EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories showcasing the homes of local designers.
Nearly every day for 15 years, Jan Kepler designed fabulous kitchens for her clients. Then she went home to her own less-than-fabulous one.
That has changed. Earlier this year, she completed a remodel she’d been plotting since she and husband John bought their 2,300-square-foot single-level San Luis Obispo home 17 years ago.
“I’m glad I waited,” said Kepler, owner of Kepler Design in San Luis Obispo. “We had the money to do it the way we wanted. And I had enough experience that I wasn’t second-guessing my decisions.”
Her architect for the project was Micah Smith. Nicholas McClure was the engineer, and Mountain Pacific Builders was the general contractor. The remodel would give a fresh, updated look to their 1980s-style kitchen.
Previously, their main living area was divided by three walls, boxing in the kitchen, which sported a dropped ceiling and tiny window. Kepler originally thought the walls were load-bearing, so she ordered cabinets for one of them.
To her delight, her architect and engineer gave her the go-ahead to knock them down, which workers promptly did. In place of one of the walls, there is now a bar counter “that does not interrupt the flow of the new space,” she said. And the cabinets? They found a new home in Kepler’s office.
This is the way much of the project went — shifting plans and adding details as inspiration struck. So the project, originally planned for 3 1/2 months, stretched out over five months. “When everything’s torn apart, you think, hmmmm, while we’re at it…,” Kepler explained. “Everyone does that, so you have to anticipate it.”
The newly opened space is brighter and airier, helped along by the elevated, tongue-and-groove ceiling, and a significantly larger window that brings in light, as well as views of Cerro San Luis, “a view that we did not have before,” said Kepler.
All of those 1980s materials — the alder cabinets, the tile and granite counters, the slumped stone fireplace — were history too.
The den fireplace is now clad in a quartzite ledger stone veneer with a new gas insert from Forden’s in San Luis Obispo. The cabinets are custom, by Plato Woodwork, for which Kepler is a dealer. She chose a combination of cherry and slate. The cherry matches those in the bathrooms, which were added during past remodels. The slate offers contrast, in a hue that “spoke to me,” she said.
Kepler’s favorite material in the kitchen covers the show-stopping 4 1/2 -by-8-foot island that seats up to four people. When she took in her fabric and cabinet samples to Pacific Shore Stones in Arroyo Grande, manager Suzanne Morosoli immediately led her to a type of natural quartzite called “cielo.” Its combination of cool and warm hues pulls together all of the materials in the space. Kepler decided to give the stone a textured, leathered finish instead of a polished one “to make it more rustic,” she said.
For over a decade, Kepler kept notes on her favorite materials and techniques while working on clients’ homes. Finally, she had the opportunity to apply some of them to her own space.
One such feature is the backsplash, which is a striking mosaic of marble leaf tiles in a variety of earthy hues. While the tile alone is stunning, she knew from experience that grout can be a game-changer. In a client’s house, she had them set in white grout for a crisp look. But for her own space, she chose taupe, which transformed the tiles into something warmer and earthier.
The Keplers like to entertain, so the kitchen is well-equipped for it. The island and bar seat a total of nine guests. She chose an under-the-counter True wine refrigerator. Several pieces were selected for their streamlined look, including a drawer microwave from Pacific Coast Kitchen and Bath that sits under a counter and a Subzero refrigerator integrated into cabinetry that she said was “definitely a splurge.”
Another splurge was the front door.
Her old double door, with its beveled glass and raised panels, was dated and didn’t fit the sophisticated, transitional feel of the house. She had Bill Alvarado of A Grand Entrance craft new mahogany doors with modern frosted glass panels and sidelights that open to let in a cross breeze. She considers the decision a huge difference-maker in the look of both the interior and exterior of the home.
Kepler balanced splurges with cost-saving techniques.
Instead of replacing the entire great room floor, she found tiles for the kitchen that match the existing porcelain tile. And for the walls, she found a way to afford rich, textural American Clay plaster, which can be pricey.
“Usually, you use it on a feature wall, then contrast the others,” she said. Kepler did the opposite. She had the one long wall in the great room clad in American Clay plaster matched to the regular wall paint, which is Sherwin Williams’ “urban putty,” a hue that shifts from gray to brown, depending upon the light. “It looks seamless, so you walk in and think all of it is American Clay,” she said.
Having overseen dozens of client projects, Kepler got to experience a remodel from the homeowner’s perspective — which wasn’t always easy. “Everybody has a meltdown, when the house is dirty or loud,” she said. “I had three or four.”
Still, when she looks at the finished product, she has few regrets. It was an “arduous and expensive process,” she said, but also “worth every minute and every dollar.”
Grout can change the character of tile. For instance, white can create a cool, crisp look, while a dark grout, such as brown or taupe, is warmer and earthier.
A STYLISH MICROWAVE?
A drawer-style microwave frees up counter space and creates a more streamlined look in the kitchen. Because food is loaded from the top, the oven can be mounted in a low, inconspicuous spot, such as below a counter. An added bonus: you can check on your food by simply sliding out the drawer.
BIG STYLE IN SMALL DOSES
If you’re working with a tight budget, use pricey, high-end materials sparingly, and fill in with complementary, budget-friendly materials. In the Kepler great room, one high-profile wall is coated in American Clay Plaster, with other walls left plain, in a matching paint color. This tricks the eye into thinking all walls are coated in plaster.