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Terrifically Tuscan

Newhall home features a classy remodeled kitchen with an Italian flair

Posted: August 15, 2008 7:18 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2008 5:03 a.m.

John Dow poses in his European Modern Villa-themed kitchen. The granite countertops are a special junipero granite embedded with quartz and garnet.

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When John and Michelle Dow decided to remodel the kitchen of their Newhall home they thought back fondly on their travels through Europe.

"Michelle and I really enjoy food and wine, and when we were involved in management consulting we traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad," said John Dow. "We love art, so we would check out the local art museums and ask the locals where to eat - so we could sample authentic cuisine of the area."

Dow said when it came time for the necessary kitchen remodel the couple decided to incorporate design elements discovered during their travels.

In addition, the couple love to entertain so the kitchen had to serve a dual purpose as a functional and an entertainment kitchen.

An entertainment kitchen
"We love to entertain and hang out in a casual fashion with our friends," Dow said. "That was the key to the design. We wanted a warm, entertaining space. We want to be the house on the street where our door is always open and people can drop by and hang out, watch a game and have a bite."

Dow is a avid USC fan - and a college football fan in general.

"I'll sit and watch eight straight hours of college football," he said.

However, Dow also enjoys cooking - and this is a cook's kitchen.

"I'm fortunate that my wife allowed me to design most of the kitchen, the only thing she wanted input on was the sink," Dow said. "We have a pretty cool sink, the new porcelain sink is probably two to three times the depth of the old sink. You can literally take all of your dishes and put them in the sink and no one will see them."

For the kitchen redo Dow worked with Sue Manghelli, a kitchen designer, of Suloma Kitchen and Bath in Sunland.

Top of the line appliances
The custom kitchen features high end professional Viking appliances including a large stainless steel refrigerator/freezer, a large warming drawer and a 60-inch gas range with dual convection ovens and a six burner cook top with grill.

The stainless steel Bosch dishwasher is eerily quiet. It projects a small red dot of light on the floor - so the homeowners know when it is running.

"This has to be the world's quietest dishwasher," Dow said.

One of Dow's favorite kitchen appliances is the commercial exhaust hood he had installed over the cook top.

"This thing is like a jet engine, turn it on and the trees blow in my neighbor's yard," Dow said.

The "must have" exhaust hood required extensive remodeling of the home's central HVAC ducts - which caused the remodel to extend into the dining room.

"Once we started, the project just started growing," he said.

The kitchen, which is open to the family room by design, is painted a warm yellow and finished with a light brown glaze to give the room that Tuscan patina feel.

Welcome to the Tuscan villa
"The overall design theme for the kitchen was a modern, Tuscan villa," Dow said. "We've all seen this yellow patina that makes you think ‘Old World.' It's a look that reminds me of Tuscany in the summer. I love the glaze, that's what gives the walls the highlights and depth."

The custom maple cabinets are topped with a handcarved wood border of grapes, leaves and vines - a theme that resonates throughout the kitchen.

Whimsical cabinet drawer pulls of grapes - and another set that features a wine bottle, wine glass, martini shaker and martini glass - reflect the Dow's welcoming sense of humor.

Above the sink, a small hand-painted mural of wine grapes, leaves and vines surrounds the quote: "Wine is sunlight held together by water," courtesy of the 17th century Italian astronomer Galileo.

Another quote (courtesy of Virginia Woolf), over the door to the living room spells out the Dow's philosophy: "One can not think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well."

A love of art
The Dow's love of art is reflected in two original artworks that are incorporated into the design of the kitchen - a cement wall motif of a bowl of grapes and an original artwork commissioned by Dow on the wall behind the cook top.

"I found a classical period photo that I liked and worked with a graphic designer to change it up a bit," Dow said. "The art features a warrior, a goddess and several cherubs and I added items like a menu, salt, wooden spoon and rolling pin. We have grapes represented because we like wine and the roses are in the painting because I have an extensive rose garden."

Dow said an artist hand painted the work onto the 4-inch travertine tile squares behind the cook top.

"This was like buying an original painting that we could hang in the kitchen, but it is part of the kitchen and will stay with the house," he said.

It should be noted that the figures in the work bear an uncanny resemblance to John, Michelle and their five-year-old son, Jackson.

The kitchen also sports travertine tile floors and backsplash. Tiny red and gold glass tiles are arranged in groups of 16 and inlaid among the travertine on the walls as a decorative accent.

The Junipero granite countertops could be considered art in and of themselves.

"Most people like a smooth and uniform pattern when selecting granite, but we picked granite with a lot of movement in it," Dow said. "The granite is embedded with quartz and large fields of garnet and rough spots of natural rock. The great thing is that when you spill something you can't really see it. The bad thing is when you put your hand in it because you don't see it."

Another work of art, a stained glass window crafted by Santa Clarita Valley artist Peggy
Erickson features wine grapes, leaves, vines and grass - as well as a hint of a gazebo. The custom work is inset in the exterior wall between kitchen and living room.

The refreshment bar
When Dow cooks his friends gather - and that often caused a bit of a traffic jam in the old kitchen.

A large island was added as a divider between the kitchen and the family room - allowing guests to still converse with the cook, without being in his way. Fluted, mottled red and yellow cafe lights hang above the island.

A "refreshment bar" solved the problem of guests foraging for ice, drinks or coffee in the kitchen. The beveled glass cabinet doors hold all of the refreshment glasses for wine, beer and mixed drinks. On the counter the Iceman Ultra and the Saico Vienna espresso maker allow guests to serve themselves. Under the counter, the 24-bottle Viking professional wine refrigerator keeps white wine and champagne at the ready.

"One of my favorites is the Iceman, it offers ice, shaved ice and water," Dow said. "We use the sink to keep water and sodas available for guests. We'll also put out a plate of hors d'oeuvres when we're entertaining."

Wine grotto
Adjacent to the kitchen the former bar area has been transformed into a "wine grotto."

"We added hand cut travertine stone to the walls and an arch to resemble a European wine grotto," said Dow. "We also added hand-carved, custom cabinet doors that tell a story and beveled glass shelving."

Approaching the wine grotto - which serves as an entry to the kitchen - travertine stone has been "coined" onto the adjacent wall to add "perspective." A small trapezoid "keystone" rests atop of the arch.

"If this was really an arch there would be a keystone, so we had one put in," Dow said.

The carved panels feature a worker picking grapes and bring them to the god of wine - Bacchus - with the inscription "In wine there is truth." The second panel depicts a worker with wine, the third a worker stomping grapes and in the last panel a pot-bellied fryer jealously guards the wine as another man begs for a glass.

"This is a great space when we're entertaining," Dow said. "We'll light some candles, put a bottle of wine on the counter and snacks."

Dow said the entire project took nearly six months.

"We took the entire kitchen and family room down to the slab, it was a lot of work, but we love the result," he said.

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