Welcoming kitchen provides an entertainment center

October 02, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUGH / Copley News Service

Most people shudder at the thought of the harvest gold appliances and avocado green shag carpet that characterized the homes of the 1970s, but restaurateur David Gingrass, who owns the acclaimed Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco, fell in love with a 1975 Napa ranch-style home. He completed much of the renovation work himself, eventually turning it into a comfortable home where he could entertain, despite its having only 1,500 square feet.

His kitchen, of course, was of primary importance to him, and several of his ideas would work in any small home. One is the continuous upper cabinet line that doesn't waver when it passes over the sink. Another is the clever placement of a clear glass panel between the countertop and the upper cabinets. This provides extra storage and increased natural light that can balance out the darkness of espresso cabinets.

"The organization of my kitchen evolved toward the efficiency of movement in my cooking," said Gingrass. "The two drawers on the right of the cooktop hold the heavy-duty cooking essentials like pots, pans, tops, casserole dishes and roasting pans.


"The one on the left has all the hand implements - hand blender, food processor, spice grinder and a channel knife, oyster knife, etc. Each of the two drawers has a built-in power strip that keeps the cords hidden and the equipment ready to use. There is fantastic storage above the cooktop, great for all the things you reach for most like salt, pepper, spoons and olive oil."

In a parallel between his restaurant and his home, Gingrass made a focal point in the kitchen by installing a brilliant orange island that draws his guests in as well as a comfy bar seating that encourages them to stay. The island is lifted off the floor with stainless-steel legs, which results in a sense of openness and space. He seats guests right at the cook island so that they become an intimate part of the kitchen activity, which also saves space.

The resulting "new millennium" design nods respectfully to '70s style.

"Stainless steel is extremely durable and serviceable," he said. "With so much wood and color in the house, I wasn't worried about making the home seem cold or unapproachable. Also, I like the natural grooves and patina of well-used stainless steel."

The use of wood plank flooring with a strong grain created a positive line running the length of the room. This choice of flooring, instead of a rectangular or square ceramic tile or natural stone, strengthened the long look to the kitchen.

Because the vent, which hangs into the middle of the room, is stainless steel like the appliance fronts and the countertops, it tends to disappear rather than become a standout element.

Frosted-glass inserts in all of the upper cabinets over the sink lighten the look over the horizontal window and become a strong design element. The cooktop, hood and dishwasher are all Miele.

There's a great deal to be learned from Gingrass' design: Simple, natural materials and bright colors help to create a larger feel. His cabinets also reach all the way to the ceiling, thus bringing the eye upward and providing lots of useful storage space - a good trick to remember in kitchens of every size.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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