House Beautiful, January 2019.


How Reclaimed Wood And A Turret Transformed This Formerly Dark Kitchen


There used to be a time when the kitchen was something you wanted to hide. “The kitchen was meant to be only a utility space where you worked,” says Home Front Build founder and designer Steve Pallrand, referring to the early 20th century, when the Mission Revivalstyle was popular in California homes. “The idea that it would be a place you wanted to hang out in just didn’t exist back then.” Homes were divided into spaces that were “public” (living and dining rooms) and “private” (kitchen and laundry), he explains.

So when he embarked on renovating this Los Angeles kitchen from the same time period, his mission was clear: Unite the two. Pallrand opened it all up—the dark kitchen, its neighboring laundry room, and the hidden hallway—to create one warm, happy centerpiece of the home’s main floor.

The kitchen’s dark history lives on in other ways: The original Douglas-fir floors showed several years of use. Notoriously soft, the wood stains and dings like no other, so there were plenty of marks from things like “leaks in 1940, or someone dropping a pot on it in 1960,” says Pallrand. “It had a lot of damage, aka ‘character.’ ” But the home­owners loved it so much that Pallrand simply refinished the floors, then used scraps of reclaimed Douglas fir to construct cabinets and the island countertop. “When you’re looking at a piece of unstained oak, it looks generic; there’s no differentiation in the surface,” he says. “But when you look at this wood, you’ll see tiny nail holes and nicks. Those imperfections tell a story.” He also used a reclaimed-Douglas-fir panel fronts to hide a roll-out pantry and other storage.

The addition of a a new island introduced a gathering point for the home. “It’s where you check your e-mails, or hang out with friends and family, drinking wine,” Pallrand says. Plus, the adjustable low stool keeps the space "more open visually—and practically,” says Pallrand. Pallrand added encaustic tile to transition from the warm wood to the bright-white ceiling and turret, which he built to showcase the family’s vision of a striking light fixture. He liked the blue encaustic tile because it catches the eye while also adding dimension. “It has a subtle play of light because there’s a bit of textural relief to it,” Pallrand says. 

As for the lighting fixture, the homeowners had Moroccan-style lighting in their bedroom and suggested the same for the kitchen. “A spectacular light fixture is certainly what you want here,” notes Pallrand of the one they used from Badia Design. The faucets are unlacquered brass. “Those will patina and get more of an oil-rubbed, irregular finish, so it’ll be a very nice, rich look,” he says, ensuring that the story of this kitchen is just beginning.