Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - May 11, 2012

Dining al fresco

Five Palo Alto kitchens inspire a range of ideas, from adding space to incorporating outdoors

by Carol Blitzer

Norma and Steve Grimes had 40 people at their Cape Cod Revival home for Thanksgiving, debuting their almost-complete yet fully functional outdoor kitchen.

They even dined outside — in front of the fire pit, which is flanked by two outdoor heaters.

Their guests easily navigated the space between their indoor, very up-to-date kitchen and the terraced patio where the new outdoor kitchen resides.

Like at their holiday party, guests on the Palo Alto Woman's Club 2012 Kitchen Tour on May 19 will be able to pick up a snack (this time prepared by LYFE Kitchen), then take a close look at the Viking gas barbecue grill with two gas burners, a Perlick refrigerator and ice maker, huge ice bin for storing drinks, a recycle center and plenty of space for stashing covers to protect the kitchen from the elements.

The key to the whole remodel was replacing a bay window with a custom-designed NanaWall, an accordion-shaped wall that folds back to open the family room directly to the terrace. The NanaWall follows the shape of the old bay window, and the top windowpanes match other French windows at the back of the house.

"The theory was to connect the design to the interior of the house," Steve said, pointing to the matching stucco, stainless-steel cabinet doors and the honed Virginia Mist granite countertops. The granite was chosen for its durability and ability to stand up to changes in temperature.

'It's indestructible. You can put hot plates on it," he added. Even the electric outlets are covered to protect them from the elements.

The couple started with a backyard that was mostly grass, with a small patio off the living room.

"It really wasn't usable," Norma said.

So they decided to extend the patio out far enough to create a couple of outdoor "rooms," one a seating area around the fire pit, the other an outdoor kitchen and eating area.

The only thing they kept was a line of prunus carolinus trees that hug the back and side fences, giving their backyard privacy.

One of the biggest challenges was having a smooth walkway connecting the family room and the patio without cutting out light to the master bedroom in the basement below. They finally found a fabricator who could create an aluminum grate that hugs the base of the NanaWall.

"The grate was a major piece of engineering to make it fit perfectly," Steve said.

The metal theme continues with stainless steel around the base of the fire pit, as well as stainless-steel bands in the tumbled travertine patio.

The outdoor kitchen/terrace project added about 1,000 square feet of living space to the home, Steve said.

"We could support 100 (people at a party), maybe more," he added.

The stairs leading down to the kitchen are shallow and wide, perfect for sitting on. "People hang out on the stairs. It's almost like a little amphitheater," Steve said.

"It's really increased the indoor/outdoor living. You can walk straight out," Norma added.

The indoor kitchen will also be tour-able, including its hand-glazed custom cabinetry, Mayan travertine countertops and eucalyptus hardwood floors. And from the outdoors, one can now look back to the family room with its high sculpture-filled niche.

Highlights of the other four kitchens include:

* a 1935 home with historical touches incorporated in the new kitchen, including a brick backsplash recaptured from a brick wall made from 1906 earthquake remains;

* a Birge Clark-designed home where the owners worked collaboratively with the new architect and contractor, rearranging the kitchen's floor plan, adding space for an island, kitchen table and second sink;

* a kitchen with room to cook and entertain, and still view guests through the arches leading to the dining room;

* the third remodel over 38 years, this time bringing in more light and opening the kitchen wall to the living room.

Proceeds from the fundraiser/tour provide stipends to nonprofits serving women and children, as well as towards preserving the clubhouse, which was built in 1916.

Refreshments will be served at every house, plus there will be two chef tastings by LYFE and Flemings.

READ MORE ONLINE

For more Home and Real Estate news, visit www.paloaltoonline.com/real_estate.

What: 2012 Spring Kitchen Tour

When: Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Five kitchens in Palo Alto

Cost: $30; checks may be made out to Woman's Club/Kitchen Tour and sent to Woman's Club Kitchen Tour, c/o Julie Jerome, 726 Greer Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303, or purchased on the day of the tour at 2205 Waverley St., Palo Alto.

Info: 650 493-8645, info@springkitchentour.org or www.SpringKitchenTour.org

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly.com.

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