The minute we saw this 1940s-style kitchen remodel in our recent uploader, we suspected that there was someone with serious design skills involved. Indeed: Margie Grace — an internationally-renowned landscape designer based in Santa Barbara, Calif. — designed this slice of kitchen perfection for her 1948 home along with her partner, Dawn Close, and a little help from their friend, interior designer Kathy Bush. Accustomed to rolling up her sleeves and digging in, Grace even installed the show-stopping kitchen tile “rug” by herself! [All the beautiful photos: By Holly Lepere Photography.]
Grace and Close own and operate their own successful design and build firm, Grace Design Associates — and the outdoor spaces they create are exquisite. In 2009, The Association of Professional Landscape Designers named Grace International Designer of the Year — the top honor in the field!
Even though Grace now works on projects in one of the highest-value real estate markets in the U.S., her own 1948 home is of its era, modest in size and materials. Over her 30-year career, she’s lived in and renovated many historic homes, so with this home she took the same route: Respect the original architectural style. She also lived in the kitchen not one — but 20 years — before changing the kitchen.
Grace’s kitchen originally held knotty pine cabinets — but it was time for a change. “I was ready for some color!!!!” she told me in an email follow up. “I’ve decided that everything around me that’s ‘stuff’ needs to bring me joy… While there were a few knotty pine cupboards from the original kitchen, half were from the 70’s and weren’t of the same quality of the originals. I refurbished them once (by me, 20 years ago), but they were getting tatty again and it was time for a face lift — I kept the cupboard boxes and used the best of/original doors in the pantry…”
After lots of research — including consulting the stories here on Retro Renovation — Grace designed the kitchen herself — with Bush holding her hand — and engaged local contractors to help with most of the work. The rug is composed of 12″ VCT tiles. Grace would have loved to have done inlaid linoleum, she told me, but these days it’s immensely difficult to find someone who can do it. A lost art. Sans the Big Chill refrigerator and vintage Magic Chef stove, which she already owned, the entire project cost $15,000.
“Just one bride”
Why do we love this kitchen so? Art-major Kate set up this story, and before I took over she analyzed the design: There are so many great design elements working together in this kitchen starting with the showpiece: the patterned VCT flooring. Laid out to look like an area rug, the floor pattern picks up the colors of the pottery collection, tile and countertop and gives the otherwise calm space a little bit of zing. Because the kitchen is fairly neutral and plain otherwise — white cabinets, that awesome vintage stove, a white Big Chill refrigerator, pale creamy yellow walls and light yellow countertops — the floor pattern doesn’t compete with anything else in the room, which really allows it to take center stage. We also love the way that Margie Grace has peppered her vintage pottery collection around the kitchen — especially the way it has been displayed on the corner shelf and the specially made lighted “soffit shelf” over the sink.
Yes, Kate and I both loved the floor — and even more so, because recognizing what a strong design element it is, the rest of the kitchen was “dialed back” accordingly.
Talking to Grace on the phone, I gave her this compliment. She knew exactly what we were talking about and quickly piped in: “There can be only one bride — the rest are bridesmaids.”
- Hey, that also sounds sort of like Grace’s advice on designing a container garden: “Thriller, spiller, filler.”
YES: Editing what you put into a room is so very important. Try to put in everything, and unless you really know what you’re doing, the design can quickly get “discordant.”
Resources for Margie Grace’s 1940s-style kitchen:
- Flooring: Armstrong Standard Excelon Imperial Texture in multiple colors: Classic White; Classic Black; Lunar Blue; Sea Green; Buttercream Yellow; Doeskin Peach. Grace also had some 1” black liner left over from another project that she used… she is not sure who the maker of that was. Want more ideas for patterns: Here’s our story on 30 floor designs from VCT, from 1955.
- Countertop: The same one Maile used in her sunny 1940s kitchen— Wilsonart 4916-60 Sweet Corn.
- Countertop edging: Aluminum tee molding New York Metals — if you want to make curves, you want tee molding. [We did not ask re the backsplash edging, presuming she also got that from NY Metals.]
- Paint color: Custom-mixed to match a chip of plaster Grace found at a job site.
- Refrigerator: Big Chill
- Stove: A vintage Wedgewood – refurbished by Pacific Stove Works
- Stove vent hood: VentAHood Excalibur Under Cabinet Hood
- Grace Design Associates
- Grace’s blog, The Art of Outdoor Living
- Lepere Studio photography
- Inside Kathy Bush’s home