3 Brilliant Lessons You Should Steal from This Gorgeous, Colorful Kitchen in Northern California

published Jan 29, 2022
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After visiting 34 houses in multiple neighborhoods over the course of two weekends, Breeze Braunschweig and her husband, Kartik Ramachandran, settled on a home in Berkeley, California. “As soon as we walked into this house, we knew it was the one,” says Braunschweig, who moved back to the Golden State after living in Chicago for two years. What sealed the deal was experiencing the gorgeous sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge and the duplex’s expansive view of the San Francisco Bay. “We realized we would never tire of it,” she says of the breathtaking scenery viewed from the deck.

With a career as a general contractor and the owner of a design-build restoration firm called Dogtown Design, Braunschweig saw ways in which she could make the historic home (it was built in 1923) even better. One area she wanted to update was the kitchen. “When it comes to ‘my style,’ it always involves color, and incorporates vintage and antique architectural elements and furnishings. I loved the bones of the Berkeley house and wanted to open it up to that stunning view,” she says.

Breeze Braunschweig in her stunning Berkeley kitchen.

We took the tour, and we were lovestruck by the couple’s creative use of color and vintage elements. We also learned three key kitchen design lessons worth sharing. Follow us, and let’s take a look!

1. Embrace the past.

People say, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” for a reason, advises Braunschweig. “I have a deep love of historic architecture and gravitate toward buildings with an inherent thoughtfulness,” she says, explaining that the couple looks forward to 2023, when the historic home will mark its centennial birthday.

To play up the vintage aesthetic, Braunschweig found an antique O’Keefe & Merritt stove on Craigslist and had the collectible restored by Reliance Appliance. “Every element of the house features something that was found, or fashioned,” says Braunschweig, who loves hanging out in junk shops and admittedly likes “old rusty things.”

She also installed vintage Hungarian pendant lights, originally built for Soviet Block factories, that hang above the concrete kitchen island to echo the historic theme. But perhaps the pièce de résistance is the awning right outside the kitchen doors. Braunschweig says it started as a joke, but she found an aviation salvage yard in Northern California called Faeth Aircraft. “I drove up and brought back a pair of mid-century Cessna Skymaster wings, which now serve as the upstairs awning,” she says.

The most important takeaway? “Mix in the antiques and vintage — things that have a history. They’re typically built to last, add character, and you can pat yourself on the back for reducing that carbon footprint,” she says.

2. Look for design inspiration wherever you go.

The couple credit artist Frida Kahlo’s beautiful Casa Azul in Mexico City as their biggest design inspiration for the home. “We visited while we were working on the house and decided then and there we’d paint her blue,” Braunschweig says of their vibrant exterior color. To echo the blue hue throughout the interior of the home, the couple also picked up shades of the cool color in the kitchen’s Moroccan tile by Martyn Lawrence Bullard and by painting the cabinetry in Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue. That one major design inspiration easily influenced the couple’s other choices, such as in the dining chairs, lighting, and even the cookware collection displayed on the kitchen’s open shelving.

3. Pay attention to the little details.

What brings the house to life and makes living so much more enjoyable are the details, Braunschweig advises. “Every little detail has a story,” she says. “So much of the home is unique — but it’s the small details I love.” For example, Braunschweig notes the dainty star cut-outs in the kitchen cabinets lined with copper mesh and the single, hand-painted tiles that highlight the range hood.

These tiny details are especially memorable to the couple because many were created by people they personally know. “It’s the relationships that I have cultivated with talented artists,” Braunschweig says, explaining that the range hood tile was installed by master builder Agustin Velasquez himself. Even the kitchen’s Waterstone copper faucet is a sight to behold! Says Braunschweig, “It’s your home and a great opportunity to reflect your personality and to surround yourself with things that make you happy.”

Are you inspired by this vibrant kitchen? Tell us what you love in the comments below.