Kitchen Smitten

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Once a secluded room used solely for meal prep, modern kitchens reflect an increasing demand for an open and welcoming cook space with style and durability.

By Bria Balliet | Photos by Robert Hansen


It is said that home is where the heart is. However, in today’s culture, it might be more fitting to say that the kitchen is where the heart is. Far from the confined, galley-like spaces of kitchens past, the modern scullery has to accommodate much more than a single chef and the fixings for that night’s dinner.

With the recent surge in popularity of open floor plans, the kitchen is often the setting for group discussions, after-school chitchat and entertaining. And with so much importance placed on a single room, it has become increasingly crucial for homeowners to keep up with renovations and functional upgrades.

0007LAnyone who has purchased a home—or watched any home improvement show on HGTV—knows that the kitchen is a huge selling point. Not only will upgraded kitchens entice future buyers to make an offer but also increase the value of the home, meaning that sellers could very well make back the money they invest in a remodel—and more—once they sell.

For those who aren’t planning to leave their home anytime soon, there are still rewards: namely, a space you love to live in. “The greatest benefit to having your kitchen remodeled is not only the increase in your home’s value, but the joy of having an efficient and aesthetically pleasing place to [prepare and enjoy] food with family and friends,” says Fari Moritz, co-owner of Laguna’s Euro Kitchen and Bath.

Though a kitchen renovation may seem like a daunting venture—especially in the sometimes small and older homes in this town—Laguna Beach boasts a talented group of experienced craftsmen, architects and designers devoted to making the process as painless as possible. Whether one desires a family retreat or a chef’s dream space, we have compiled the top reasons for investing in the kitchen as well as tips for creating a fabulous space, from cupboard to countertop.



One reason to update the kitchen is as simple as making it functional for modern needs. While homes of the past were compartmentalized with a separate “living room” where the household gathered, newer homes tend to create an open space where all the rooms flow together. No one is more familiar with this shift in the kitchen’s function than Steve Suer, president of Laguna Construction & Builder.

“[In older homes,] the kitchen was a compartment, the dining room was a compartment and the living room,” Steve says. “Today, we’re taking those walls out, we’re opening up the living room to the kitchen, … [which] is where everybody meets. This is where the family gets together. This is where you socialize. Some people used to be focused around the living room and TV, and [now] we’re finding that more people are socializing around the kitchen.”

To optimize the space for family functionality, especially in the smaller cottages that are common in Laguna, Steve and Fari recommend first removing unnecessary partitions. “The best way [to maximize kitchen space] is to move walls, doors and windows in order to open up the space,” Fari says, also noting the importance of maximizing storage areas. Her tips include stacking cabinets to the ceiling and utilizing pullout shelving.

No matter what changes are made for increased space and family function, the key is choosing classic styles that will adapt well over time, as well as surfaces and materials that will age well and stand up to wear and tear. “The thing you want to do is make the kitchen … timeless,” Steve says.



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These before (top) and after (above) shots demonstrate how knocking down walls can open up the kitchen to create more space for family gathering.



Transforming the kitchen into a social space means that it will see more traffic—and more traffic means more spills, accidents and opportunities for damage to occur. Julie Laughton, a locally based interior designer and author of a soon-to-be-released book on kitchen remodeling, is seeing that her clients recently have become more attracted to durable materials that are easy to care for, as opposed to more fragile marble and soft stone surfaces.

LBM_48_Home_Julie Laughton_Counter and Floors_By Jody Tiongco-6When choosing countertops and floors, she recommends taking an honest look at how the space will be used before committing to a beautiful, but delicate surface. If a family will be making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the new countertop every day, it is probably best to go with a solid surface such as siltstone, quartz or an engineered stone that will hold up to staining and scratching better than a more porous granite or a marble.

“I’m seeing a lot more solid surfaces, because they come in so many colors and they look real,” Julie explains. “The same [is true] with porcelain. I’ve seen a lot more porcelain tiles these last two years and they look just as beautiful … [and] they’re bulletproof.”

Porcelain tile flooring, which can imitate wood, granite, slate and virtually any other style floor, is a great option for any room in the house, but especially the kitchen where food, drink, heavy pans and sharp knives may fall. Porcelain tile is a hard surface that will resist wear and tear from regular use. It is less absorbent than other floor options, which means that when spills do occur, there is less likelihood of staining—and cleaning is a breeze. What’s not to love?

By choosing resilient materials such as these, homeowners will be able to relax and enjoy the space rather than constantly stress about its upkeep. And that, in itself, is priceless.



ln-10With benefits ranging from increased home value to improved function, it is no wonder that so many people are choosing to gut their kitchens and transform them into more well-designed spaces. However, the hefty price tag of a full-fledged remodel—which can run anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 and beyond—may not be feasible for everyone. In that case, Julie recommends tackling smaller projects that can make a big impact on the appearance and functionality of the space.

Her first recommendation seems deceivingly simple, yet she insists that it can make a huge difference. “The simplest thing [to improve the space] is lighting the room properly,” she shares. This can be done either by adding windows to the sides of the home that get the most sunlight, or updating and adding light fixtures. Ultimately, when the room is lit properly, it will feel warmer and more inviting.

If the lighting is already taken care of, Julie suggests changing out the countertops to a natural stone such as granite or a durable solid surface like quartz. But, she cautions making any big changes to the counters if the cabinets are in disarray. “It’s a waste of money to put a $6,000 countertop on cabinets that aren’t functioning,” she says.

Fari also notes that adding glass doors to cabinets and painting the walls—especially if the room is covered in outdated wallpaper—are some simple changes that can easily improve the look and feel of the space.

Ultimately, regardless of trends, budget or outside opinions, the most important step in creating the perfect space is deciding what works best for your family, your taste and your home. This will ensure a lasting love, keeping you truly smitten with your new kitchen for years to come.

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