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Vintage Advantage

Smart window design enhances this kitchen's character

More in Kitchen

Written by Theresa McTammany
Styled by Char Langos
Photographed by Claudio Santini

Some things—a signature strand of pearls or the little black dress, for example—never go out of style. The same holds true for timeless design, says architect Lise Matthews, AIA, ASID, whose modern take on the classic black-and-white service kitchen is shown here. Designed for the owners of a circa-1940 Colonial Revival located in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, the project posed several remodeling challenges for Matthews' Venice, California–based firm, LCM Studios. Among the top priorities: Reorganize the kitchen for cooking and dining, add a sunny breakfast nook and introduce a user-friendly layout that bridges the gap between indoors and out.

"Obviously we needed to open the place up," says Matthews, who shifted the kitchen to the rear of the house for great outdoor views. Eliminating interior walls and stealing space from a former laundry room resulted in a 195-square-foot room that's twice the size of the original. Anchored by an island with pull-up seating, the efficient L-shaped open plan flows seamlessly into an expansive family room and adjacent sun-splashed 12,518-foot breakfast nook.

Windows bring the outdoors inside. Upper cabinets were eliminated in favor of cottage-style windows with tilt-out sashes. Instead of a bulky range hood, less intrusive industrial exhaust fans dot the wall above the range. "We passed inspection because the cooking is primarily done on the outside grill," Matthews says. Another focal point is a large, wall-mounted "plaster" sink—a glazed china unit with an integral backsplash, often found in commercial art studios and a forerunner to the apron-front farm sinks popular today.

Traditional fixtures and finishes also get a modern twist. White painted cabinets with recessed-panel doors, classic subway-tiled counters, and stainless steel appliances play well with hard-wearing, espresso-stained plank floors. The countertops are a surprise, however, clad in inexpensive marbleized sheet linoleum rather than traditional granite or stone. After a decade of hard use, they still look great, says current owner Amanda Beesley-Weinstock, who relocated from New York in 2004 with her husband, Nicholas, and their three children: Nicholas, 8; Savannah, 6; and Lincoln, 3. Her only caveat: Avoid placing hot objects directly on the surface. "We've only had one accident," she says, "and it was because we forgot to tell our babysitter about how to treat the counter."

Amanda's favorite spot? The alcove with the sink. Even though she rarely washes dishes by hand, she still enjoys the task. "I can stand here and look out over the lemon and orange trees and watch the kids play," she says. "I couldn't do that in New York."

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