ABOVE: The large sink is centered on a new window bay that admits needed light.All photographs by David Duncan Livingston
Thoughtful design using beautiful, traditional, natural materials—cherry, clay and stone, mica and fir—created a room that complements, but does not copy, the well-preserved, historic house. Cabinet joinery, art tiles, and lamp are fitting examples of today’s artisanry.
It is a familiar story, this time with a happy ending: In a good house, a compromised kitchen is redesigned as a functional, appropriate, timeless workspace. This house in Mill Valley had been carefully maintained as an example of California Arts and Crafts architecture. Its unflattering kitchen—two rooms with broken traffic flow, narrow counters, dark corners, and clutter—dated to the early 1980s. Happily, the original floor plan was evident.
The kitchen is nicely placed at the rear of the house, facing into hillside gardens. With light at a premium (and views beckoning), designer Nancy Van Natta centered a large fireclay sink under a window and dropped a soffit over it with recessed task lighting. Soft light is provided by new recessed ceiling lights, under-cabinet halogens, and a traditional fixture with a mica shade over the island.
The owners did not want to fake a historical kitchen, but they did want a traditional room that would “feel right” with the rest of the house. Armed with meticulous dimensions, they also had very specific needs for storage and display. So Van Natta was called to remodel the kitchen with modern appliances and appointments while connecting it visually and philosophically with the rest of the historic house. She began by removing the wall that had broken the space, specifying an engineered beam for structural support. This allowed space for a modest center island and several efficient work zones.
A new wall of cabinets separating the kitchen from the entry hall is a media center—the owners watch professional videos and listen to the radio while in the kitchen. Open shelves display pieces from the couple’s extensive pottery collection.
The house is a fine example of the period’s architecture, with three bedrooms and two and a half baths in approximately 3000 square feet. The living and dining rooms retain their dark wainscoting, boxed beams, built-in cabinetry and fir floors, as well as original lighting fixtures. The sloped lot has stunning views and newly created Arts and Crafts-style gardens.
Nancy Van Natta Associates, LLC, San Rafael, CA: (415) 456-3078, van-natta.com
Jeff McPhail Construction, San Rafael, CA: (415) 456-7465, jwmcphailinc.com
Sue Johnson Custom Lamps & Shades, Berkeley, CA: (510) 527-2623
COPPER HOOD Joseph Mross, Archive Designs, Eugene, OR
FLOORING new fir, stained to match rest of house
COUNTEROPS honed granite
FIELD TILEPratt & Larson ceramic tile backsplash is 4x4 # C205
BRONZE LINER TILES Pin Oak in the Timberline series by Metaphor Bronze [black accents are of tumbled stone]
SINKS Shaw’s fireclay sink through Rohl; custom hand-hammered copper prep sink through Tile & Stone Concepts, CA: (415) 457-9422
FAUCETSRohl in the Tuscan Brass finish: rohlhome.com
STOVE Dacor 30" gas cooktop with Dacor 30" oven below