Located in Pasadena, California, it is hard to believe that this stunning 1959 custom-built home was once a daunting fixer-upper. Thanks to Annette Vartanian’s eye for interior design and her husband Alan’s architectural background, their mid century modern dream was soon realized. And they started with a modern kitchen remodel.

The exterior of a mid century house complete with blue walls, succulents and glossy steps leading up to the door.

“The place was a hoarder’s paradise,” says Annette. Through all the clutter they saw the home’s amazing architecture—boasting an inviting and open floor plan, large windows and a wide outdoor deck—and fell in love. “No one else saw the potential, but we did,” Annette reminisces. With a can-do attitude, the couple bought their dream home and began the process of renovations and touch-ups.

“Ultimately what we wanted to do with our mid century modern look was to maintain the integrity of the house but update it to our modern lifestyle,” Annette says.

Big Renovations

With this in mind, they began to renovate the home, starting with the kitchen. Annette describes the original as, “dark, dingy and frankly, really gross.” In order to pay homage to the dark wood cabinetry from the original kitchen while adding some much-needed brightness, the couple opted for Ikea cabinets with walnut-finish fronts from Semihandmade. The dark-toned cabinets are paired with white counters and a white backsplash.

A custom design kitchen with walnut cabinets and a white tabletop scheme.
To keep with the original aesthetic of the kitchen, Annette chose walnut horizontal grain fronts from Semihandmade and paired them with the kitchen’s original knobs and pulls.

The floorplan was kept much the same. The refrigerator was the only appliance moved—swapping walls for easier accessibility. Annette, as well as the previous owner, loves to entertain. To suit their lifestyle and give a nod to the last owner, the couple decided to open up part of the wall that previously separated the kitchen from the dining room. The change better connects the space to the dining room and increases the available natural light. “Now we can continue that tradition of hosting parties,” says Annette.

The custom design dining room showcasing a wood table and maroon chairs that is ultimately connected to the kitchen.

While terrazzo was their ideal flooring choice, at a hundred dollars per square foot, it wasn’t plausible. Instead, Annette chose a similar material with the same period-appropriate charm—white quartz stone tile flecked with silver and grey, which was only four dollars per square foot. The flooring stretches from the entry through the kitchen, but transitions to hardwood in the dining area. The original flooring was a worn laminate, so Annette and Alan traded it out for chestnut-stained wood.

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A custom design kitchen showcasing the white quartz floors leading to the back door.

Custom Design Kitchen

With the help of Semihandmade, Annette was able to create the custom mid century kitchen she’s always wanted—for a fourth of the price.

When Annette first began to tackle the kitchen, she met with a carpenter to discuss a custom space. Discouraged by the price, she researched other options and discovered Semihandmade. “It was the obvious choice,” she says.

Founded in 2011 by John McDonald, Semihandmade specializes in creating custom doors, shelves and other accessories to fit Ikea cabinets. Their process allows for a custom space at a fraction of the cost. “With Semihandmade we could get a mid century modern feel but in a fully modern kitchen that’s functional for our family,” Annette says.

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The kitchen's custom wood cabinets and white cubed wall tiles.
After a year of searching, Annette finally found the perfect backsplash thanks to Fireclay Tile’s small diamond design. The tile was installed after the kitchen had been otherwise completed, but she says, “it was worth the wait!”

For John and Semihandmade it’s been a wild ride. The company has landed on Inc. Magazine’s list of 1,000 fastest-growing private U.S. companies every year since 2015. Semihandmade has spread through word-of-mouth and its strong social media presence and continues to grow. “It’s been a blast,” John says. Annette and Alan opened up the wall separating the kitchen and dining room to give a more open feel to the area. The need for a vent hood over the stove posed a potential aesthetic problem, so instead of going with a traditional option, Annette decided on one that disappears into the cabinet structure. “This was a really important design choice that allowed for something practical and functional but still works with the design,” she says.

The custom design dining room complete with a wooden table and maroon chairs overlooking a large window.

If you’re going absolutely “coo-coo” for kitchens, check out our favorite mid century kitchens from around the web right here!

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