This story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Architects and interior designers in Los Angeles -- responding to the central place kitchens now occupy in the life of a house -- are taking them to new heights of design that acknowledge their evolution from merely utilitarian back-of-the-house spots. "On the luxury side, we've experienced a paradigm shift where the kitchen is open to the family room, to the breakfast room," says architect Brian Biglin, who's built houses for Jennifer Lopez and Simon Cowell. "Now it's not really meant to look like a kitchen. It's a warm inviting space that's a place for family and for entertaining."
KITCHENS AS FULLY FURNISHED ROOMS
Today's kitchens have not only been invited to connect to the living and dining rooms, they're now being furnished with the same care and attention lavished upon the rest of the house. Some of Hollywood's top designers tell THR that it's no longer unusual to find art and rugs in the kitchen, that cabinetry resembles furniture and that even actual furniture pieces are included: armoires to hold china or a dresser that serves as a pantry.
At the Mandeville Canyon house that designer Windsor Smith sold to Gwyneth Paltrow, she opted for a huge farmhouse dining table -- which doubles as a work surface -- instead of an island. James Magni offers his clients a microfiber chair that "resembles a classic leather chair but cleans up with a sponge," he says. Even designers like Mark D. Sikes, who takes a more classic approach, have recognized where things are headed. "Everyone always ends up in there, so it just seemed natural to move in a couch," he says of the sofa that forms a focal point in his kitchen.
Designer and star of Bravo's Million Dollar Decorator Kathryn M. Ireland admits she's fatigued by built-ins. "I want as few as possible," she says. "I'm over sterile, overly mod kitchens that look more like operating theaters." She's a fan of the new Bastide collection at Grange Furniture (457 N. Robertson Blvd.), a line of warmer, free-standing, furniture-like French Country-style pieces.
At their house in Pacific Palisades, Ireland's Million Dollar Decorator co-stars, designer Jeffrey Alan Marks and creative director Ross Cassidy of Jeffrey Alan Marks Design, selected a mix of cabinet woods, taking cues from the way antiques of different finishes can be used to furnish a room. "The left-hand cupboard was designed with an open grill to mimic an old china cabinet, which prevented a monotonous line of closed cabinet doors. It makes the whole wall feel more open and relaxed," says Cassidy.
Even modern built-in kitchens are getting kitted out with furniture elements. Interior designer Jamie Bush, whose clients include Connie Britton and Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson, is a fan of the new Arclinea Convivium table (sold at Euroconcepts, 8687 Melrose Ave.), which attaches to a modular system. At the touch of a button, it raises to counter height or lowers for dining.
GIVING UP STAINLESS
Michael Johnston of Michael Johnston Design Group now sees the stainless steel look as "appliances that are trying to be glamorous." At his just-renovated Palm Springs house, he did all white enamel Jenn-Air appliances. "It made it a seamless integrated space with the rest of the house," he says. Miele also has a new collection of clean white enamel offerings.
CATERERS AS DESIGN CONSULTANTS
Homeowners who love to entertain are looping in their caterers during the design planning stages. Barbara Brass, vp sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering, says she has advised on several projects, from layout and selection of appliances to making sure there's enough electrical power for such things as large-capacity coffee brewers.
THE INDOOR OUTDOOR CONNECTION
California always has led the way in indoor/outdoor living. Now it's the kitchen's turn. For client Courteney Cox, designer Trip Haenisch put in a pass-through "hot dog window," as he calls it, between the kitchen and the outdoor patio at her spread in Malibu. At a house in Ventura, Calif., designer Philip Nimmo (whose clients have included Anthony Hopkins) came up with a long counter that runs seamlessly from inside the kitchen in a straight line out to the patio. "The whole room extends outside when you open the sliding glass pocket doors," he says.
PUTTING IN TWO KITCHENS
Some Angelenos are indulging themselves by putting in two chef areas: a kitchen for work and a kitchen for display. Says Nimmo, "With some of my clients who live in large houses, there is a cooking kitchen, which is utilitarian, then there's the finishing kitchen, where the food is brought in to look pretty." Biglin also is a fan: "We put all the workhorse appliances in a prep kitchen usually right behind the main kitchen, which can then be a focus of entertaining."