Cool Kitchens PHOTO: Harry Chamberlain Photography

Cool Kitchens

Amid surroundings this stylish, homeowners can really cook with gas.

By Bettijane Levine 11/01/2010

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A Glamorous Galley
Marlene Oliphant brings more than an eye for design to her kitchen remodels — she’s an amateur chef and professional cookbook author when not designing interiors. So she had much in common with the couple who hired her to overhaul their Pasadena condo kitchen. The empty nesters were downsizing from a larger home to a three-level space and asked her to redesign it from top to bottom, with special emphasis on the kitchen.  
 
“Both the husband and wife are avid cooks, and they love to cook together,” says the Glendale-based designer. “They also love to entertain.” But the kitchen was your typically claustrophobic 1980s galley, an isolated afterthought. It had white appliances, too few cabinets, too much unused space and an unattractive dropped ceiling with fluorescent lights. Plus, the kitchen’s entryways were narrow at both ends.
 
Oliphant’s goal: to integrate the kitchen into the rest of the living space, give it the same contemporary streamlined style and create surfaces that would stand up well to heavy use. 
 
She opened up the space by increasing the height and width of the entryways at either end. She removed the dropped lighting, raising the ceiling, and created a 6-foot-wide opening in the wall above the cooktop to create a pass-through, with a granite counter, to the living room. Oliphant says the space is ideal for people who entertain because it “connects you with guests and is great for serving appetizers and drinks.”
 
The espresso-finish wood cabinetry is from Sierra Custom Kitchens in Pasadena. The stainless-steel appliances are all manufactured by Viking. The floor and backsplash are made of Crossville porcelain tile. And the kitchen now echoes the color scheme of the rest of the home: chocolate, gold and cream with touches of celery and apple green. A truly personalized touch is the mural above the sink, by Pasadena artist Lynn McDaniel. It depicts the Italian villa where the couple celebrated their 40th anniversary. 
 
A Major Entertainment Center 
This sophisticated kitchen is part of a house, washed in slate gray, designed by Susan Sawasy of San Marino. “I followed through with that slate shade on the walls,” she says, “and spiked it with white CaesarStone countertops that lend a beautiful sparkle, like white crystal.” For added shimmer, Sawasy used gray-veined white marble on the floor and backsplashes. Lower cabinets are made of the African hardwood anigre in a pecan shade. Upper cabinets are finished in gray high-gloss automotive paint, and a Fortuny light fixture adds a splash of elegance to the space.
 
But the true sophistication of this kitchen doesn’t lie in what you see on the surface, the designer says. “It’s in the nuances, the particular placement of multiple food preparation areas,” the personalization that came from understanding the lifestyle of the homeowners.
 
“We had 500 square feet to work with, and we gutted right down to the studs,” Sawasy says. “We reconfigured the space to make it right for this couple who prepare family meals and who frequently employ caterers for major entertaining. We built a kitchen in which one or many people can work comfortably.”
 
In addition to a Wolf range, the room offers multiple cooking bays, prep stations, cooktops and ovens. There are three sinks: a large primary sink, a prep sink next to the stove and another major sink in the adjacent mudroom, which Sawasy designed as a catchall for caterers during parties. “You know how dirty pots, glasses, dishes, cutlery pile up when you‘re entertaining? In this house, that’s all hidden in a separate area. If guests wander into the kitchen, they don’t see any mess.” Another boon to caterers is the induction cooktop which boils water instantly. That’s also a personal favorite of the homeowner, Sawasy says. “It’s where she whips up her lattes every morning. She tells me she uses it more than she uses her stove.”
 
High European Style 
This dream kitchen was part of a dream assignment for South Pasadena designer Jennifer Bevan-Montoya. “About two years ago, just before the economy tanked, a married couple asked me to design their ideal home — from scratch,” she recalls. “It would be built brand new, but they wanted it to look seasoned, vaguely European, with Tuscan touches and perhaps a hint of Mediterranean. The budget was huge. And the kitchen was crucial. In this family, it’s the husband who loves to cook, who likes friends gathered as he whips up delicacies to pair with his extensive wine collection. The wife described her ideal kitchen as a comfort zone, a place for family to sit and snack, share their stories and secrets.” 
 
Bevan-Montoya designed a single solution to both their needs: a vast center island, surrounded by comfortable seating. It’s perfect for informal family get-togethers, she says, and for friends to gather while the husband plays Iron Chef.
The completed kitchen features 16-foot-high ceilings with hand-hewn curved wood beams. The massive 5x8-foot center island has a travertine marble top and chocolate wood base in which are hidden all sorts of culinary conveniences, such as warming drawers and wine coolers.
 
“A major focal point is the huge hand-carved limestone stove hood, which rises to the ceiling and looks almost like an overmantel,” Bevan-Montoya says. Another highlight is the antique cast-iron backsplash behind the stove — originally made to back a fireplace in an old English manor house, which is why it bears a family coat of arms. “We found it in London, where we traveled to buy accessories for the house,” the designer says. 
 
The floor is antique limestone tile, purchased from Cavendish Grey, a West Hollywood firm that specializes in reclaimed European stone. Two Miele dishwashers, along with Wolf and Viking appliances, dot the kitchen’s perimeter. Says Bevan-Montoya: “The family loves this room; they invited us to dinner to thank us.”


 

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