Surmelis did not bring in a general contractor but hired several subcontractors. And he hired a decorator friend and local shop owner, Kris Quinn, to oversee the project and troubleshoot while he was off doing his show.
The flooring was next, and Surmelis decided on cork, which is a sustainable material with a softness that is gentle on his back. He had made his color selection -- a dappled tan and brown -- after sending off for several samples.
Thick baseboard moldings were added to match those in the rest of the house.
When it was time to install the subway tile, Surmelis tussled a bit with the tile setter about laying it all the way to the ceiling behind the stove. He recalls the tile setter commenting that to do so was not normal. To which Surmelis retorted: "I'm not normal."
The cabinets were installed, then the sink and the marble countertops.
Surmelis knows that marble isn't the most durable or stain-resistant countertop material on the market, but he actually looks forward to the worn look it will eventually acquire from the hard use he will give it.
With the kitchen done, Surmelis accented it with two stainless-steel stools with red leather seats, and a dramatically large, free-standing antique teak column. The completed room embraces many styles -- modern and vintage, formal and casual, understated and ostentatious -- yet feels harmonious.
Above all, Surmelis didn't want the room to feel what he calls "design-y."
"I just wanted the kitchen," he said, "to be a nice place to be."
To comment on this article, or to reach Kathy Price-Robinson, go to kathyprice.com. If you would like to have your remodel considered for use in Pardon Our Dust, please send before and after images and a brief description of the project to Real Estate Editor, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.