Before & After: A Southern California Kitchen Gets a Fresh New Look
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Before & After: A Southern California Kitchen Gets a Fresh New Look

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By Kelly Dawson
Interior designer Becki Owens renovated a dark kitchen in San Clemente, California to embrace the easy sunshine all around it.

In a city like San Clemente, California, shadows are routinely shunned. Set between Los Angeles and San Diego on a sterling piece of the Pacific Coast, this mostly suburban enclave gets about 300 days of sunshine per year. But the original look of this kitchen made a family of four experience the opposite. 

"It was a dark space with limited natural light," designer Becki Owens remembers. 

"Sometimes all-white kitchens can feel stark," Owens says. "We wanted the space to feel inviting." Barstools from Wayfair along the island make it easy for the family to gather. 

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At about 200 square feet, this kitchen had enough space for the family to prepare meals and eat together comfortably. Its granite countertops, wood floors, and white cabinetry were of a bygone era, but they wouldn't entirely count as vintage pieces from a faraway past. The biggest reason why the owners called on Owens to renovate their kitchen, however, was because it resembled a cave. 

"My goal was to transform it from its dark and dated feel into an open kitchen with clean lines," she says. "We wanted to maximize the available natural light and make it feel bigger and more inviting." 

Before: The Island

After: The Island

The white subway tile backsplash was given a unique touch with a stacked layout, rather than a typical off-set design. 

In order to make the kitchen feel like a better representation of its Southern California location, Owens and the owners decided that an all-white design would be best. But Owens didn't want the room to feel sterile—or worse, to fall into the boring predictability of this very popular trend. So she relied on complementary details to bring color, texture, and personality to the white subway tiles, cabinets, and walls. 

"All-white kitchens serve as a great neutral foundation," she notes. "You can update other elements to align with current trends while still keeping its fresh, white bones. For instance, the wood and brass accents in this kitchen add warmth and texture to soften the space, which make it feel inviting."

Before: The Breakfast Nook

After: The Breakfast Nook

Owens sourced the dining table from Restoration Hardware, and picked up the bistro chairs from Wayfair. The beaded Ro Sham Beaux chandelier has custom-made beading. 

Owens replaced the dark hardwood floors for a lighter option, and carried that finish across open shelving, extra storage, an exposed beam, and a range hood to unite the distinct areas of the room with a cohesive palette. In the nook, a round wooden dining table and rattan bistro chairs also match those wooden accents, while a row of island seating are topped with that same material, too. 

And speaking of the island, Owens traded the split-surface original for a singular spread, complete with Colorado Gold marble countertops. The marble's shade ties into cabinetry that was repainted in Benjamin Moore's "Chantilly Lace," as well as stacked tiles that stretch from one end of the kitchen's feature wall to the other. 

Before: Cabinetry

After: Cabinetry

Brass fixtures and matching sconces add personality to the white cabinets and subway tiles, which stretch from one end of the feature wall to the other. 

Yet even though this project centered on creating more access to sunshine, Owens didn't want to forget about selecting the right light fixtures to pull everything together.

"Lighting makes all the difference in a white kitchen," she says. "It's often the eye candy in the room." 

She chose Rejuvenation bell pendants for the space above the island and teardrop sconces from the Arteriors Sabine Collection to hang over a pair of windows—they coordinate with the brass pulls on the cabinetry nearby, too. But the most eye-catching piece is perhaps the Ro Sham Beaux chandelier atop the dining table, which was custom beaded for the space. 

"Go with your gut, and don’t be afraid to mix things up as you go along," Owens advises. "Originally we didn’t have open shelves flanking the hood, but we added them at the last minute and now it’s one of my favorite elements of the space."

"We loved the blue pendant lights and the beaded chandelier independently, but felt like they complemented each other well," she continues. 

Now that the three-month renovation process is complete, Owens and the family can finally leave that original dark kitchen in the shadows. "This was the perfect choice between something that felt a little more modern and unique, but something they wouldn't get tired of," Owens adds. 

More Before & After:

A Modest Midcentury in Miami Expands Around a Lush Courtyard

A Cramped Victorian in London Lightens Up With a Double-Height Renovation

A Melbourne Pub Is Recast as a Funky Home

Project Credits: 

Designer: Becki Owens / @beckiowens

Photographer: Autumn Grace Photography/@autumn.gracephotography