Casual simplicity is the glue

When Melissa Cobb set out to build a new kitchen, she wanted the Silver Lake house — built in 1939 and traditional in style — to feel updated in a subtly modern way.

"It's always so interesting to blend modern and traditional," said Cobb, a producer at DreamWorks whose credits include "Kung Fu Panda" and its sequel, due out this month.

With the help of architect Alice Kimm of Los Angeles-based John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, Cobb does have her new airy kitchen, outdoor patio and adjacent bathroom-laundry room that feel modern yet don't clash with the rest of the house. It was a feat accomplished in large part through architect and client's mutual focus on simplicity.

"It is calming for me to have things simple with clean lines," Cobb said.

Simple details include a soothing wall of light-green back-painted glass, dark gray concrete flooring that can handle wet feet coming from the pool and a light-colored CaesarStone countertop that extends to an outdoor bar (seen on Page E1). Stainless-steel appliances, including an elegant Italian-made Bertazzoni stove, are left exposed — not sheathed in wood facades — adding to the kitchen's simplicity.

Aluminum Fleetwood sliding doors and windows open to a patio. Kimm created several seating areas where guests can congregate, including the kitchen's main dining area, an outdoor dining area, a fire pit and the bar, which cantilevers from a pass-through to the kitchen.

Striking teak cabinets with matching grain — including one entire wall of full-height storage — were custom built by Cobb's brother-in-law, Bruce Erickson. Working alone, Erickson measured the kitchen in its rough stages in Los Ange-les, built the cabinets at home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., then disassembled them and drove them back to Los Angeles, where he installed them in a week.

"There was only piece that didn't fit, and I couldn't believe it," Kimm said, laughing. "That was amazing!"

The back-painted tempered glass backsplash, a popular trend of late, helps the 400-square-foot addition feel larger. Cobb also likes that it's low maintenance.

"There are no grout lines," she said. "It is easy to clean, and it flows with the windows."

Kimm views the backsplash as an ever-changing canvas.

"It's like looking at a different painting every day with its reflections of the trees and the clouds," she said.

This is a kitchen designed with efficiency also in mind. Cobb, who loves to entertain, wanted the island to be a work-only area. No seating here.

"If people sit at the island, then they don't sit at the dining room table," she said. "I wanted people to sit down at the table and eat rather than sit around the counter."

Not everything, however, is clean and simple: A full-length chalkboard is a fun contrast to the green glass on the opposing wall. It's also a great organizational tool for the busy mother of Lena, 10.

"It's a big space for school papers and artwork and writing things down," Cobb said. "We use it all the time."

The chalkboard is a quarter-inch-thick piece of magnetic material mounted to the wall, an approach that Kimm prefers over chalkboard paint for its durability. Like the kitchen cabinets, the chalkboard wraps around a corner wall.

"When I can, I like to give things a more three-dimensional presence," the architect said. "It ties things together and adds a sculptural element."

The space also benefits from a 3-by-6-foot skylight, which Kimm said is an inexpensive way to bring in sunlight.

"It's always nice to bring light in from more than one wall," the architect said. "Top light is the best light. At night you can use it as a big lantern."

In the end, Cobb said the mash-up of modern and traditional works. The kitchen feels distinctive yet blends in with the rest of the house.

"It never makes sense to do something completely traditional when you are talking about big glass doors opening to the outside," Kimm said.

Cobb is happy.

"It's such a pretty, sunny room, bright and comfortable," she said. "You can hang out here forever while the kids run in and out."

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