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Deep Dive

A Hidden Door Reveals a Whole Back Kitchen in This Cozy Bay Area Great Room

Words by Morgan Goldberg

For one Bay Area couple, a full renovation of their great room was a 12-year-long dream.

They’d raised a family in their California ranch without touching its dated honey oak millwork and low ceilings. Once the children moved out, a complete overhaul of the kitchen, dining, and living spaces was at the top of the priority list. They enlisted interior designer Katie Monkhouse to spearhead the project, requesting a bright, airy space for cooking, eating, and lounging.

“The kitchen needed to be the gathering spot,” Monkhouse explains. “They like to have friends over. The kids are older and all have significant others, so they wanted somewhere to sit and hang out.”

Monkhouse delivered by vaulting the ceiling and painting the entire room white. Then she layered in natural materials like white oak and Calacatta marble and relaxed upholstery in a palette of pale neutrals, while creating an open layout with three distinct zones that can all be enjoyed together. Here, Monkhouse shares how she pulled it off.

The project: A classic ranch

The location: Orinda, California

The space: An open kitchen, dining, and living area

The client: A couple of empty nesters

a round wooden table with a white background
Community MFGLusby Dining TableINQUIRE
a grey chair with a wooden frame and cushion
Community MFGHofman Woven Dining ChairINQUIRE
a pillow with a striped design on it
Filling SpacesStripe Shades PillowSHOP NOW

The biggest problem to solve

We weren't sure if we’d be able to vault the ceiling. That was a dream of my clients. They were hoping there was room in the roof to do it. The room had a standard eight feet height before. Once we vaulted the space, we decided it needed planks, which was definitely an extra cost, but made it feel a bit cozier and more finished. A big, huge, white dry-walled ceiling would've felt cavernous.

The item that started it all

The Lacanche range was something the family wanted as the centerpiece of the kitchen. It had a 15-month lead time when we ordered it, so it really was the first piece. Knowing they wanted creamy white walls and white oak cabinets, we picked the Chantilly color for the range. It was an upcharge, but the other white was too stark. They knew immediately that this was the piece they wanted—everything else wasn't that important to them.

a white stove top oven sitting on top of a counter
LacancheCluny 1400 RangeINQUIRE
a wooden stool with a tan leather seat
Community MFGLangston Leather Counter StoolINQUIRE

The design risk with the biggest payoff

The owners wanted a lot of the food preparation to be hidden away while they entertained, so we turned the former laundry room into a back kitchen with double wall ovens and a full sink. We came up with the idea to access it through the cabinetry with a false door. We didn't want it to look cheesy or gimmicky, so a lot of work went into making sure that the reveal around the door was tight enough and that the hardware looked like real cupboards. I really love how it came out.

an antique persian rug with an intricate design
District LoomLoma Antique Persian Malayer RunnerSHOP NOW
a brass pendant light hanging from a ceiling
Allied MakerAria PendantsINQUIRE

The piece that anchors the space

The Allied Maker brass pendants over the island have such a presence and warmth. It's hard to see during the day, but there's a little separation with glass tubing and when the lights are on, they shine through it, which is so magical looking at night.

I really had to sell my clients on

I did have to sell the warm gray plaster a bit. We had always planned on the hood and range wall being painted drywall to blend in, but the more the space came together, the more I felt like it needed another material element. There was just so much white. In the end, the client said to go for it and they love the result.

a beige rug with a white background
ArmadilloAgra RugSHOP NOW
a round wooden table with a black base
The Expert CollectionRound Classic Coffee TableSHOP NOW
a white blanket folded on top of each other
Uniq'uityAllen ThrowSHOP NOW

The splurge and steal in the room

The range and the fireplace were the big-ticket items that we focused on. We wanted this big glass viewing area on the fireplace with a limestone surround. It's a focal point as you walk into the room.

We used Portola Paints Roman clay instead of Venetian plaster on the hood and wall, which has a more user-friendly application that’s not as labor-intensive, so the install was less expensive.

a wooden cutting board with a wooden handle
LostineCubist BoardSHOP NOW
a white square with a small square on it
Clé TileWeathered White ZelligeINQUIRE

The happy accident

In the back kitchen, there is a white zellige tile backsplash. We hadn't originally planned on it. It just going to be painted drywall. The homeowner came up with the idea of using some of the tile overage from the bathroom there. It really made it feel finished and added another layer of pretty texture.

The little detail with a big impact

The range wall had one centered window before and we split it into two separate windows so we could center the range. It had such a huge impact on the space to create symmetry and improve the sight lines to the outside. It didn't seem like a major design decision, but I think it made the space.

The final vibe

It's very California warm. It's modern and traditional at the same time.

a gray couch with a white background
Stevie Slipcovered SofaSHOP NOW
a floor lamp with a white shade on it
Curves Floor LampSHOP NOW
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