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JULY 1990

When Ann Fletcher, her husband and their two teenagers bought a 60-year-old, Spanish-style house a few years ago in San Marino, California, it certainly wasn't for the kitchen.

" 'Dreadful' is probably the best term for it." says Fletcher. "It had the smallest window you could possibly have and still call it a window. The old counter space, what there was of it, was only 18 inches deep. The floors . . . ," she all but shudders, "were horrible linoleum with holes in it. That kitchen had never, ever, been remodeled."

So Fletcher, a partner in the Los Angeles-based firm of Fletcher-Kneedler Interior Design, personally took on her new kitchen's first-ever remodeling since its construction in 1928. And the goals to be achieved were dramatically clear-cut: bring more light into the small room; increase the amount of work space; and give the kitchen, from ceiling to worn-out floor, a fresh new look.

To brighten up the kitchen, Fletcher replaced the old window with "the largest one that the space allowed while still having a small cabinet for glasses on one side and one for everyday dishes on the other." The window bumps out for inches, expanding the space and allowing in even more light: "If it bumped out any farther," she says, "cars in the driveway would hit it."
While she couldn't increase the kitchen's actual size, Fletcher was able to give the room a greater feeling of openness. She took down the wall that separated it from the laundry area, effectively increasing the space — if not the kitchen itself — to 11' x 17'. Another wall came down to open the kitchen to the breakfast and family rooms, and a peninsula with an ample counter for food preparation was added to serve as a divider.

One aspect of the kitchen that Fletcher did not feel compelled to change drastically was the storage. "People make the mistake of telling the kitchen designer that they want as many cabinets as possible," she explains. Rather tan cramming the small room full of cabinets, she says, "I paid as much attention to how my kitchen would look." So, while she did install new cabinetry, she also purposefully adapted to more limited storage than she had previously been used to. "I threw out all my old pots and pans and bought one good new set. I threw away all my old chipped mugs, all the glasses that didn't match and all my kids' plastic glasses from fast-food places."

Designer that she is, Fletcher strongly desired to make her new kitchen a showplace, "a reflection of my taste." She chose a style that she describes as "something reminiscent of a cafe" — a clean, sophisticated country approach that pointedly lacks the "hand-painted tiles and cutesy-poo and duckie-wuckies" that often characterize the popular look. All of the counters are surfaced in "the whitest high-gloss ceramic tile I could find." Dark-stained oak, coated with polyurethane for easy cleanup, now covers the floor, visually linking the kitchen to the rest of the house.

And one key element of the kitchen's style is a narrow strip of green and white checkerboard tiles, an arrangement Fletcher had used before on other jobs. Running along the backsplash and wrapping around the range hood, the pattern "helps to expand the eye beyond the existing space," she says, "to make the room look larger than it really is." They also add to the bistro-like ambience.

Some $45,000 to $50,000 later, Ann Fletcher thinks the one-dreadful room "looks wonderful, very open and spacious and full of light. I feel like, even though I work all the time, I seem to spend all my time in the kitchen."