Moving full-time to a weekend house let a California couple take a fresh crack at an old kitchen.
Text: Susan Heeger
October 24, 2013
1 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
A Gardener's Paradise
In 2009, when Kelley and Greg Motschenbacher began weekending in Ojai, California, they had plenty of patience for camp-style cooking. A sleepy town set amid orange groves 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Ojai was a world away from their busy life in Orange County, where Greg worked as a contractor and Kelley designed interiors. Avid gardeners, the two chose their 1950s ranch-style retreat for its acre lot. Their first project: planting vegetables.
Now fresh vegetables and herbs grow in raised beds outside the kitchen. There are also 15 Valencia orange trees, so fresh juice is never far away.
2 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
A Renovated Kitchen
When the couple moved to Ojai full-time in 2011, Kelley had had enough of making do. She devised a redesign that made more of the kitchen's space while preserving its layout to avoid replumbing and rewiring. She hired a cabinetmaker. Two months later, she had a new modern-country kitchen. Enlarged windows and glass pendants now bathe the room with light. Simple L-shaped floating shelves open corners once cramped with cabinets, and soapstone and marble counters offer yards of prep space. Storage is tucked below, or in a custom-made island, or in tall side-by-side pantries.
"In this kitchen, I only keep what I use," says Kelley, "and everything has a place."
3 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Kelley opted mostly for lower drawers instead of cupboards, open shelves instead of closed cabinetry, and storage pantries fitted with pull-outs that readily display contents. It's all painted in the same Farrow & Ball Pavilion Gray with a semigloss finish for quick wipe-downs. The hardware on the cabinets and drawers is all from the same Rejuvenation line.
4 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Well-thought-out cabinets and drawers are the key to use. Here, drawer inserts hold garden-grown alliums, squash, and root vegetables.
5 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
One cabinet unit in the Motschenbacher's kitchen holds special-occasion pieces. All other uppers are simply styled open shelves.
6 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
The island is on casters so it can be whisked away to make room for company. For a touch of whimsy, Kelley added fun Etsy pulls, shaped from vintage silverware.
7 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Mixed lighting suits any situation. Having labored under the old kitchen's fluorescents, Kelley pulled out all the stops on lighting when renovating. She enhanced the natural light by enlarging windows from double to triple panels. Above the sink, she installed three ceiling pendants with glass shades that clear the view to the garden beyond.
8 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Vintage lamps with colander shades provide ambient lighting at night.
9 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
The farm-style stainless steel sink is 10 inches deep. Paired with a high-arched Kraus faucet with sprayer attachment, it's perfect for rinsing the soil from freshly picked garden vegetables or concealing a stack of dirty dishes.
10 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Bundle Appliances and Save
Kelley picked her 36-inch-wide Thermador range for its dual-fuel mix: a versatile gas stovetop with star-shaped burners and an electric convection oven. When she was equipping the kitchen, Thermador had a promotion on a bundle of appliances—stove, dishwasher, and microwave—that enabled her to save money by buying all three. "Manufacturers' deals can cut appliance costs," she says, "and the added benefit is they match."
11 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
Fresh, Not Frozen
One exception to Kelley's appliance bundling: her commercial Frigidaire refrigerator. "Mostly fresh, not frozen" is the couple's mantra for food, so Kelley chose a commercial refrigerator for the kitchen. Any frozen items are stored in a small auxiliary freezer in the garage.
12 of 12Photo: Dave Lauridsen
What Makes This a Cook's Kitchen?
Although Kelley's old kitchen had its flaws, its triangular grouping of fridge, sink, and stove, all just steps apart, was so convenient that she placed the new appliances in the same spots. Kelley consulted Ojai's small-town network for contractor recommendations. She interviewed three, chose a cabinetmaker who specializes in kitchens, and sketched plans for him with a software program, floorplanner.com, that helps calculate spatial allotments and configurations. She designed the kitchen around an open plan, with the cooking area at one end and the dining spot at the other, an arrangement that gives her room to work while socializing with guests. Visually, the two areas are connected with shared materials such as Carrara marble-topped and alder-wood cabinets.