Dreamy with Postwar Pizzazz

SoCal MCM shines anew following owners' period-sensitive renewal of its 1960 kitchen
Fridays on the Homefront
If you're looking to get the most out of your existing galley kitchen space, then the kitchen renewal (above) of homeowners Deb Smith and Goli Karimi, now in full bloom after a long-awaited TLC upgrade, may be all the inspiration you need. "I love the color and the beautiful [cabinet wood] grain," says Smith. "It goes so nicely with our mid-century modern furniture." Photo: Deb Smith

Step into a handcrafted, richly wooded kitchen with turquoise accents, custom starburst tile backsplash, luminous white Italian glass countertops, and top-of-the-line appliances, and you'll feel like you're being seduced by a mid-century modern dream.

That's how we felt. So impressed by the kitchen we recently visited inside an Altadena MCM home, we felt compelled to show it off as renewal inspiration for our Eichler and Streng followers, especially for those looking to get the most out of their existing galley kitchen spaces.

The Altadena home's owners, Deb Smith and Goli Karimi, are as thrilled as us about their new kitchen, now in full bloom after a long-awaited TLC upgrade. "I love the color and the beautiful [cabinet wood] grain," says Smith. "It goes so nicely with our mid-century modern furniture."

Karimi, an interior designer for the Los Angeles design-build company Home Front Build, and Smith, an avid mid-century enthusiast and photographer, merged their considerable design skills to bring the kitchen project together, one of the final home renovation tasks on their to-do list.

Fridays on the Homefront
The home's new kitchen cabinets are constructed of 'Sapele,' a type of wood in the mahogany family. Photo: Deb Smith

After purchasing their home in 1994, the couple discovered that it was designed and built by Gisela Meier, an artist born in Zurich, Switzerland, for the home's first owner, Roy Chadoury, a USC professor, in 1960.

Meier's keen interest in design began in the early 1920s, when she took a class in Paris from the accomplished architect and industrial designer Karl 'Kem' Weber, a visiting professor. Meier became so intrigued by Weber's designs that she later moved from Switzerland to Southern California, where Weber had been living.

"Basically," as Smith recalls, "Meier arrived, knocked on Weber's door, and announced, 'You said if I was ever here...well, here I am!'"

Soon afterwards Meier was hired and mentored by Weber, and then continued her career designing and building homes in Pasadena, La Canada, and surrounding areas.

"It's amazing that Meier did all of this, all of the drafting as well as her own construction drawings," Smith says. "She had a contractor's license but was self-taught—not an architect or schooled in architecture and design. I think she did a great job with the site planning and orientation on our house."

Gisela Meier, designer and builder of the Smith-Karimi home. Photo: courtesy George Fleckenstein archive

In order for Smith and Karimi to devise an updated design for their compact, 150-square-foot galley kitchen, creative planning was required. "We're on a very narrow lot, approximately 220 feet deep by 50 feet wide," Karimi explains, "and have a fireplace in the living room, so we couldn't really expand the kitchen in any way."

By taking the laundry out of the kitchen; reworking the cooktop, cleaning, and food prep zones; they were able to come up with a more attractive and functional space.

A six-burner Viking gas cooktop replaced their previous four-burner model. "We also chose a Viking electric oven with an analog clock as a 'nod to mod,'" says Smith, "and appliances that are structurally retro-looking in order to keep the modern look."

To give a finished appearance to the install, the oven was mounted in a cabinet that was custom made by a local cabinet shop.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Thermador refrigerator installed within Sapele cabinetry panels. Photo: Adriene Biondo

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