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As you enter through the garden gate, you descend into the beautifully landscaped garden filled with cascading streams, fountains and bronze sculptures. The massive original front door opens into a light-filled atrium, which was constructed by a previous owner to honor his Hawaiian bride’s heritage. This spectacular two-story atrium, where year-round natural light nurtures the lush, tropical greenery, has a new glass roof and Travertine marble floors with radiant heat. The owners have chosen to make this their living room so they can enjoy the changing light. Enjoy the owners’ large art collection exhibited throughout the house. Many of the artists were “discovered” by the homeowners over the years.
General Contractor: Creative Spaces, Oakland
Architect: Tsang Architects, Helen Tsang, San Francisco
Designer: Cornelia Buckner Design, Calistoga
Cabinet Maker: Architectural Trim and Custom Cabinets: Cherry wood with reeded glass
Countertops: Creative Stoneworks: Kirkstone
Flooring: American Slate Company, Walnut Creek: Slate in China Gray, China Sea Green and Emerald Green
Appliances: California Builder Distributors: Miele dishwashers; U-Line wine cooler; Thermador cooktop, oven and warming drawer; Viking hood; SubZero refrigerator
Lighting: Gill’s Electric, Oakland
Windows: Wooden Window and Window Express, Pleasant Hill: Kolbe and Kolbe
Hardware: BauerWare, San Francisco
Pay careful attention to the flooring as you walk into the entryway. Its black slate, original to the home, is at the heart of this homeowner’s contemporary remodel. Continuing the theme, the homeowner selected for the kitchen a beautiful patchwork of slate in China Gray, China Sea Green and Emerald Green. It is durable, aesthetically pleasing, and provided the groundwork for many other design decisions.

“What kind of stone makes up the countertops?” is the most frequently asked question by visitors. It is Kirkstone, a volcanic ash from England. Granite’s busy patterns did not appeal to the homeowner. The countertops also needed to coordinate with the floors. This durable black stone was the perfect solution. Because it comes in smaller slabs than granite, it requires more seams and demands quality workmanship. The cherry wood cabinetry adds warmth and richness and will darken over time. The upper cabinets are filled with reeded glass, adding interest as well as enhancing the contemporary feel.

The previous kitchen was a blanket of white. The idea of a new kitchen with dark countertops, floor and cabinets felt overwhelming at first. The clever combination of skylights, creamy yellow walls and custom-designed mosaic backsplash brighten up the kitchen’s darker side. Varying hues of cool blues and bits of white in the mosaic backsplash complement the color scheme nicely. Glass tile inserts are sprinkled across the mosaic and actually reflect light despite their small size, a unique yet beautiful way to infuse light into the room.

Spatial layout of the kitchen was another important part of the new design. The original kitchen literally stopped traffic because the peninsula created a wall between the kitchen and casual dining area. In the new design, an island was placed slightly off-center in the kitchen with a square top and base. A large “slice” off one corner of the island created bar-stool seating for four and cleared a pathway to the casual dining area. Across from the island is a bank of cabinetry and shelves, placed partially on the diagonal and mirroring the lines of the island. This design enhanced the walkway through the kitchen and is the perfect complement to the island.

Housed inside the island are a microwave and warming drawer.

The latter is a homeowner favorite. This special oven keeps food warm and moist, allowing hosts to spend more time with guests rather than fussing with last minute preparations. A microwave feature in the Thermador double oven has also proved to be handy. It is perfect for cooking rice as it operates a little slower than the typical stand-alone microwave oven. Other appliances include a U-Line wine cooler, a SubZero refrigerator, a Vikin hood and two Miele dishwashers. Cleanup is a breeze and very important for a homeowner who enjoys frequent entertaining.

The kitchen was an act in tenacity, determination and patience. The homeowner knew what she wanted and was willing to wait to find the perfect fit. The payoff is a seamless remodel that is functional, spacious and beautiful.

BONUS: Before exiting the kitchen, take a quick peek at the powder room. The sink area is a beveled cabinet with a fossil countertop called “Tuxedo Fossil Stone”. Small flecks in the stone look like real fossils. It is attractive and fascinating.