I’m so excited to share my kitchen with you! I’ll get into the details deeper in the post, but this is the only time that I haven’t had to do a giant kitchen renovation in a new house. The biggest challenge was finding elements to update the space while keeping the mid century aesthetic. This is why I partnered with Cafe Appliances – their refrigerator in white and bronze blends perfectly into my vintage kitchen, while giving me the benefits of modern appliances.
My husband Craig and I are searching for our family home, and when we set foot into your house, it felt so right. Jack, an architect and UCLA professor, built this house with his wife, Marilyn, in 1953. They lived in it all their lives, and even planted a palm tree on the day they moved in – it’s now about 60 feet tall, towering over our backyard. You could feel the love in this house, and standing on the back porch, looking at Jack and Marilyn’s Palm Tree, we knew this was a special place. It felt like the last 6 years had led up to this moment and like we had finally found our forever home.
I’ve renovated a few single-owner mid century homes before, and it’s always a balance of respecting the past while adding modern comforts, but with this house, that was on an entirely other level. I walked in the house and didn’t want to change anything – it was like a perfect time capsule of 1953 Los Angeles. The wood-clad walls, hidden bar, room dividers, the chrome edged streamline kitchen – everything was so rooted in Danish modernism and deco references from the late 40s rather than the atomic “Palms Springs” modern of the late 50s. This was Jack and Marilyn’s dream home, and it showed. I have photos of them digging the dirt as the building process started. They lived there for 65 years without changing anything other than the wallpaper. That’s rare – usually someone gets bored and decides to make everything Southwestern or they tear out the kitchen and add some terribly clunky 90s monstrosity instead. Not in my time machine. I loved it so much I even kept the 65 year old drapes. This was my first time having fun with color on the walls, rather than just with furniture and objects. I’ve played around with tile and wallpaper for color, but usually keep spaces minimalistic. With this mid century gem, I used the original paint colors as my jumping off point, and researched the color palette of the era.
Every time I’ve renovated a home I’ve had to completely gut the kitchen. The kitchen is usually something dysfunctional from the 70s, with hideous oak upper cabinets, and I turn it into an open, white, modern space. But this was the first time I couldn’t – the kitchen is too special. It’s an original St. Charles kitchen in gorgeous condition. In the 50s, you’d have a company like St. Charles do your entire kitchen: floors, cabinets, countertops – the whole thing. The cabinets are painted steel (I’m pretty sure mine are “Chiffon Yellow”), so they’re incredibly durable. I also never imagined having a not white kitchen, but I love the butter yellow hue. It’s just so joyful and soothing. The fact that I didn’t need to repaint my kitchen cabinets that are 65 years old is just wild. There’s little details, like lucite protectors on each cabinet, chrome handles, stainless steel panels on either side of the oven, and a special cupboard with retractable shelf for your mixer that make this kitchen so thoughtful. The one thing I thought I’d have to do is add power outlets throughout the kitchen – I only saw one, and thought that was because of the time period the kitchen was originally built in. Nope! All of the plugs are hidden on the underside of the upper cabinets.
One of my proudest moments was figuring out how to relight the pilot light and the reconnect the gas in our vintage stove. This thing must weigh 800 lbs and has little windows like a submarine. I love it. When it works it’s a beast – it is so incredibly hot! The BTUs are insane and it makes the most delicious roast chicken.
The only updates to the kitchen were the new Cafe Appliances fridge and the banquette and light above the breakfast nook. For the fridge, I knew I needed something with plenty of space (the French doors make the fridge especially efficient), that was easy to clean (each shelf has curved edges), and had a water dispenser. One of my favorite features is that the fridge dispenses hot water for my tea in the morning. Plus, there’s a handy locking feature – James is exactly the right height to think that a water dispenser is exciting entertainment, and that lock has prevented quite a few messes.
One corner of the kitchen that I updated was the banquette. The original banquette was upholstered in a drab green vinyl, and the light fixture was from the 1980s. I had my upholsterer, Marianna from Leija Designs, rip out the banquette and cover it in gorgeous tween from Kravet’s performance line. It’s incredibly durable and has a soft, nubby texture that looks totally mid century. I added the Kiki pendant by Mitzi Lighting, and the whole corner blends perfectly into the butter yellow and chrome kitchen.