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It’s not just the space—it’s how you bring people together that counts.
Corona and Dennis Meredith didn’t buy their Carmichael home for the kitchen. They bought it for the big yard, the quiet street, the natural light. “This house just made sense for us,” Corona says. “We’re starting a family, and I could see the potential.” The Merediths have a 2-year-old son, Henry, and another son on the way. They moved into their home in 2014 but lived in it for a while before they began remodeling. First up: bringing the exterior out of its architectural confusion. (It was a “Mediterranean/Tuscan-something,” Corona says.) They updated the garage doors, added limestone to the facade and re-landscaped. Then they started talking to contractors about the kitchen. “It was dark,” Corona says. “I don’t like dark.” It was not kid friendly. It needed to be. It was difficult for friends and family to talk to the cook and not be in the way. That definitely had to change. Nar Bustamante of Nar Fine Carpentry offered the solution: Rearrange the space. “His vision was so different from the other contractors we talked to,” Corona says. “When he came in, he really challenged the entire layout. He was the only one we talked to who gave us that idea. He was so right.”
Kitchen design and remodel: Nar Bustamante, Ashlee Richardson of Nar Fine Carpentry, Carmichael and El Dorado Hills
Approach: “Bringing people together is one of the things I really like to do,” Nar says. The former layout prevented the kind of happy mingling the Merediths wanted.
Then: Two peninsulas formed a horseshoe with an island in the middle. “Once you entered the kind of U-shaped space, you got trapped,” Nar says. “You’d bump into the counters and the peninsula.”
Now: With the new layout, Corona says she can visualize her boys riding their bikes around the space. “We love to host and do family gatherings,” Corona says. “Now we can have people in the kitchen while we’re prepping and cooking.”
Reinventing the table: “It’s not bar seating anymore, but more family style,” Nar says. “One of the things I really love to do is have people sitting and looking at each other rather than all lined up.”
Cool quotient: A prep island, wrapped in marble, is connected to a tabletop of wild basilica wood in a river-wash finish, which is secured by a stand-alone leg, anchored to the floor via steel fastenings—a Nar Fine Carpentry signature design.
A place for everything: Any family-friendly kitchen needs spaces for sitting, for storage, for gathering, for working, Nar explains. These “intentional spaces,” as he calls them, should have zero clutter.
Everyone has a space: Two-year-old Henry has his own place in the kitchen, complete with ladder, so he can reach the soapstone counter and a sink. “I do a lot of cooking, and he can be there right alongside of me,” Corona says. “Henry definitely had an influence on the design.”
Warmth from wood: Corona and Dennis found reclaimed barn timbers in Auburn and had Nar use them to build shelving that flanks the living room fireplace. Underneath, he built cabinets that complement those he created for the kitchen.
Bump up: Classic subway tile, with a beveled edge to add depth, was set in a herringbone pattern and is larger than typically seen, says Ashlee Richardson.
Finishing details: Meticulous miters on all the wood and marble.
Smart money: “We bought the (zinc) oven hood from a guy on eBay,” Dennis says. “We sent him our dimensions and he sent the hood back to us.”
Check these: The entry, dining room and kitchen light fixtures. Whoa.
Reaching the goal: “We really combined forces,” Corona says about the project. “I love the color of the marble because it’s neutral and interesting. . . . When Nar and Ashlee told us there wasn’t enough [marble] to go around, we just asked them to make it work. And they did.”