Who cooks and eats here: Shawna Mullarkey, her husband, and their three children.
Where: Novato, CA
When I walked into Shawna Mullarkey’s kitchen, I think I audibly gasped. The light floods into the space, illuminating the clean, white walls and custom cabinetry. The chandeliers sparkle (yes, I said chandeliers, plural). A single beam made of reclaimed barn wood punctuates the space with rustic warmth. Antique flea market finds, succulents, and an enviable cutting-board collection, oh my! Can you tell I have a crush on this kitchen? Because, I totally do. A big, fat, dream-kitchen crush.
However, things weren’t always so dreamy. When the Mullarkeys purchased their Novato, California home in 2003, they knew they wanted to transform the space. The home, as purchased, was a combination of dated fixtures and poorly-executed Spanish themes. They really loved the neighborhood and the light the home provided, but decided the fake terra cotta floor tiles had to go, along with almost everything else. This allowed them to design the kitchen of their dreams. Shawna’s sketches became a reality as the renovation was set in motion.
As with most home renovations, the process came with a few challenges. For example, after the kitchen renovation was finished and everything was perfectly in place, they realized one of the kitchen walls blocked their view of the pool. This was potentially dangerous, since the Mullarkey children would probably be spending whole summer days swimming...out of sight. So, they knocked out the troublesome wall and began kitchen renovation part two. "Once we tore down the wall, we had to redo everything all over again," said Shawna. They were able to reuse the kitchen appliances from the first renovation, but as far as everything else it was almost a total redesign.
Secondly, Shawna had envisioned a big pantry, but couldn’t figure out where to fit it. Finally, they were struck by a bit of design genius. The space next to their staircase held an unnecessary coat closet. They were able to knock out the coat closet and create a walk-in pantry in its stead. "I can’t believe it took us so long to figure that out. It’s one of my favorite things," says Shawna. Since the staircase isn’t directly in the kitchen, they designed a creative, rolling, baking cart built out of reclaimed wood. This cart easily shuttles goodies from the pantry into the kitchen.
Not only do they have a gorgeous and functional indoor kitchen, but an incredibly-equipped outdoor kitchen waits just through a pair of double doors. The outdoor kitchen has everything you need to cook a full meal, including burners, warming drawers, a sink, a grill, and their very own pizza oven. "I’m pretty sure I haven’t cooked dinner inside all summer," says Shawna. I can’t blame her. But, when the fall weather hits and the cooking gets moved back inside, I'm pretty sure there’s nothing this family’s gorgeous and functional indoor kitchen can't handle.
Thank you, Shawna for letting us into your home and sharing your space with us!
10 Questions for Shawna (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Simplicity. I keep things rather simple. I don't use lots of ingredients in my cooking and I don't use lots of color in my décor. I do like details, it's all about the materials. When keeping things simple the details matter. Fresh ingredients and don't compromise on materials!
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My pantry. I always wanted a pantry. This house did not have an adequate one and I struggled trying to find a place to add one. I was so excited when I realized I could tuck one under the staircase. The entire family and the neighbor kids really appreciate it. It is now a must-have. I use it for food, drinks and serving pieces. I love it! It was a clever solution that is not only super practical it is also architecturally pleasing.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I don’t have one particular meal that stands out. I just love when our family is together. I have two brothers and they have families. I love when we are all together enjoying each other, yummy food and swimming. Nothing is better.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Time. I am always short on time. I try to come up with meals my family will love but that can be prepared rather quickly. Maybe that is another reason I keep it simple!
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I really wish I put in a bigger refrigerator. We have a broom closet next to the refrigerator which could be easily removed and that would create enough space for a 48 inch refrigerator. That would be my next upgrade. I have three children and more refrigeration would be great.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
My counters. I had my heart set on the Calcutta Statuary marble. I wanted the veining to be in the grey tones but be rather clean rather than lots of veining.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I am happy with my kitchen but I would change out the refrigerator to a bigger model. I would choose a Subzero with glass French doors.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
I am an indoor/outdoor cook. As much as I like my indoor kitchen I am always thinking of meals that lend themselves to my outdoor kitchen. I just love cutting and preparing outside. I always feel like I am in Italy. I love using things I have grown in my garden. We have a big table in the outdoor kitchen so I love when my family is sitting there and I am using the grill and pizza oven. It just feels great!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
My mom is a great cook. My kids and husband love everything she makes. She really loves cooking and it shows because it tastes great. Her love comes through. I think that is the best thing I have ever learned about cooking: enjoy it. I guess that holds true to everything in life. It's all in the attitude.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Fish tacos with my corn and black bean salsa. I'm going to use fresh tomatoes from my garden. A family favorite.
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(Images: Gina Biancaniello)