And let me remind you too that the house itself is an imposing 50-room mansion built in 1930 to resemble the baroque Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the 17th century French chateau that was also an inspiration for the palace at Versailles. Since 1962, the estate has been headquarters for a local chapter of the American Red Cross—that's why you see a cross pattern laid into the brick drive in front of the house. The home's original owners, John and Mildred Cravens, never had children so they lived in this nearly 20,000 square foot home all alone. With their 32 servants. (Do you realize that at a total of 34, that still isn't enough people to fill the house at one person per room?)
I would imagine a good number of those servants worked here, in the expansive kitchen. Cooking away for the Cravens, fellow staff members and guests. The Cravens were very active in local charities and business and used their lovely home to host many meetings and special events. This room would have been central to their success. The photo above shows the kitchen as the Showcase House designers found it. Everything I've read seems to indicate that what you see in these before photos is original to the house.
The clean-lined, glass-front cabinets wore their original crystal knobs and a coat of lifeless white paint that had seen better days. The same can be said for the slim wood counter tops and simple white tile backsplash. Both seem almost painfully plain compared to the grandeur found in other parts of the home, but in the 1920's and 30's, kitchens were for work, used by staff, not the homeowners, and certainly not on display for guests as our kitchens are today.
Clearly, the Red Cross staff and volunteers who have worked in the house for the past 48 years have been using the kitchen as a strictly utilitarian area much like the original estate staff would have. Not one thing in the space is purely decorative. The only splashes of color are found in the bulletins taped to the walls and fridge and on that lovely blue bag of paper plates. In the photo above, you can see the original cut-out drawers that were preserved in the makeover. The designer calls her approach to the kitchen renovation "not just a face-lift, but an actual restoration".
The Pasadena-based company responsible for this space spent three months on the job, working hard to preserve as much of the original kitchen cabinetry, floor tile and other materials as possible—including the silver safe, above. In the finished kitchen, the "safe" became a small supplemental pantry. According to what I've read, there are two other, original pantries somewhere nearby that weren't part of the show house makeover.
Here's another look at the full kitchen "before". The doorway you see at the back under the clock leads to an interior hall that in turn leads to a family/media room to the right and the main dining room to the left. To the immediate left of the photographer's position is a door leading to an outdoor terrace. Another indication that this is an old-fashioned working kitchen are the few and rather small windows. You can see one over the sink on the left wall in this view. The "after" of that window is the top pic on this post. Behind the photographer is a pair of similar small windows, and the door to the terrace holds its original leaded glass. That's it for natural light. Very different from the way a kitchen would be designed today. Now, here's the "after", from the same angle:
Quite a dramatic difference, wouldn't you say? Let's start our tour at the bottom and work our way up. The original tile floor in a classic brick basketweave pattern is spectacular. The most perfectly variegated shades of turquoise. On the Showcase website, it is said that the designer was thrilled to find such a bright surprise hidden under layers of grime and built-up cleaning products. From this vibrant shade was born the room's copper, teal, white, turquoise and brown color scheme. Most of the lower cabinets were stripped and stained a warm dark brown to match the restored wood counter tops. All of the glass-front upper cabinets were restored. Most are painted white. One set, near the door to the hall is finished to match the lowers beneath it, creating the look of a tall hutch.
Other counters and the new island are topped with copper-colored Metalcrete, fabricated to look like hammered copper, and pale, stain-resistant Nucrete, a concrete-based material made from 50% recycled products. In fact, all of the products used in this kitchen restoration are considered in some way "green". Anything new in the kitchen is made from sustainable and eco-friendly materials. And, of course, recycling the existing flooring and cabinetry is as green as green gets. In the photo above, you can see all the shades of the color scheme. I especially like the brick-colored upholstery on the fat counter stools that tuck under the island. They contrast beautifully with the turquoise floor and relate to the home's brick facade that can be glimpsed through the window over the sink. Notice too that the window valances are that same brick color.
So that's the first kitchen. What do you think? Good? Bad? Your style? Not? Next post, I'll show you the second kitchen. The photo above gives you a look at what we'll see on the way...
Photos found at artsbeatla.com, cindydole.com, dailynews.com, insidesocal.com and pasadenastarnews.com