A romantic, modern kitchen? Isn’t that an oxymoron? We don’t think so, and here are a few ways to accomplish it:

  • Use natural materials with interesting textures and contrast them with modern materials like stainless steel and exposed structural elements
  • Provide soft accent lighting with focused lighting on task areas. Various sets of lights may be switched separately to allow softer scenes when bright lighting isn’t critical
  • Select a neutral color palette tending to the warm end of the spectrum
  • Include detail, detail, and more detail. Consider detail as seen from up-close as well as afar
  • Create textures and patterns on floors, walls, ceilings, or cabinets. But don’t overdo it – Our eyes also need areas of relief
  • Defeat clutter by creating concealed spaces for small appliances and less-used items within an appliance garage or a pantry
  • Build a niche for art or other interesting items
  • Install interesting and tactile knobs and hardware

Kitchen Planning

Every good kitchen has a driving force behind its design, a dominant objective that provides its structure. This kitchen has three. The first is to maximize the views to the valley below. Second, foster an intimate relationship with the adjacent spaces. Third, tame the clutter endemic to the owner’s former storage-challenged kitchen. As a result, the kitchen is not so much a room, as the nexus connecting the dinette, dining, family, and outdoor living spaces. Where possible, exterior walls were kept free of cabinetry to allow for windows.

At the kitchen’s core is a storage “island.” Not to be confused with a center island, the storage island is a walk-in pantry surrounded by appliances and cabinetry. It floats within the figurative sea of the Kitchen and Family Room. The concept of a storage island is the key to solving the objectives referred to previously. It even provides a solution for addressing mundane utilities; perforated metal above the pantry island conceals mechanical ventilation, electrical wiring, audio speakers, a doorbell chime, wireless routers, plumbing pipes, and more. The pantry is clad with reclaimed lumber and accessed via a matching sliding barn door hung on copper wheels.

The kitchen is divided into five task zones: preparation, cooking, cleanup, daily storage, and long-term storage (the walk-in pantry). The two areas where the bulk of kitchen time is spent, preparation and cleaning, each have unique views. Preparation occurs at the center island which looks across the pool to the valley below. Cleanup looks West to the setting sun over the mountains. To the owner’s delight, the window also overlooks a nearby hillside where they often spot wildlife, sometimes even a mountain lion.

From the cleanup area there is a passthrough into the family room which allows for conversation with those working at the computer desk or relaxing on the sofa. It is strategically placed to provide a view of guests walking to the front entry and to view the TV in the family room, all while standing at the sink.

Short-term storage for daily use items includes a pull-out pantry adjacent to the double ovens and cabinets above the microwave oven. Two appliance garages with cabinets above store daily dishware and small appliances. Storage for the Dinette is provided in an adjacent display cabinet.

Due to the extensive number of windows on the kitchen side of the home, a structural concrete wall was required to keep the home standing through the next earthquake. By happy coincidence, it was needed precisely where the cooking zone was desired, thus allowing an authentic, exposed concrete finish to grace the space.

The cooking area is punctuated by a powerful, custom range hood fitted within the concrete recess behind the cooktop. Apparently, it is capable of sucking up a small child, but this has not been tested.

Crafted of Douglas fir heavy-timber and steel, the cabinetry is built to last for generations; solid lumber dispenses with the thin edge-banding ubiquitous of modern cabinetry, which often delaminates over time. The cabinetry can take abuse and still retain its rugged stature; developing the patina of living from nicks and dents will only enhance its appearance. A thick steel base at the cabinetry provides durability from water and excessive wear.

The Ceiling

There is a Goldilocks zone for the height of a space. Too high or too low and the space is uncomfortable. The “zone” is largely determined by the other proportions of the space; larger dimensions require higher ceilings. For this kitchen, local zoning restricted the total height of the house and subsequently the height between floors – and it was too low. Not by much, but enough to matter. Combine this with a desire to create an interesting ceiling in keeping with the architecture, and we witness an example of form and function joining forces to expose the ceiling structure.

By installing closely spaced, short but wide beams, the height of the space grew by more than a foot. Various light sources highlight the beams and cast a warm glow across the ceiling. As an aesthetic bonus, the wood beams visually align with trellises wrapping around the outside of the home, thus creating continuity between inside and out.

Another prominent feature of the ceiling, black wood slats between the beams, serve a purpose beyond pure aesthetics. The gaps between the slats allow sound to pass between them where it is then absorbed by a sandwich of concealed acoustical dampening materials above the slats. Too often homes sound like gymnasiums, due to hard, reflective materials on the walls, floors, and ceilings. Bouncing and reverberating sound echoes throughout the spaces, dragging comfort and coziness away with it. The hidden acoustical ceiling eliminates that issue.

Rather than typical metal air grilles, a continuous black slot in the soffit (just below the wood beams) supplies air to the space.

See the rest of the home here: A Modern yet Romantic Mountain Home Near L.A.