Real Estate

Two kitchens, two goals

Neighbors share meals, thoughts on parallel projects

Most evenings last summer Mark Bubert and Joe Commendatore, next-door neighbors in Mountain View's Gemello area, could be found barbecuing on their back patios. Neither had a functioning kitchen, so they'd cobble together meals and compare notes on their projects.

Bubert, a butcher with Dittmer's Gourmet Meats in Mountain View, had lived in his mid-'50s tract home since 2002 but had never fully enjoyed the kitchen.

"My oven didn't work for years," he says.

And the galley-like kitchen with a wall separating it from the dining room simply didn't work for the garrulous Bubert.

"I love to talk, and I work with the food industry, but there was no way I could talk while cooking," he says.

He started upgrading his kitchen by stockpiling new stainless-steel appliances: a four-burner Thermador cooktop, range and dishwasher, Bosch double-door refrigerator and a Vent-A-Hood range hood.

Then he started thinking about what he really wanted in his new kitchen: more storage space, better lighting and access to the dining room.

His first choice was cherry cabinets, interior-lit with glass fronts on the uppers. Then his fiancé chose rainforest green polished marble for the counter tops and a green rustic slate tile for the floor. The backsplash coordinates in pale green, glass squares.

"If it was me, it'd be all beige and black," Bubert says.

Storage is enhanced with pull-out recycle bins and spice rack, as well as a drop-down iPod holder with a kitchen timer and a lazy Susan that gives him access to a deep corner.

Although Bubert worked without a designer, he did spend a lot of time at Home & Garden shows, looking for gadgets and ideas. Among his favorites is a spigot over the cooktop and instant hot water for making coffee with his French press.

"I've got twice as much storage space now," he says. He also gained a few inches of space by replacing his plaster walls with drywall.

While he was at it, he replaced the old popcorn ceilings in the living room with drywall and changed out a sliding door for an arch.

Pleased as punch with the outcome, Bubert wouldn't change a thing. "It came out better than I expected," he says, not long after inviting his neighbors over to enjoy.

Bubert's neighbor Commendatore and his wife, Sonia, were also living with a 1950s kitchen since 1999. But after their daughter came along last year, they gave some serious thought to bringing it into the 21st century.

The Commendatores also have a home in Tahoe. While deciding where they would ultimately live, they figured they'd need a "more presentable kitchen" before they could consider selling the house.

And their odd-sized oven died.

Commendatore says their goal was to "get as much value for the least invested," which meant he served as his own general contractor and did his own demolition -- including removing floors, counter tops and stripping wallpaper.

Beginning a year ago, he replaced the appliances, meeting the size requirements with a new GE oven and gas cooktop, microwave, side-by-side refrigerator and a KitchenAid dishwasher.

"We used the original boxes for 99 percent (of the cabinets)," he says, hiring a cabinet-maker to create new soft-close drawers and doors. He figures it would have cost $7,000 to replace the cabinets completely, and he paid $2,200 for the new drawers and doors.

A window over the sink was closed up. Today one looks at a tile pattern while working at the double stainless-steel sink.

After researching in stores mainly in Santa Clara, he chose absolute-black, honed granite for the counter tops and white subway tiles for the backsplash. The floors are large, mottled brown Italian limestone tiles, set in a herringbone pattern.

Lighting in both the kitchen and the living/dining areas was updated with recessed cams.

The couple drew a lot on friends in the trades, who moonlighted on their small job, charging them for time and materials. That tended to stretch out the length of the job. While his neighbor completed his project in about eight weeks, the Commendatores' kitchen took more than twice that.

Commendatore says he saw the kitchen remodel as a learning experience, since he and his wife plan to build a house in Tahoe. He estimates it took him four solid days to do the demolition and probably 40 hours of research to identify appliances and materials.

In the end, he says they "created a kitchen that people would enjoy working in.

"If we were staying here forever, we might have done something different," with a bigger budget, Commendatore says. But, he says, "We went a long way with it."

Kitchen No. 1:


Building contractor: Alan Kuykendall, Kuykendall Electric, Milpitas, 408-262-3715

Granite: All Natural Stone, San Jose, 408-544-9600

Goal of project:

Create a "social kitchen" and update appliances

Unanticipated issues:


Year home built:


Size of home:

About 1,800 sq ft

Time to complete:

About 7.5 weeks


$36,000, not including appliances

Kitchen No. 2:


Plumbing: Barron Park Plumbing, 650-948-7160

Granite: All Natural Stone, San Jose, 408-544-9600

Granite fabrication: Avalos Marble & Granite - Tile, Inc., Santa Clara, 408-980-0055

I Cabinet maker:== Richard Fischer, Eldorado Cabinets, 916-425-5900

Contractor/craftsman: Shaun Mcderment, 650-222-5894

I Tile installation:== De Anza Tile, 650-424-1072

Goal of project:

Modernize a 1950s small galley kitchen

Unanticipated issues:


Year home built:


Size of home:

About 1,800 sq ft

Time to complete:

About 4 months


$11,000, not including appliances

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm

The video link on the pictures page is not working, is there another link to see it?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 6,720 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 2,238 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 2,120 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,534 views

The kindness of strangers
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 649 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More