The modern-day kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the room where meals and memories are made; where parties begin and end. It’s one of, if not the, most important rooms of the house.
But this wasn’t always the case. Many homes were built in an era when the kitchen had only one purpose — to feed the family. As a result, kitchens were cut off from the rest of the home.
Since then, homeowners have come to expect more from their kitchens. They still have to feed the family, but kitchens also need to double as living and entertaining spaces.
What happens when a kitchen is still stuck in the old days?
We visit five East Bay kitchens to show how a serving of patience, extra helpings of creativity and heaps of love and determination helped these homeowners, architects and kitchen designers successfully blend new with old without losing the beauty or character of either.
Before the kitchen in their Upper Rockridge home in Oakland was remodeled, homeowners Jason Appelbaum and Sharon Song joked to their friends that if they just stood on their tiptoes, they could enjoy the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The couple loved their 1920s home, but it was a victim of too many walls that cut the kitchen off from its surrounding vitality.
The kitchen underwent upgrades and makeovers over the decades, but it was architect Lorin Hill’s redesign to add an extra 180 square feet that brought the kitchen alive — and out of its darkened confines. Walls were removed, and windows, French doors and a spacious deck were added. A new floor plan puts the bay and rooftop views front and center for all to comfortably admire in the kitchen. Adjacent rooms also benefit, thanks to passageways that were widened and arched in keeping with the home’s early bungalow style.
The team, which closely involved the dedicated homeowners, was careful to match details to the home’s architecture while sticking to a cost-conscious budget. “We did a lot of research before we hired anyone or bought anything,” says Appelbaum.
The results of their diligence include cabinetry milled and installed by Wise Cabinetry of San Ramon along the perimeter in white with simple, flat-paneled doors topped with Raven Caesarstone quartz counters. Upper glass cabinets flanking the sink reinforce the wall’s windowed theme while subway tile by Sonoma Tilemakers purchased from Coliseum Tile in San Ramon add to the room’s classic feel.
The long, sky-blue island, also by Wise Cabinetry, with a rustic-like, hand-rubbed glaze sits prominently in the middle, acting as the kitchen’s nucleus. Topping it is a remnant slab of Calacatta marble from Uni Marble Inc. in Richmond. When the sun goes down, pendants cast the right light on the island for cooking or entertaining.
This kitchen has become the central hub of the house with its style, function and views. “How we love the views,” says Appelbaum. “They remind us of the Italian Riviera where we honeymooned.”
Architect: Lorin Hill, Oakland
Contractor: Dave Martinez, Master
Craftsman & Carpentry, Livermore
Built in 1911, this Craftsman house in Alameda’s East End is a step back in time. For the last 10 years, homeowners Matthew Rampton and Laura Groves have prided themselves on being stewards of it. Their mission was to restore it back from an ill-conceived 1970s remodel to its authentic state. They were so inclined to do it right they willingly forewent a modern convenience or two in the process.
The couple hired architect Maggie Maiers and contractor Ken Kahrs, both from Alameda, who have worked together since 1994. The two overhauled the space by gutting it and simplifying its mishmash of six openings down to four to create a more natural flow.
Maple cabinets by Claremont, N.H.–based Crown Point Cabinetry were designed around the Aga stove and Klondike Case refrigerator. Though brand new, the vintage-style fridge harkens back to the past, which means it has no freezer. “We don’t feel like we sacrificed at all. We have a chest freezer in the basement and a mini-freezer in the kitchen pantry,” explains Rampart. “It encourages us to eat more fresh food.”
Like the rest of the cabinetry, the long, narrow island and wood counters are stained to match the home’s original redwood wainscoting. The new cove ceiling, oak flooring, push-button light switches, trim, railing and open shelving duplicate what would have been appropriate back in the day. The couple was indefatigable researching and acquiring era-appropriate materials, including the cabinet doors that fit inside the frame in true Craftsman style.
“I’m happy to say that the homeowners, contractor and I all worked very well together solving whatever problems came up, and believe me, there were an assortment of issues associated with a restoration project of the magnitude,” explains Maiers. “Everyone brought the best of whatever he or she was in charge of, and the results show.”
Architect: Maggie Maiers, AIA, Alameda
Contractor: Ken Kahrs, Ken Kahrs Construction, Alameda
Remodeling a kitchen requires tremendous foresight into how that space will be used. Who better to mull over ideas with than a professional chef? How about a chef-contractor team so in sync they joke they can finish each other’s sentences.
When Fred and Donna Branaman wanted to remodel their 1980s kitchen in Alameda’s East End, they made a beeline to Lisa Cannelora, owner of Cucina di Cannelora, kitchen and bath designer and former chef. Having worked the line in restaurants such as Greens Restaurant, Restaurant LuLu and now-shuttered Le Club, Cannelora knows what she’s doing in the kitchen. Together with Daryl Walker of Walker Construction, with whom Cannelora has built several kitchens, the team prides itself on providing clients the kitchen of their dreams.
That includes the Branamans who, as home vegan chefs, needed a bigger, more efficient space to accommodate large equipment and various veggie-prep stations. “We started by taking down a wall and creating a U-shaped perimeter dedicated to lots of counter space with sinks on both ends,” Cannelora explains.
By breaking the kitchen into a variety of mise en place, or station setups, the couple is able to work and entertain without getting in one another’s way. The team chose custom cabinetry by Merit Kitchens, for which Cucina di Cannelora is a dealer, for its durability and full extension glides that make accessing recessed appliances a cinch. Along the walls, the cabinets are topped with honed satin-sheen black granite. The island’s unique shape is made of polished dragon red granite. The perimeter offers a quiet look with its soft black-and-beige-toned marble mosaic as a backdrop to the dramatic centerpiece island that serves as the room’s prime eating area.
“We feel so fortunate to have had Lisa’s expertise and guidance along with Walker Construction’s craftsmanship during the remodel. What’s normally a stressful experience turned out to be a wonderful, exciting one,” say Donna Branaman. “There truly isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t say how much we love our kitchen.”
Designer: Lisa Cannelora of Cucina di Cannelora, Alameda
Contractor: Daryl Walker, Walker Construction
Inside this Alameda Colonial Revival home built in the late 1800s was a kitchen remodeled in the 1930s. The current owners were partial to the home’s heritage, but the kitchen, like so many created during the Great Depression, strayed from its potential grandeur.
The homeowners hired Custom Kitchens by John Wilkins Inc. of Oakland to breathe the grace and poise associated with the turn of the century back into the room. Joy Wilkins, a certified kitchen designer, and project manager/associate kitchen and bath designer Eric Jackson worked with their clients to understand their needs: She’s a baker; he likes to work the range; both enjoy cooking together and entertaining large parties.
To accommodate the homeowners’ wish list, the team divided the room into a variety of stations. The baking area is laid out so everything, from the eggs to the mixer, can be accessed in arm’s reach of the island’s built-in Wolf convection oven. Similarly, effortless preparation of an assortment of dishes takes place at the 48-inch Wolf gas range, which includes an integrated griddle for Sunday morning pancakes.
One of the homeowners’ big requests was a custom mosaic that was designed, fabricated and installed using a tree of life pattern in marble and onyx to create a focal point above the cook top.
Custom cabinetry from Bentwood Kitchens, for which Custom Kitchens is a dealer, provides storage of any configuration throughout the space. Cream cabinets, coated with a light glaze, line the room’s perimeter to contrast with the island’s natural alder hue. The island, shaped somewhat triangular, features a farm sink, integrated dishwasher and seating for two that stays clear of the two adjacent integrated refrigerators and French doors.
Emerald green quartzite from Brazil was fabricated and installed by Fox Marble & Granite in San Francisco to create spacious countertops for food preparation areas as well as a convenient staging area near the dining room. Upper glass cabinets store and display the homeowners’ collection of china and crystal.
“We made sure to include everything to provide all the conveniences, functionality and, of course, beauty to make this kitchen work for any occasion — and any time period,” explains Joy Wilkins.
Designer: Joy Wilkins, CKD, Custom Kitchens by John Wilkins Inc., Oakland
Project Manager: Eric Jackson, AKBD, Custom Kitchens by John Wilkins Inc.
Contractor: Custom Kitchens by John Wilkins Inc.
This Monterey Colonial–style home built in 1933 sits on a beautifully landscaped parcel of land in Berkeley with sweeping views of the Golden Gate. Its occupants, Lisa and Tim Goodman — the landscape designer/contractor duo behind Goodman Landscape Design — knew the best way to engage with their property’s assets, including the gardens they labored to create, was to redesign their kitchen.
“The problem with older homes,” explains Stephen Rynerson, principal of Rynerson O’Brien Architecture in Oakland, “is that they were designed with small kitchens isolated in the back that had no graceful connection to the living areas or backyard. People simply didn’t live the way we do today.”
Lisa Goodman adds, “This kitchen was designed for servants. Buzzers abounded everywhere.”
Previous remodels left the kitchen, as Goodman describes, “de-buzzed and de-Colonialized, giving it, along with the rest of the house, a confused architectural style.” Rynerson and the Goodmans amended this by devising a thoughtful kitchen overhaul that offers the space, functionality and elegance the couple wanted in a style consistent with the entire house.
They began by removing walls to borrow space from an adjacent bedroom and open the flow to the dining room. This in turn provided abundant light, views of the bay and a graceful connection to the garden. The kitchen was then reconfigured with the use of period-inspired elements and curvilinear features that integrate seamlessly with the house’s architecture.
Salvaged claro walnut cabinetry made with plank-paneled doors tuck inside plaster-surfaced niches. Polychrome tiles line the top of the granite counters, creating a colorful border and pleasing focal point from the breakfast bar. A nearby niche doubles as an artful pass-through to the dining room. The plastered ceiling is adorned with timeless pendants and load-bearing beams that match those in the dining room. The custom plaster-lined hood adds period authenticity to a modern kitchen that fulfills the homeowners’ wish list.
From the inside out, this newly defined space feels like it was always meant to be. The Goodmans couldn’t be happier with their new old house.
Architect: Stephen Rynerson, Associate AIA, Rynerson O’Brien, Berkeley
Contractor: Geoff Semans, The Original Crafters, Oakland
Photographer: Kenneth Rice Photography, www.kenricephoto.com