I met Dakota Witzenburg a few years ago at a friend's store. He is a wonderful cabinet and furniture maker (co-owner of todosomething, based in Los Angeles) with an incredible eye for design! And I just found out that he loves to bake, especially his grandmother's secret pie recipes. He has my dream kitchen, a kitchen which he built himself. It's a beautiful blend of modern and traditional — with unexpected green cabinets!
There is definitely something charming about a man who loves to spend hours in the kitchen baking. I tried to get a glimpse of the secret pie recipe, but he told me, "It's actually a pretty simple recipe, but some things are best left as a secret."
I left before he finished making the whole pie (but I will have to request it when I photograph his entire home for an Apartment Therapy house tour in a few weeks).
10 Questions for Dakota (and His Kitchen)
1. What was the inspiration behind your kitchen design?
A lot of the inspiration comes from Shaker furniture and cabinetry. In coming up with the design, I wanted something that was modern, but fit with the architecture of the house. Our house was built in 1938 and making a kitchen that was too modern just didn't seem right. I also didn't want it to be boringly traditional either. I think it bridges the gap between those two worlds well.
On a functional level, I wanted to use the Shaker adage of "a place for everything and everything in its place." I don't like a lot of clutter and tried to put as much as I could behind doors. I think all the doors and drawers are beautiful and it makes the overall look more dynamic. There are a few places for very specific things and I think it adds to the playfulness of the kitchen without being too gimmicky. There is a cabinet for the dish soap and a drawer for bottle openers. All these touches add to the custom tailored feel of the space. There is a place for everything (almost) and it works great.
2. I LOVE your green kitchen. It is such an unexpected and nice surprise. What are some tips for making green work in a kitchen?
The color is called Verdigris and its from Benjamin Moore. I think if you limit the overall palette, you can get away with a color some might consider atypical. It also depends how much is going on in the kitchen. We began with the black Richlite countertops and carried the black into the tile and grout. I'm not a huge fan of countertops or tile that get too busy. There are other touches of black and white with the refrigerator, stove, sink, and trim. It sounds like there is a lot going on, but it seems to work. Basically, keep it simple.
3. Another unexpected design element is the use of flat paint on the cabinetry. What was the thought process behind using a flat paint?
Well, I just like the look of flat paint and to me it's a more natural finish. I like that it draws in light rather than reflects it. In kitchens, it's typical to use a paint with more sheen because it offers, perhaps, more protection in the long run. The paint we ended up using is a super durable "milk paint" from General Finishes (color is from Benjamin Moore) and I believe it will last a long time. However, I also don't mind seeing the patina that comes from use over time. It should weather like a well-made piece of furniture.
4. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Worked faster. I made everything for this kitchen and looking back at it, that seems a little crazy. I made some of the flooring from the old cabinet doors and the bead boards from the old cabinets and shelves. Partly for eco-friendliness of it, partly because I wanted that handmade look to the kitchen.
I also made the windows and Dutch door, not just installed them. Part of it was to save money, but it was also to see if I could do it. I knew the basics of door and window making and I found this old book called the "Handbook of Doormaking, Windowmaking, and Staircasing" by Anthony Talbot. Its a lost art that many people, including myself, don't normally have time for. But, I really wanted to do it.
5. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
We're not much for big indulgences. However, the dual drawer dishwasher from Fisher Paykel would probably fall into that category if we had to choose something. It was one of the shallower dishwashers on the market and the custom fronts make it basically invisible. It's also an energy efficient model and we like that we can run smaller loads if necessary.
6. What inspires your cooking?
I really like food. Ultimately, eating is the inspiration. I also like the process of cooking though and if I could spend all day preparing and cooking to eat some big wonderful meal at the end of the day with friends and family, that would be great. We do that occasionally, but I don't spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like to.
7. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
8. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I would have to say our French press coffee maker. Next to the stove, it gets the most use of all the tools we have in the kitchen. It's simple and easy to clean. I look forward to coffee every single morning.
Well, I probably don't remember the exact meal, but I remember being very happy that everything was working the way we wanted it to. Before the remodel, there was a wall separating the kitchen from the dining and living space. Removing the wall and creating the island in the middle really helped unify the space to make it a more enjoyable cooking experience. We could actually talk to each other while preparing the food. Before, as people tend to gravitate towards the kitchen at parties or dinners, it was impossible not to get in the way of what was going on. It works.
9. How would you describe your cooking style?
I would describe it in a similar way to the furniture and cabinetry I like to design. Simple methods using the best ingredients should produce a quality meal.
10. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
"Try it, you'll like it."
Resources of Note:
- Cabinetry and Millwork: Dakota himself (see his company website here: todosomething)
- Countertops: 1-inch Richlite, maple butcher block
- Tile: Lush 1x2 glass subway tile Modwalls
- Dishwasher: Fisher Paykel Dual Dish Drawer
- Stove: O'Keefe & Merritt Antique Stove
- Range Hood: Fujioh
- Paint on Cabinets: "Milk Paint" from General Finishes, Color is "Verdigris" from Benjamin Moore Natura Line
(Images: Marcia Prentice)