Real Estate

Living up to the house

New kitchen reflects taste, values of owners

When the Langs found their home in Los Altos Hills in 2005, they knew the massive basement would provide "a nice muffled space" for their teenage drummer son. And, although the kitchen "wasn't my taste," Katharine Lang says they had no intention of redoing it.

But it "was a Chevrolet kitchen in a Mercedes home," she says. The 10-year-old appliances, especially the refrigerator, were starting to fail. The ovens were so small Lang had to bend the end of her cookie sheet to squeeze it in.

And the sink faced the wall.

No walls were moved in the major reconstruction, but the sink and stove locations were swapped, with the sink now in a large island, under a skylight. That makes it easy to look out on the backyard, or chat with people at the slumped (molded) glass bar.

Color inspiration came from a black-granite-topped table and chairs in the eating area. Cabinets are a dark walnut, with the island, broom closet and sideboard in a matte-black finish, contrasted with brushed-nickel pulls. Lang found a Brazilian marble with just the right combination of black, cream and caramel to tie everything together.

"It's so bold. I'm a big fan of Abstract Expressionism," she says, describing why she chose to run the granite up the wall behind the Dacor six-burner cooktop. The main backsplash is limestone tile, with small square glass tiles set on the diagonal.

Lang was very hands-on in choosing colors, textures and styles, given her background in art.

"I've done painting, sculpture, woodworking," she says.

She even scouted for the counter stools, which she found at GW, the upscale Goodwill second-hand store in Menlo Park. The modern Plexiglas stools came from a drafting firm that went out of business. "I picked them up for a song," she says.

A key advantage in a custom kitchen is building things where the cook can reach them. At 5 feet 2 inches, Lang is pleased they installed the new microwave under the countertop. "I feel a lot safer," she says.

The one glitch -- which was quickly fixed -- was that the stacked double ovens were set too high for her. The contractor moved a storage unit from below the ovens to above it, keeping the warming drawer low.

Lower cabinets are mostly self-closing drawers; even the corner carousel quietly closes itself.

Storage highlights include pull-out pantry bins, a vertical pullout near the stove for oil and vinegar and a spice drawer.

"If I had more room I would have a huge fridge and a walk-in pantry," Lang says. Instead she compensated by adding two refrigerator drawers for snacks and drinks, in addition to a 42-inch KitchenAid.

They kept the dumbwaiter that helps transport heavy items from the garage below to the kitchen.

Since Lang isn't a fan of kitchen/family "great" rooms, she wanted the archway separating the kitchen and family room filled with decorative bifold doors. The slumped glass lets light through, but muffles sound. A second UltraGlas door leads from the family room to a hallway.

"We came from a modern house. Our challenge was to find a transitional style between contemporary and traditional," she says, pointing to the built-in entertainment wall in the family room.

"We went a little bit Craftsman," and added sconces, overhead track lighting, as well as subtle lighting in the custom-made wall unit.

The original owner was very fond of shiny brass -- and crystal chandeliers -- but Lang is quietly changing all the hardware to oil-rubbed bronze. She also covered the purple marble around the fireplace with limestone to match the kitchen.

The Lang project garnered a gold award for Residential Kitchens over $120,000 in the 2009 NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Silicon Valley contest.

"I wanted something that reflected my personality. Every time I come in, I go "I love this kitchen,'" she says.


Building contractor: Harrell Remodeling, 1954 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, 650-230-2900

Kitchen designer: Kimberly Larzelere Interiors, Redwood City, 650-780-0830

Art glass: SGO Designer Glass, Redwood City, 650-363-5705

I Granite:== Da Vinci Marble, San Carlos, 650-489-4711

Tile: Chic Tile, Redwood City, 650-366-2442

Goal of project:

Update kitchen to reflect owners' taste, add storage, define spaces better

Unanticipated issues:

Ovens were installed too high to reach comfortably

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

4,500 sq ft + 2,500 sq-ft-basement

Time to complete:

About 6 months

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