Incorporating Midwest Style in California

Bringing the subtle, classic interior of a Chicago home to a sleek, modern home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles presented a different kind of project for Steve Straughan

March 31, 2003


Lighting, both natural and electric, plays an important role in the appeal of the new kitchen - it has all new windows and a task lighting system. The remodeled kitchen is almost like a peninsula, looking out on to a garden yard while surrounded by two courtyards. To heighten the kitchen's views, Kirkpatrick Associates added a window above the stove, a first for the company. To be fire-rated, the window was done in steel, but great pains were taken to find a manufacturer that could create the appearance of wood. The window was finished with a paint that could withstand heat, and the backsplash was tiled into the window so no combustible material was exposed. A Lutron Grafik Eye dimming system allows the various lighting types and all their switches to be tied together in preset scenes that control light groups based on tasks or desired moods. "The home didn't have a connection to the gardens, and it does now," Steve Straughan says. "And even though it was not inexpensive, the homeowners found great value in the splurge on the dimming system."

Bringing the subtle, classic interior of a Chicago home to a sleek, modern home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles presented a different kind of project for Steve Straughan, partner of Kirkpatrick Associates Architects in L.A., because these were not typical L.A. clients.

With a penchant for entertaining, the homeowners wanted to expand the kitchen space and give it the personality of the Midwestern homes they grew up in, with plenty of room for hosting family and friends. The home, a little more than 75 years old, hadn't been remodeled since the 1970s.

"The home was very chopped up," Straughan says. "There was a disconnect between the kitchen and the rest of the house. The kitchen needed to feel generous even if it was isolated."

The space was enlarged from 230 to 260 square feet by taking approximately 75 square feet from one of the kitchen's adjoining courtyards. The new layout has a banquette reading nook at one end and a breakfast room at the other. Straughan transformed a 65-square-foot laundry closet across the hall from the kitchen into an 85-square-foot butler's pantry and wine hall. Brian Lushing, general contractor with Balcorp Construction & Development in Los Angeles, led the job, and his crews were responsible for the carpentry, millwork and the fitting of the wine hall.

Straughan also incorporated a lot of wood cladding and millwork to make elements look more conventional. The island (a major addition because the narrowness of the original kitchen didn't allow for one) was designed to look like a piece of furniture, sitting on four legs, and is the only area of the kitchen adorned with decorative fixtures (pendant light fixtures hang above). The refrigerator and exhaust hood were also clad.

But modern touches were not sacrificed. Straughan used an antique appliance garage to house a commercial-size cappuccino machine in a cubbyhole in the butler's pantry cabinetry. Heat and air registers were hidden, at the owners' request, by using Reggio grilles in the toe kicks of the butler's pantry and kitchen cabinetry, which allow the mechanical system to be hidden beneath the floor.


For the traditional look and feel the clients desired, Straughan used early 20th century design techniques and largely stayed away from stainless steel and other shiny materials and appliances. The kitchen and butler's pantry countertops were made with limestone and polished mahogany, respectively. The oak floors were refinished, patching in some of the existing wood planks with new wood, and darkly stained. Oil-rubbed bronze was used instead of chrome for the fixtures. Storage space above the butler's pantry features sliding glass doors. No fluorescent lights were used except under the cabinets.

Lushing says that while the kitchen might be simple, it's elegant, and the layout is more functional, a real challenge because the space is relatively small.

The kitchen remodel was part of a year-long whole-house remodel and addition totaling just more than $500,000.

Dishwasher: Bosch. Range: Viking. Refrigerator: Sub-Zero. Sink fixtures and mixer: Chicago Faucets. Tile backsplash: Dal-Tile.

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