Kitchen Update Focuses on Light

Project Highlights


  • Jerry Hettinger, with design input from his staff at J. Hettinger Interiors, Danville, CA, renovated his own kitchen with the intent of opening it up by adding more space and more windows. Cantilevering the kitchen allowed enough space for a bar area and dining table while more windows gave him an unprecedented view of a 500-year-old tree.
  • A custom 1.5"-thick ThinkGlass island countertop grabs center stage. LED lights provide dramatic lighting, while hand-selected colors infused within the layers provide a unique appearance. The same look is repeated at the bar area, and clear, backlit glass countertops border the perimeter.
  • Wood-Mode rift-cut cabinets are stained an ebony hue to show a bit of grain, while upper cabinets are painted a contrasting French vanilla. Both colors pair nicely with Grey Splash honed ceramic floor tiles and help tie the contemporary kitchen to the transitional spaces in the rest of the home.
  • Hettinger also used the remodel as an opportunity to update his appliances and modernize the kitchen. A TurboChef oven speeds cooking. Additional professional appliances include a Sub-Zero refrigerator and wine storage unit; Dacor rangetop and microwave, and Asko dishwasher. A Crestron automation system controls lights, shades, climate and the pool.

Oakland Hills, CA — Using his best guess, Jerry Hettinger believes the tree outside the kitchen window of his Oakland Hills, CA, home is about 500 years old. “It’s a huge, amazing tree that I love,” says the designer and owner of J. Hettinger Interiors in Danville, adding that the tree doubles as an elaborate runway for squirrels that visit his yard each morning.

He was nervous he might lose his beloved tree in 1989 when wildfires devastated his neighborhood. “I thought I was burned out,” he says. “I was staying with friends in San Francisco when the Hills were burning. But the firefighters stopped the fire literally in my front yard. It burned my front fence and patio furniture. But my house, and more importantly to me, that tree, were saved.”

The tree was a point of interest when Hettinger, with input from his staff of designers, renovated his kitchen, as he wanted the kitchen to accentuate the view of this tree.

“Everyone threw in their ideas,” he says. “It really was somewhat of a group effort. I always feel that 10 heads are better than one.”

He purchased the 1950s-era home 25 years ago. “I remodeled the home when I bought it,” he says, “so it was getting dated. The kitchen was also a little small.”

To gain some extra space during this most recent remodel, Hettinger cantilevered the kitchen, extending it about three feet. The additional square footage gave him the ability to remove a banquette and replace it with a dining set. He also replaced a small, narrow window with a series of three much larger windows, giving him an unprecedented view of his tree.

“Part of my objective with this remodel was to open up the kitchen with much larger windows to make it feel like the tree was inside,” he says.

Hettinger also gained enough extra room to add a bar area, complete with a Sub-Zero wine refrigerator and backlit ThinkGlass countertop. Garage-style doors promote a sleek, contemporary appearance.

“Previously, my bar was in the family room,” he says. “I have a pool just off of the kitchen – which, like the tree, is a focal point of the space – so everyone always hung out in the kitchen. We had to carry everything down from the upstairs, so I wanted a bar in the kitchen.”

Light and color

The ThinkGlass countertop, backlit with strips of LED lights, is repeated throughout the rest of the kitchen, lining the perimeter and highlighting the island. The one-piece, custom countertops are actually six1/4-inch glass layers fused together. The island countertop, as well as the one in the bar, is accented with splashes of color. A different hue is embedded on each layer to provide added dimension.

“It gives a really interesting effect,” he says, adding that he chose the colors and splash pattern to provide an individual, unique look.

“In the evening, the backlighting is very effective,” he says. “The LED lights give it a nice glow.”

The glass countertops sit atop Wood-Mode rift-cut cabinets. Base cabinets are stained ebony while upper cabinets are painted a contrasting French vanilla. “For the base cabinets, I wanted something that would show a bit of the grain,” he says. “But I wanted a solid color on the upper cabinets.”

The cabinet colors pair nicely with Grey Splash honed ceramic floor tiles, which were chosen in part to tie in with the rest of the house, including the dining room carpet that it joins.

“If you consider the kitchen separately, it leans toward contemporary styling, which I personally like,” he says. “But the rest of the house is very transitional, so I wanted to tie everything together with the colors.”

Update and modernize

Adding more square footage and larger windows opened up Hettinger’s kitchen, which was a main goal. But, the designer also saw the remodel as an opportunity to update appliances and modernize his kitchen.

Hettinger likes to entertain – “we have lots of parties,” he says – so he paid special attention to everything from the Asko dishwasher and Dacor rangetop to the Dacor microwave and Sub-Zero refrigerator in an effort to make entertaining guests easier. In particular, the TurboChef oven was a somewhat unexpected addition.

“When I was looking for appliances, they were doing a demonstration on this retro-looking oven,” he says. “It’s a very advanced, high-tech oven, combining gas, microwave and convection cooking processes to speed cooking.”

Hettinger incorporated technology in the rest of his home as well, adding high-tech electronic controls from Crestron to manage everything from lighting and shades to climate and the pool. In particular, lighting is important to the homeowner/designer.

“At the push of a button, I can vary lighting based on the task, such as cooking, eating and entertaining,” he comments. “The lighting is really pretty dramatic, even if you don’t consider the countertops.”