What’s the secret to completing a careful Midcentury Modern kitchen renovation in a 1962 Joseph Eichler-built home in San Rafael, California? According to homeowners Joe West, a mechanical engineer, and Mark Kemler, a lawyer, you have to partner with Karen Nepacena of Destination Eichler.
Previous renovations traded the Midcentury Modern kitchen’s original details for a traditional-style design, something Joe and Mark were ready to replace in favor of a more period-appropriate aesthetic. They also wanted a modern, multi-functional space with a good flow that would blend seamlessly with the home’s midcentury roots.
“The homeowners wanted to approach their renovation in a thoughtful way, keeping in the spirit of their Eichler-built home, but to provide increased functionality and use of the existing space,” says Karen. “Since I specialize in working on Midcentury Modern and Eichler homes, we were a great fit for one another.”
Midcentury Modern Kitchen 101
What do you do when period charm has been removed? “In the case of this particular Eichler home, we brought back previously used materials—such as aluminum sliding doors and windows—and reinstalled floor-to-ceiling glass where a vinyl window and drywall had been installed by previous owners.”
So, out went the non-Eichler style materials and in came materials that look as if they could be original. Karen sourced period-friendly products that are updated to better suit modern functionality, such as thermally broken aluminum windows, tempered floor-to-ceiling glass panes, and an energy efficient sliding door. “The original tongue and groove ceiling and beams were kept intact, which are some of the most revered details of Eichler homes,” she says.
After weeks of designing and four months of construction, Karen revealed a mid mod masterpiece. Each detail speaks to Joe and Mark’s initial requests and to the home’s original design.
Originally separated by a long wall, the homeowners wanted to create a better flow between the kitchen and adjacent dining room. “In order to provide adequate structural support and not show support posts or framing after the wall was removed, I had the small entry area closed up where the interior support was located. This allowed the necessary structural support without random posts blocking the space and instead, offering clean lines,” says Karen.
With the space’s overall flow improved, Karen transformed Ikea cabinets with custom flatsawn walnut doors and fronts from Semihandmade Doors, and brought vibrancy to the space through two unique backplash designs. Fireclay Tile in chartreuse, white and dark brown ties together the main kitchen and bar areas.
“Original Eichler kitchens featured light colored laminate-style countertops,” says Karen. “I wanted to pay homage to this detail, but chose a durable Quartz in a light colorway: Caesarstone’s Ocean Foam. The countertops offer a nice, subtle interest in the final finish.”
The Midcentury Modern kitchen design also offers plenty of functional beauty. Serveware and small appliances are stored in a row of under cabinet storage on the seating side of the island, while drawers provide ample storage for pots and pans underneath the cooktop. Rather than allow a microwave to clutter the counter or interrupt the design’s clean lines, Karen installed an under-cabinet drawer-style microwave in the island.
Long gone are the non-mod fixtures and fittings, and now Joe and Mark can entertain in and enjoy a space that Karen describes as, “vibrant, modern and multifunctional.”