greenfield Cabinetry and a strong black island cabinet by Quality Custom Cabinetry [paired with] warm ivory backsplash tile by Walker Zanger [that we secured from Cabochon Tile & Stone in La Jolla, CA].”

Brushed chrome knobs and pulls from Top Knobs, Inc. and a Franke sink and Grohe faucet in chrome echo the stainless steel [of the appliances],” adds Moe. She also installed traditional wood flooring.

As a rule, Moe says she tries to layer her kitchen lighting designs to allow for maximum variability and function for both task and accent fixtures.

“In this case we were limited by the necessary HVAC soffits that disallowed any over-cabinet up-lights,” she notes.

So she started with a bank of North-facing windows to flood the space with natural light. Then she added undercabinet strip lighting, puck accent lights in the lids of the glass-door cabinets, standard down-lights in a grid in the ceiling for ambient light and accent fixtures at the three different tabletop areas: the island, the peninsula, and the nook table.

“Because this was a lot of fixtures for the space, we chose three delicate, coordinating fixtures. We started with the more traditional 30"-round nook chandelier. We then commissioned an elongated, almost organic version for the island, and then separated the hand-blown glass globes on their own for individual accents at the peninsula. Then we put everything on dimmers,” elaborates Moe.

Her “light approach” to illuminating this kitchen was based on the fact that “like so many of us, the family lives in this kitchen every day, around the clock, more than any other room, [so] it has to have an almost unlimited variability of functional and aesthetic light options.”