Streamlined Solution

By: Laurie Grant

A Kitchen Remodel Employs a Unique Design to Make Use of Limited Space.

When people think of regions with beautiful weather on any given day, San Diego is one of the first areas they name. So it's no surprise that a couple, both of whom are doctors, have a vacation condominium in Oceanside, Calif., which is on the northern tip of San Diego County. But the condo was outdated, making it difficult to entertain and accommodate the beachside location where the husband exercises his enthusiasm for surfing.

Serving as a surfing retreat, family getaway and entertaining venue, the central gathering spot in the renovated condo is the kitchen area, which San Diego-based Jackson Design and Remodeling transformed from a cramped, dark space to a light, open area that meets the clients' needs.

Art Inspiration

The homeowners owned the condo for 20 years, during which time they never updated it. The husband, who is a bodysurfer and has won several competitions in his age group, used the condo with some frequency as a surfing haven, but the family rarely traveled there together to enjoy the space. "It had been so dated they were embarrassed to have company come over. It was tired looking," says Jim Groen, senior architect with Jackson Design and Remodeling.

After the couple chose to use Jackson Design and Remodeling, which is a design-build firm, for their condo renovation, Groen, along with Rosella Gonzalez, project interior designer and Chris Ashby, project structural designer, visited the condo to take measurements and discuss how to proceed. "We absorbed as much information about them as possible to come up with a solution to meet their needs and dreams," Groen says.

Gonzalez and Groen interviewed the clients together, which they think led to an ideal solution that satisfied both clients. "I was interpreting it from my perspective as a man and hearing what they were saying," Groen remembers. "Rosella was hearing the same thing yet processing it differently because she's an interior designer and a woman. We came back to the office to talk about our meeting and develop a more accurate response to what we heard based on both of our interpretations. It allowed for a well-thought-out solution."

The clients own a painting by Jesse Miller around which the condo's design was to evolve. (See a print of the painting at For The painting features water and pebble imagery and has water-inspired colors with flashes of burnt orange. The marriage of water elements and warmth particularly appealed to the owner, who wanted an ocean-colored theme. "She liked the ocean feeling but didn't want just blue and gray," Gonzales recalls. "It's not just about that. That picture also has warm colors, and she wanted those warmer colors." Gonzales latched onto the color and pebble scheme to materialize the clients' vision.

Seamless Design

Once the design team had a vision of remodeling the condo around Miller's painting, they set out to make the drawings reality. The team gutted the condo and started anew. Before, the kitchen and dining room were separate small areas. Jackson Design and Remodeling envisioned creating a large room, eliminating the dining table and installing an island that doubles as a dining area. The adjacent living room extends the gathering space.

The kitchen expansion also motivated the homeowners to rethink their master bathroom. It had a sink and vanity area about 5-feet wide and a separate room with the toilet and shower that was about 5 by 5 1/2 feet. The small space made it difficult to remove wetsuits without flinging sand and ocean debris all over the room. Because the condo is a vacation home, the couple didn't require much closet space, so the bathroom expanded into what had been closet area to make it a more functional space. The bathroom is tiled to protect the walls against hanging damp wetsuits after a surfing session.

Gonzalez integrated a pebble theme into most areas of the condo. "The theme is in the bathroom and living room. We tried to incorporate that in the whole project," she says. "The client didn't say, 'I want pebbles in my house,' but it was the concept, idea and feeling, so it made sense."

Following that theme, Gonzalez acquired a piece of distressed lumber resembling driftwood for the fireplace mantle. The clients then displayed stones from the beach on top of it. "The pebble theme makes a full circle," Groen says.

The team removed flooring and refinished and repainted the space with the exception of the guest bathroom and guest bedrooms, which received minor upgrades. The kitchen area was rewired and reinsulated.

Kitchen Inspiration

The collaboration between the Jackson Design and Remodeling team ultimately brought the kitchen island into the design. "After we talked to the owners and got existing floor plans, I started laying out some ideas, and I thought I had this thing figured out," Groen recalls. "Then Rosella came back with the concept of an island, and it was like, 'Whoa, wait a minute. Can we do that? Yeah, of course we can.' The collaborative effort we have is very dynamic and allows us to challenge each other to come up with the right solutions."

Groen and Gonzalez considered putting a cooktop and sink in the island, but Ashby reminded them of limitations associated with condo builds and being unable to relocate plumbing. "The island concept instead became the heart of the space and completely transformed the way that area of the home works," Groen explains.

Because the condo is used as a retreat and for entertaining, the clients did not expect to cook much, so requested no hood over the range. Code requires 30 inches between a cooktop and a combustible surface, so the cabinets are higher than the typical 18-inch spacing, which works because both owners are tall.

"Everything we did was to code," Groen says. "We did double check the building code because this is a condo project, so we had to meet not only residential safety requirements, but also commercial requirements."

Appliances are smaller than is typical. The owner originally requested no dishwasher, but eventually decided to install an 18-inch-wide dishwasher. The oven does double-duty as a convection oven and microwave. The TV is mounted in the kitchen over the counter rather than over the fireplace, where it created too much of a dominant element.

The original kitchen had a vertical chase dissecting the space. The team assumed it housed pipes or ductwork, but during demolition, they discovered it was empty. "One of the advantages with our design-build company is we were able to very quickly reconfigure the cabinets and countertop details so we could create a continuous countertop from wall to wall, which opened up the kitchen and made it more functional," Groen asserts.

The wall-to-wall counter followed the horizontal design of the rest of the kitchen. The floating shelves make a horizontal line with the bifold doors. Gonzalez developed specific drawings for how to align the shelving to be perfectly horizontal. The tile backsplash Gonzalez designed also features horizontal lines. "It made sense to have all the horizontal lines of the backsplash placed throughout the kitchen," Gonzalez says. "The floating shelves go from corner to corner. Even the lighting on the ceiling is horizontal. It was important to bring all the materials and lines together."

At the End of the Day

Seven months after their first meeting, the condo was complete. Gonzalez reflects, "It works so much better for their goal, which was to entertain and have a big space to go to with friends."

The clients love the finished space, according to Groen. "They allowed us the freedom to provide our suggestions and followed our leadership, but in some ways challenged us in making sure it met all of their needs," Groen recalls. "The finished product is something the clients are absolutely in love with and proud of. We have a client who's a client for life. We've stayed in contact with them. It's a positive relationship. That is what our company is all about."

Jackson Design and Remodeling