'This Is Now the Room Where Everyone Congregates'

What was once a small, outdated kitchen that adjoined a breakfast room and laundry room in a Toluca Lake house (built in the 1930s for movie producer Virginia Van Upp) has become the newly renovated, up-to-date kitchen of Helen and John Martin. With the help of designer Dewitt Talmadge Beall, Helen Martin got her dream kitchen.

"I think that one of the nicest aspects of this kitchen is that it has a traditional feeling, but it is functionally quite modern," Beall says. "The raised-panel oak cabinetry is in keeping with the rest of the house, but the kitchen's light, airy quality, efficient work areas and appliances are very contemporary."

To create this one large room, walls between the small rooms were removed, and one exterior wall was pushed outward five feet to expand the space to what is pictured here. One of the main focal points is the large, trapezoidal skylight that opens electrically, providing a convection action that exchanges air naturally. The skylight floods the kitchen with light during the day; at night it is lit by a channel of fluorescent lights that rims its perimeter. A tile frieze, which matches the tile back-splash areas, surrounds the skylight shaft and serves as an effective decorative detail.

The tile was designed by the Martins' daughter, Robyn, and executed by Barbara Vantrease Beall to coordinate with Helen Martin's Royal Copenhagen china and the other blue-and-white accessories displayed in the kitchen. "This is now the room where everyone, guests and family, congregates," Helen Martin says. "And, with all the space available to work, it's easy to get people to volunteer their help. I love my new kitchen--my children and grandchildren love it--and now my husband even comes home for lunch!"

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