Quiet, Elegant Style Defines English Tudor Kitchen

Los Angeles, CAWhile everyone enjoys a challenge now and then, some situations are so overwhelming that few will even consider taking them on. Such was the case with the kitchen of the Design House 2004, located here.

"None of the designers wanted this because it was too big," notes Dolores Esparza, owner of Dolores Esparza Interior & Architectural Designs in Alhambra, CA. "But I saw beyond it."

The challenge Esparza didn't see coming was the difference in design opinions between the owner of the home, who wanted the kitchen to mesh with the home's English Tudor style, and the Assistance League of Southern California, sponsors of the Design House 2004 Home and Garden Tour, which wanted cream-colored cabinets something not found in English Tudor kitchens. Add to that the challenges Esparza could see a back wall that measured 31', a false fireplace, a huge hood that overwhelmed the room, 14'-high ceilings and more than 25 windows, many of which were 7' tall and it was clear why some designers had passed on the project.

Esparza also had her own agenda for the approximately 400-sq.-ft. space. "I wanted a room where you could use every single nook and cranny," she stresses.

Shades of England

To begin, Esparza had to devise a color scheme that would be true to the home's style while reflecting her own personal desire for a design with quiet elegance. The English were known to use dark, muted colors, including shades of burgundy, green, creamy colors and metals, especially pewter. And Esparza added small touches of gold to enrich the color scheme.

The existing cabinets in the room were a dark brown that she felt made the room drab. To change them and age them, she distressed them by using Oxblood, a very deep burgundy color, followed by a wash and then what she terms "rotten stone," and added worm holes.

Along that endless back wall of cabinets, the owner requested a backsplash of golden travertine. "I believed using that would make it look Italian," explains Esparza. So, she opted for her choice, limestone, that featured a hint of Jerusalem Gold.

Metal deco tiles were staggered along the backsplash, along with ceramic tiles that featured fleur de lis and crests. "It didn't look busy because it's so long," she remarks. "I kept it simple."

The countertop, which was granite at the owner's request, had a marble look, with little dots of burgundy mixed in with grays and browns. "It pulled the colors of the room together," she notes.

Topiaries were included to help break up the area and play up the idea of an English garden.

To complement the cabinets in the room, as well as stay within the English Tudor theme, Esparza designed an island complete with custom legs and fluting. Enkeboll Designs provided its Linenfold panels for use on the island doors, as well as its Villagers Collection in two styles for decoration. "We did the island in a pretty wood stain, and then followed with the same wash and the 'rotten stone' that was used on the cabinets," states Esparza.

The hood above the island was scaled down dramatically to enhance the room's design. "The original hood was so huge, it took up almost the whole kitchen," she relates. "It was made out of metal and lined with dark brown, and it had all of these trusses and gables connected to it. It blocked all of the light from the recessed cans. When we ripped it out, the whole room got light."

The newly designed hood incorporated some of the fluting from the island. "In England, they had really huge fireplaces, so I made the hood look like that," Esparza remarks.

And, speaking of fireplaces, this room had a massive faux fireplace that took up one whole wall. "It was put there when the room was a showhouse back in 1982," notes Esparza, "but it served no purpose. It didn't function."

She was even more determined to remove it when she found out it covered two windows. "Where I took out the fireplace, I made a banquette out of wood that people thought was original to the house," Esparza explains.

She finished the section with green fabric with two embroidered lions in crests, an antique tea cart and 200-year-old buffet borrowed from the owner, urns and a rug with the room's colors.

The room was finished in a soft French vanilla to push the room's warmth. The paved hardwood floors were distressed and featured little pegs.

Optimal Arrangements

Making the kitchen a functional space was as important to the designer as preserving its heritage. "I make all of my kitchens functional using a triangle," she states. "Everything should be within reach."

In one area of the triangle, there's a Jenn-Air dishwasher, an English farmhouse sink by Shaw Originals in polished nickel and

a trash compactor. Across the island is a Sub-Zero refrigerator.

The island itself has several unique features, including a 48" Jenn-Air six-burner range, plus, a microwave and two warming drawers. "I also made some drawers in the island for things like potatoes and garlic [to] be within reach," she reports. Pull-outs are also featured for spices. A self-rimming bar sink from Shaw Originals fits in a burgundy-and-stone-colored countertop, which ties in to the Oxblood cabinets across the room.

Right behind the island is another cooking area, with two burners and an area where the owner can barbecue and grill. A 27" double oven, a pot filler and a downdraft are included here. Above, a large wood mantel rests.

The Storage Story

Even the butler's pantry shared in the room's elegant style, beginning with doors featuring a reproduced English leaded glass design. "I used antique glass in the middle, and a really soft gold and soft medium green around the edge," she reports.

The pantry's original dark brown cabinets were warmed with a dark brown that was two shades different. Butcher block countertops finished off the cabinets.

Tile work in the butler's pantry included hand-made tile from California Pottery that resembled beveled glass. These cream-colored tiles were highlighted with metal studs that were placed along the tile wall.

The pantry was as functional as the kitchen, and included a wine refrigerator, a dishwasher and an ice maker, all from Jenn-Air. A hammered sink from Native Trails enhances the overall design, and a Rohl faucet completes the look.

In the end, Esparza knows that she accomplished what she set out to do: create a functional kitchen that works with the home's style.