Kitchen Gets Funky with New Retro Makeover
By Barbara Capella Loehr
OAKLAND HILLS, CA With this remodeled kitchen in need of an update,
its owners looked to the past to bring the style into the 21st
Indeed, this kitchen, located here, gets funky with its new
retro makeover that was inspired by the works of Mid-Century
designers Charles Eames and Hubert Wasserman.
Combining the efficiency of a professional-style kitchen with
the feel of a funky bar that looks futuristic but has roots firmly
planted in the Mid-Century Modern era, the kitchen is exactly what
the owners wanted, says Elena Sobel, ASID. She designed this
kitchen along with Carlene Anderson, CKD. Both are with Carlene
Anderson Kitchen Design, Inc. in Oakland, CA.
“This was a remodeling project that included expanding and
brightening up the existing kitchen, as well as designing much more
efficient storage and cooking areas,” explains Sobel. “The new
kitchen design needed to include a party area/display and a bar
area with a unique multi-layered lighting design that could be used
for both cooking and partying activities.”
Working with a budget of $60,000, Sobel and Anderson made this
happen, expanding the kitchen from 130 sq. ft. to 180 sq. ft.
According to Sobel, the duo “included some unique appliances and
curvaceous lines that added a playfulness and flow to this
otherwise bold look. Colors in combination with the streamlined
cabinetry and the grayness of the concrete countertops create an
interesting contrast, while cooling down the heat created by
delicious reds and yellows.
“The whole idea behind the look was to create a clean, modern
look using smooth cabinet doors, stainless steel appliances and
concrete and granite countertops,” Sobel continues.
She further cites other decorative elements that lend this retro
design its flavor, including original artwork, retro-style
furniture and “a unique ‘three corners of a circle’ coffee table”
that was hand-crafted by Sobel.
The kitchen remodeling project
was not without its share of challenges, notes Sobel.
First, some of the existing appliances had to be relocated,
which involved moving a circuit and doing a complete electrical
rewiring of the space to accommodate the function the owners
“We installed a Heartland Metro dual-fuel range, replacing the
existing cooktop and oven, which were located at opposite ends of
the original kitchen. Therefore, we had to move a 220V electrical
line,” Sobel explains.
To minimize plumbing costs, the sink was kept in its original
place. This allowed for more room in the budget to put down
much-needed new flooring, according to Sobel. An old aluminum
window was then re-placed with a new vinyl
casement window, giving the room a more updated look that was in
keeping with the new design.
Once these challenges were addressed, Sobel and Anderson moved
on to dealing with the owners’ requests, including cabinetry that
offered pull-out waste containers and pull-out small appliance
storage, as well as in-cabinet lighting that provided the desired
The owners also wanted “to convert the existing coat closet to a
pull-out, full-height pantry that faced the kitchen” for easy
access, notes Sobel.
Sobel and Anderson addressed these issues by designing custom
cabinetry that was hand-crafted by Tom Madge of Concord, CA-based
“The cabinetry features pull-out, below-countertop dish and
small appliance storage, lit open shelving and unique upper
cabinets with sliding doors and custom-designed glass panels,”
Aesthetically speaking, the cabinetry showcases what Sobel calls
a “Bauhaus” style with a reconstructed wood Italian veneer finish
by Tabu on smooth doors. These blend with perforated steel cabinet
doors from Grass Hardware. Flush handles and tandem undermount
glides from Häfele complete the cabinetry.
The design team next turned its attention to creating the
kitchen’s new curvy island. Sobel took the reins on the design,
creating the inlaid, lighted glass fixture using elements from
Hera, as well as designing the two-color concrete countertop. The
was then hand-crafted by Matt Rodgers of Flying Turtle Cast
Concrete, Sobel notes.
“The island includes a perforated, lit-up front panel and bar
seating area, as well as a custom-assembled walnut butcher block
section, by Magic Fabrications, for chopping and baking
activities,” relates Sobel.
The grayness of the concrete countertop on the island offers a
nice contrast for the red lava Italian granite (Red Mariachi) from
Architectural Stone Co. used as the perimeter countertop surface,
“The counter by the sink features a carved-in drain board,” she
The perimeter tops were fabricated by Oakland, CA-based Marble
European Style, she reports.
Sobel and Anderson also
included a plethora of function in the form of both large and small
For instance, the duo installed the previously mentioned
dual-fuel range and highlighted it with a distressed mirror
backsplash and a custom-designed, stainless steel, semi-circular
hood that echoes the semi-circular design of the oven window. As
for function, the vent hood features a Rangemaster blower.
A U-Line stainless steel wine captain, a Samsung retro-look
microwave, a matching Heartland Metro stainless steel refrigerator
and two Fisher & Paykel dishdrawers not only add to the ease of
entertaining, but also lend themselves to the retro look, notes
Small appliances include a blender and an electric kettle in the
kitchen’s bar area; a food processor, upright mixer and breadmaker
located in a pull-out shelf below the butcher block “baking center”
in the island, and hand-mixers located in a drawer on the other end
of the island with a duplex outlet.
All of these combine to create the smooth, seamless function
needed before, during and after a party, Sobel says.
A Kohler oversized faucet and counter button disposal switch and
an Elkay stainless apron sink round out the kitchen’s functional
The lighting design Sobel and
Anderson created also goes a long way to create the fun and funky
retro party atmosphere the owners desired.
The natural light from the new casement window is enhanced by
unique lighting fixtures supplied by Design Resources in San
The aforementioned custom island glass fixture also adds a
Uplit display shelves that use lighting elements from Hera hold
multi-colored glasses that appear to be glowing. This glowing
illusion adds to the slick, bar-like ambiance of the retro-look
kitchen, concludes Sobel.