Caitlin Murray, the Los Angeles design darling behind Black Lacquer Design, isn’t known for subdued spaces — “color-soaked style” is more her thing. When her clients, a husband and wife duo who run a notable commercial production company, requested a kitchen with white cabinets, she found a way to amp it up with ease. “The clients essentially wanted a chef’s kitchen in terms of functionality and appliances. We installed a gas range and high powered hood with an induction across the way from it, a tucked away pantry with its own separate sink and a 48” panel-ready refrigerator,” she explained. “We also had the specific request for white cabinetry, so to keep it from being basic, we complemented the custom flat panel uppers with chunky ceramic hardware, contrasting stones and beige base cabinets.”
In a recent conversation, Caitlin told us more about going this project, and offered up tips to go beyond the basic white kitchen:
First, we’d love to know a bit more about the project as a whole! What was the property like when you were brought on board?
The house is new construction that began as a vast empty lot of a hill overlooking the ocean in Redondo Beach, CA. Our clients commissioned us along with a local architect to conceive of a fully-customized family home with their love for contemporary and mid-century design strongly informing many of our design choices. Because of the proximity to the sea and striking views through seamless corner kitchen windows, we wanted to highlight the inherent beauty of water and sky. We chose a palette and materials that felt in harmony with the surroundings, keeping with an overall fresh and light vibe inspired by nature, executed in a clean and modern way.
Let’s get to the kitchen — tell us a little about your scope of work in this space.
Since this home was a new-build and our involvement began before ground was even broken, we had free rein on materials, fixtures and finishes. We went through a TON of iterations while trying to narrow down the design concept, especially because this husband and wife have very different preferences and aesthetics, which were important to cohesively unite. I visited various slab yards several times with the clients in tow throughout the process of finalizing the countertops and actually started off with some crazy colors that the husband went gaga for and the wife quickly vetoed—ha! It’s kind of my thing to kick off a kitchen or bathroom design by specifying the stone first and shaping other elements around it.
We ended up opting for a Macaubas quartzite for the island (because it’s a super durable stone that offers a great pattern without overwhelming) and a gorgeous gray/blue marble with gorgeous depth and subtle movement for the back wall to echo the ocean. To complement these hues and add a touch of glamour, we sourced dazzling polished copper fixtures and grounded the space with substantially sized and classically shaped black and white pendants.
Clearly, white kitchens aren’t really your thing. How did you help the client shift their perspective on the space?
When it comes to design, I’m always up for something different! Luckily, I have loads of experience working with couples and becoming a makeshift mediator…which involves a lot of listening and educating, and ultimately, making everyone happy. From a design perspective, it’s really about evoking a sense of balance. Any color can be perfect—in context. My job is to create spaces that just work.
Though the clients are clearly super happy, your own aesthetic shines bright in this space too. How did you infuse your style with theirs, especially in the case of the white kitchen?
My personal design aesthetic definitely skews toward luxe and eclectic. In order to keep white-forward spaces from feeling flat, I like to add plenty of tonal layers and visual texture. There are also certain hues, like gray or taupe, that are technically neutral but can read as a more developed color of a certain temperature depending on the surroundings. Another foolproof way to infuse complexity into a white kitchen is by incorporating unexpected metals, which are inherently statement-making. I absolutely love the contrast of the cool gray marble and warm copper in this kitchen—it comes off as dynamic without being flamboyant.
Take a tour of the space in the slideshow!