By the time designer Ginny Macdonald was called, the damage had been done. An unforeseen leak concealed within a South Los Angeles kitchen had dripped its way into an irreparable mess, and owners Mara and David had no other options but to find a way to clean it up.
"This wasn't your typical ‘client would like help with upgrades to their outdated kitchen design so they hired a designer’ situation," Macdonald said. But just like how Macdonald’s entrance on to the scene wasn’t routine, neither was Mara and David’s response.
Instead of lamenting the loss of what was, they looked at the wreck as a chance to create something better. "Since their insurance company was covering most of the renovation—or at least the damaged parts—they wanted to upgrade some of its cosmetic areas," she continues. "And the laundry room was something additional that they'd been meaning to do for a while, so they thought it was a good time for it since the contractors were already there."
Although their home was built in 1955, it wasn't filled with the type of architectural details that make a midcentury property charming. Mara and David bought it after developers had upgraded certain details into the current decade, ultimately neutralizing its past in a palette of gray. "There were gray upper and lower cabinets, gray marble tiles, and an oversized chrome faucet," Macdonald remembers. "The wood flooring had a bit of a traditional farmhouse feel to it, so we wanted to make sure whatever we did worked with that."
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A smaller landing area sat opposite the kitchen, and comprised the work-in-progress "laundry room." But the trio agreed that it could use definition, and probably had enough square footage for a mudroom, too. As a whole, both spaces would be airy and light-filled, blending traditional finishes with modern personality. There would be plenty of storage—especially considering all the toys the couple’s son had—thanks in part to a nook outfitted with a family-friendly bench. And as for color? Well, Macdonald and the couple envisioned blue, but couldn’t land on exactly how to do it. At least at first.
"The clients wanted to use blue but they were hesitant to do it in their kitchen," she says. "As a compromise, I was able to convince them to do the whole wall behind the sink and bench in the laundry room in a deep blue tile, adding a playfulness to the space. This particular tile has a slight variation in the glaze so it doesn't flat. Overall it adds a nice breath of fresh air and makes doing chores a little bit more bearable."
That saturated shade offsets the lighter blue on the overall cabinetry, which ties into the nook’s storage on the far end of the kitchen. "The built-in dining bench helps that space feel more like a part of the kitchen now and gives that area more of a presence," she adds.
It’s been two years since Macdonald turned a leak into lemonade, and she’s still happy with the results. After all, everyone made the best out of the situation. "I'm glad I was able to persuade them out of their comfort zone with the blue tile because it worked out really well," she said. "A lot of clients can be super scared when it comes to adding color, and I think the contrast between the two spaces works well together."
Designer: Ginny Macdonald
Cabinetry Design: Pete's Cabinets
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