An elegant and hardworking space is full of natural light, engaging surfaces, and clever details
Spending time in Susan and Bob Feldman’s Hollywood Hills, California, kitchen is totally relaxing. Just sitting at their kitchen table brings on the kind of calm one has when all of life’s details have been well taken care of. That laid-back ambience didn’t just happen, however. When Bob and Susan, who is a cofounder and chief merchandising officer of the online home decor site One Kings Lane, were ready to renovate their kitchen, they called on kitchen design expert Carla Smith.
The Los Angeles designer oversaw all the functional details, so that Bob and Susan would have room to work comfortably and happily together. Thanks to Smith, they can effortlessly move around the rounded limestone-topped island, slice up a Caprese salad, or throw juicy steaks on the new nearby deck barbecue grill with nary a bump, cabinet clash, or needless lap around the island. Inch by inch, cabinet and appliance details were so well planned that home-cooked dinners—for two or 40—are smoother than the polished Carrara marble that runs along the counters and up the walls.
Photography: Karyn Millet
Kitchen designer: Carla Smith, Hub of the House, 420 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; 310/652-2332, hubofthehouse.com .
Light-Flooded Kitchen with Flow
The project started a few years after Susan and Bob relocated from New York to their traditional-style house in the Hollywood Hills, where they often host family and large groups of guests. “I love to cook, and I love to entertain,” enthuses Susan.
The couple paid their dues, making do with a small utilitarian kitchen with ubiquitous white cabinets. “It was fine,” says Susan, revealing her good-sport attitude, but it was clear that efficiency and flow were lacking. Both Susan and Bob were ready for an expanded space that would work efficiently, blend with the rest of the house, and connect outside to a new deck.
“Coming from Manhattan apartment living, I wanted to max out every square inch of space,” says Susan. To make that happen, the Feldmans and Smith put heads together to evaluate how Susan and Bob used the kitchen. Smith asked detailed questions, including where they entered the home; where they fed their dog, Maggie; where they put keys and bags; and where they charged their phones. “Flow is really important,” the designer explains. Based on those discussions, she separated the work zone from the eating and landing areas around the table and bar to allow for easy movement.
Stainless steel mesh cabinet faces show off dishware, so it is more likely to be used. The elegant but sturdy finish echoes the stainless range hood nearby.
The island’s stone edges were rounded to ease traffic flow. Outlet covers were stained the color of the cabinets to help them blend in and be less conspicuous.
A second sink and an extra refrigerator drawer in the island come in handy when entertaining and make life easier when reaching for a bottle of cold water, or milk for coffee or cereal.
To speed meal preparation, a tall, narrow cabinet next to the farmhouse-style sink keeps varying sizes of cutting boards and baking racks upright and within arm’s reach.
Steam and Land
A pullout cutting board is a nod to the house’s 1930s-era design and provides a landing spot for food from the steamer oven (an appliance that designer Carla Smith recommends).
Kitchen Dining Area
Aesthetically, Susan and Smith were on the same page, choosing dark wood floors consistent with the rest of the house, painted cabinets, and marble and limestone surfaces.
When it came to the finishing touches, Susan walked the talk—her online shopping talk, that is—buying many of the light fixtures online. The pendant over the island is from Restoration Hardware, the fixtures above the kitchen table are from Waterworks, and the oval-shaped wall sconces by the sink are from Circa Lighting. “I think it’s great to get inspiration online,” says Susan, who often spent evenings viewing sites on her laptop with Bob and Smith.
Living in the house during the renovation had its advantages, allowing Susan to make on-the-spot adjustments. “You can do everything in your power to plan every detail in advance, but it is important to have flexibility.” Case in point: The French doors leading to the new deck seemed too low and didn’t flow with the windows in the adjacent sunroom. “We had to re-spec them, so they go almost to the ceiling and give maximum light. It made a big difference. It put us behind three weeks, but it was worth the wait,” says Susan.
“This kitchen is like a magnet,” she adds. “When I’m cooking, it can hold up to 20 people.” With music playing, sunset light streaming in, Susan cooking, and Bob pouring, no wonder family and guests want to linger. It’s a very relaxing place to be.
Easy on the Eye
Wood, rather than metal, shelf brackets blend with cabinet interiors and keep the focus on dishware. Lights in the cabinet boxes highlight the contents and provide an attractive glow.
Stains and Patina
A special rubbed finish and European hardware from Gerber Hinge add authenticity and patina to the breakfront cabinet designed by kitchen designer Smith.
“Pacific Beach” oval-back chairs by Los Angeles designer Tim Clarke for Dering Hall lend softness and comfort to the room. The light leather contrasts nicely with the wood table.
Wineglasses are easy to reach in a narrow pullout panel. Smith designed a removable surround panel for the TV (attached with Velcro!) to allow for inevitable TV upgrades.
To break the monotony of having too many hard-surfaced doors, Smith upholstered the pantry door with a linen fabric and trimmed it with polished-nickel nailheads.
Homeowners Susan and Bob Feldman.