The winner of the Remodelista Considered Design Awards Best Amateur-Designed Kitchen is Maya Ivanir of Los Angeles.
Her project was chosen as a finalist by guest judges John and Juli Baker, who said: "The tile work in this kitchen is really impressive—it becomes more of a textured wall than just a backsplash. We also like the repurposed island with drawers; it was a nice solution to have some additional closed space available in an open kitchen."
Take a look at the project and read what Ivanir has to say about planning the kitchen around her entertaining needs, and working with her designer/contractor dream team.
N.B.: This is one of a series of posts spotlighting the winners of the Remodelista Considered Design Awards. We're featuring the final three projects this week. Go to the 2014 Considered Design Awards to see all the entries, finalists, and winners. And have a look at the winners of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards.
Photographs by Itay Gross.
Maya Ivanir's Design Statement: The kitchen is the center of our home and our family life. When the Realtor showed us what was then a two-unit fixer-upper, the first thing I imagined was the dining table. The rest of the house came together based on that.
Q: ￼Where do you live?
A: In Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, with my husband, Mark, and our kids, Daniella, 13, and Sasha, 9, and our dog, Anita. I truly love Silver Lake—it has a small-town feel, surrounded by everything you could ever want in a big city. People are eclectic and creative. I often walk into someone's store, studio, or house and feel positive creative envy.
Our house sits on one of the Silver Lake hills overlooking the Hollywood sign, the observatory, Griffith Park, Burbank, Glendale, Mount Washington, Eagle Rock, and Pasadena. Before the drought, we could even see snowy mountains from afar. With this kind of view, all you need are big windows. Any design element is secondary.
Q: What were your practical goals for the project?
A: The kitchen was part of a much bigger renovation project in which we gutted a duplex and turned it into one house. We kept only the exterior walls, wonderful windows, and what was left of the original hardwood floors. We basically started with a blank canvas. I was blessed with a dream team for this project. Contractor Yehuda Arad and his wife, Varda Stern, held our hands every step of the way. They introduced us to architect Ronni Levy, who was open to a nontraditional way of doing things, leaving the design and planning parts to us, and supporting us with drafting, structural engineering, and permits. Much of the designing happened “on the job" and got worked out by Yehuda and me. It's rare to find a contractor who is a creative partner and is as generous and skillful as Yehuda and his crew.
Q: What solutions did you find to your design problems?
A: The first thing I knew about the house was that the kitchen and all the public areas had to be open, allowing unobstructed views to the outside. I wanted a big, long dining table in the middle of the space, and I wanted a kitchen where I could really cook. Since I'm not a very tidy person—I'm a collector of kitchen gadgets and tableware, and am constantly cooking and entertaining—an open plan is actually not ideal for me. I don't think a kitchen needs to always look like it’s been staged for a magazine, but I do feel that this level of openness requires some type of minimalism and mega-organization.
The first solution was a big pantry—almost a service kitchen—where I keep an extra fridge and everything that's not in use daily. I do regret not having room for an extra sink in there, but I recently added one outside by the barbecue that serves a similar purpose. The second solution was spending a lot of time planning storage and work surfaces so everything would have a place. For instance, I made sure our coffee-making area is near where spoons and mugs are stored. Who sets the table for dinner? Plates should be stored where that person can easily reach them. When having a party, where will drinks be served? That's where wine glasses should be. Where will the dessert be served? Where's a good place for a buffet? The more questions asked, the better. I think this is even more relevant to low-budget small kitchens. Good planning is one of the most affordable ways to make your kitchen great.
Q: What was your biggest splurge?
A: The yellow BlueStar range. It was a gift for my fortieth birthday. I'm not big on pricey things—I like quality, but it doesn't have to be pricey. I'm obsessed with finding deals, though I'm happy to spend money on things that are handmade and you can see and feel the love and imagination that went into producing them.
Q: What advice do you have for someone else undertaking a similar project?
A: If you don't have the budget for your "dream whatever," still let yourself dream it, plan your dream, and then, based on that plan, do what you can afford. Spend on structure and infrastructure: floors, tile, cabinets, work surfaces, and fixtures. Worry less about furniture, appliances, and decoration—those are easy to replace or do gradually. Things don't have to be perfect on move-in day. There are advantages to "making" a space while living in it.
Q: What is your day job?
A: I'm a full-time mom and homemaker (I've literally made every home we ever owned). But it's an ever-changing, very dynamic job description. Recently, as our family needs change, I've been "moonlighting" doing other things. I'm ready for the next step.
I'm excited to be making homes for other people. I've also started, with my partner, Noran Wolfson, a community-based flower studio, and we're happy to be able to collaborate with the wonderful nonprofit Enrich LA, which builds edible gardens in schools and underserved LA neighborhoods.
Q: ￼Which architects or designers do you admire?
A: I have very eclectic taste, which is why I love Los Angeles. I admire Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Locally, I like Neutra and Schindler, along with the more contemporary works of Barbara Bestor.
Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?
A: Everywhere. I make notes or take pictures of spaces that make me happy and calm—museums, yoga studios, treehouses, a certain temple we visited on our trip to Thailand, etc.—and then I try to re-create the feeling in my spaces. It doesn't, and sometimes shouldn't, look similar; it’s just the feeling.
Q: What projects would you tackle if you had an unlimited budget?
A: If I could, I would live in more than one home and constantly be changing something. I'm one of those crazy people who loves having handy-women/men around all the time. I love the sounds of ￼tools and the smell of paint and wood. I wish I had the skills to do those things myself, but unfortunately, I don't have it in me. I like watching the concrete being poured, the wood being sanded, and imagining what could be next.
Q: What is your favorite local shop?
A: The Los Feliz–Silver Lake–Echo Park area is booming with small shops. I make a point to shop locally and support small businesses in my community. Small businesses can dare to imagine and be creative, and they inspire a fresh and local lifestyle.
It's hard to choose one favorite shop. I love Skylight Books in Los Feliz for inspiration. Cookbook in Echo Park and McCall's in Los Feliz for food. Reform School and Yolk in Silver Lake for crafty design stuff and just the brightness. Well's Antique Tile in Echo Park for unique handcrafted vintage tiles. I went there for my kitchen and found the triangle tiles in gray and yellow that became the color scheme for my kitchen.
Q: What is your best secret design source?
A: Thrift and architectural salvage stores. We also travel a lot as a family, so I always have my phone full of photos of things I like. Then I look for them at thrift stores. I like found things with a history and a story way more than expensive designer objects.
Q: What is your next project?
A: I'm about to start a renovation project in Eagle Rock and I can't wait to be working with my dream team again. I'm excited for the opportunity to create practical, fun, and bright spaces for other people—I hope next time I submit a space to the Remodelista contest, it will be in the professional category.
Congratulations to Maya Ivanir! See all of the winners of the 2014 Remodelista Considered Design Awards here: