In a mountainous area of Oceanside, California, model and entrepreneur Alden Steimle‘s 1978 home sits on a private and enclosed lot. She and her partner Alex purchased the home – affectionately dubbed “The Avocado House” for its exterior color and fruit trees surrounding it – with the knowledge that it would be a fixer-upper. “We had a home inspection that came back with flying colors before we bought the house,” Alden shared. “We then felt better knowing that it was more of a cosmetic fixer than structural – which was ideal.”
Although the house was in good shape, not everything was meant to last. “We always knew we wanted to renovate the kitchen, but we were actually forced into it,” she explained. “In the winter of 2018, we had a leak under our sink that caused our floors to warp and mold to grow in our cabinets.” Even the drywall was affected, leaving them with little choice but to invest in completely transform their kitchen. They immediately took on the demolition phase of the remodel without having the time to budget or plan beforehand. It meant that Alden had to sit down and immediately come up with a concept, not just of the style of the kitchen but its new layout.
“We took out an entire wall of floor to ceiling cabinet space,” she said. “I had to fight a few people on that one since we lost a decent sized pantry and storage for brooms, etc.” What at first seemed like an impractical decision, ended up making a lot of sense overall: “You probably will notice that there aren’t any windows in the kitchen other than the small garden window above the sink along with the skylight, so opening up the wall that divided the living room and kitchen also let in so much more light,” she said, “which I’d rather have than a huge pantry!” To accommodate the new open concept, they had to install a 27 foot LVL support beam.
Out was the enclosed kitchen and pantry, and in was one expansive living space including a new large island. “I love kitchen islands and I could only visualize a huge one,” Alden quipped. “Ours turned out to be 5’x6’! My justification for this is that it seems everyone congregates in the kitchen, so it was very important to make this space as welcoming and accommodating as the living room.” Over the island hang two ceramic pendants that she and her mother made by hand. “The idea to make them came about because I loved the raw and organic feel of handmade clay pendants, but saw that they run from $600 to $1000+ each,” she said. “My mom is a part of the community pottery studio in Sonoma, so I thought, let’s try and create them ourselves!”
When it came to the overall style of the kitchen, Alden had longevity in mind: “One of the main things that helped navigate and narrow down design elements was resale value,” she advised. “What you may love, someone else (i.e. the buyer) probably doesn’t. Don’t spend too much in unnecessary places and design something that you love, but that isn’t too unique.”
That said, she realized that her ranch-style home with a funky ’70s vibe would look perfect with a kitchen that brought in elements of a modern California farmhouse with the serene feel of the Joshua Tree desert. She selected Semihandmade’s Tahoe Impression door fronts for the main body of her kitchen, keeping costs down (it is compatible with IKEA’s cabinet system) and giving a real wood-grain appearance without the upkeep. She splurged, however, on hardware: “I just couldn’t help it!” she smiled. “I think it’s one of the kitchen’s greatest accessories. Because it can always be interchanged, it allows a little more freedom with the design.”
While Alden took on the design, Alex, her partner took on the construction. “We loved working with our Semihandmade doors that went on our IKEA cabinets because they were quite easy to install and made such a statement so quickly,” she explained. “Alex did most of the physical work on just about everything, I’m so proud of him!” Seven months later, their vision for their new kitchen finally came to fruition. “It has inspired us to cook more, relax more, and encourage more quality time,” she said. “We feel extremely blessed to have such a relaxing and inspiring space to start and end our day.”