"One way or another," Bonnie Simon says, "our family life has always been centered in the kitchen. The children do their homework there. We cook and eat there. We'll sit down to talk and have coffee there. We really seem to live in the kitchen." Not every family has a kitchen
big enough to live in, and the Simons didn't either, until they undertook substantial remodeling. When they bought the house, Dennis Simon says, they were looking for "the spacious openness of rooms that you find in California, plus the large, individual bedrooms that you used to get back East. It proved to be impossible; at that time, home builders were putting up houses with open plans but no large bedrooms. So we settled for an old house that had the bedroom space and decided to create the open plan ourselves." Adds Bonnie: "There was really no place for the family to sit and eat, but there was a glass-walled atrium inside the entry. It was just off the kitchen, in the center of the house, and it seemed to be the likely spot for putting our kitchen table." The project took a year to complete. Working initially with a designer, the Simons finished the job themselves, with decorating assistancefrom a friend, Sally Hoblit of Avril Interiors, Santa Ana. "We decided to enclose the atrium and install a clear skylight so that we actually could see the sky," Bonnie says. "In conjunction with that, we made a decision to retain the windows in the entry, so there is also a view of the courtyard." In the process, the kitchen was given more storage and work space and a more workable floor plan. Now, the Simons have a good theater in which the family cooks can perform. "We entertain a lot--for family, friends and business acquaintances," Bonnie says. Dennis goes way back in the chef department, having started his own catering company (an extension of his father's delicatessen business) while still in high school in New York City. The family, which includes sons Hunter and Brandon and adopted Korean daughter Mindy, also cooks together, often experimenting with ethnic cuisines. "Two years ago, we did soups," Dennis remembers. "Then," Bonnie says, "we got on a Middle Eastern kick, and for four or five weeks we had a different kind of tabbouleh every week."
While revamping the kitchen, the Simons also removed the walls that divided the living and dining rooms, creating one spacious area for entertaining. For separation of activities, a grand piano was placed near the middle of the room. On the dining side, a mirrored wall reflects the garden, making the space seem larger while creating a pleasingly formal dining setting. Dennis' business, the Cambridge Capital Group of Santa Ana, keeps him busy during the week, but weekends have always belonged to the family.