Los Angeles-based interior designer Shalena Smith, founder of Shalena Smith Interiors, is often referred to as the “designer for the stars.” Initially, Smith focused on interiors for children under Gaga Designs, then expanded her offering to encompass whole-home and commercial design.
Smith provides her services to clients worldwide, with a roster of celebrity clientele that includes the likes of Mariah Carey, Sean Combs (a.k.a., P Diddy), Heidi Klum, LL Cool J, Tamera Mowry Housley and Mark Paul Gosselaar, to name a few.
So, what happened when this celebrity designer set out to remodel her Los Angeles area home?
Like many homes in the Los Angeles area, Smith’s residence is a 1970s Mediterranean style single-family home. The 2,800-square-foot space had undergone a prior renovation in the early 2000s. And, while it had great bones, it needed a modern makeover.
As the heart of the home, the 250-square-foot kitchen was an integral part of the renovation. Fortunately, the existing cabinetry was high quality and could be repurposed with the simple addition of a new coat of paint. Overall, however, the kitchen was dark and drab, and the layout didn’t make the best use of the space when it came to organization and functionality. In Smith’s words, “It just didn’t feel right.”
Smith applied the tenets of her well-honed design philosophy when updating her own home. The designer put into practice her belief that a home must be well organized, functional and safe before aesthetics come into play. She is a staunch believer in incorporating design elements that complement a homeowner’s lifestyle rather than opting for what is trendy or popular at the moment.
While most of us instinctively dislike clutter, it may actually be unhealthy to the human mind. A 2017 study published in Current Psychology found a link between clutter and procrastination in multiple age groups. The study also showed that “messes” more negatively impact women, who reacted to clutter by producing higher levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
Smith didn’t need a clinical diagnosis when it came to making sure her family’s updated kitchen was streamlined and organized. To provide more visual space, she removed the existing L-shaped peninsula, which had been added during the previous remodel, and replaced it with a larger island. The deep cabinets underneath added significantly more storage space. In addition, the island also houses the microwave, which helps to keep the countertops clutter-free.
A busy family of four requires a kitchen that meets the needs of all family members. And, in most families, countertops are one of the most utilized components in the kitchen. Smith selected Vadara® Marbella quartz for the kitchen’s surface areas and backsplash. Vadara is her go-to brand for quartz due to the product’s artisan-crafted appearance, high quality, broad offering of colors and textures, and great customer experience.
The island was wired so the family could remain “connected” while in the kitchen. In fact, the new island quickly became a mainstay for homework and surfing the Internet. Smith’s daughters even deemed it their personal café, and the family often enjoys dance parties in the newly opened up space.
Tenet: Safety & Wellness
Regardless of the ages of family members, Smith understands that safety should always be at the forefront of kitchen design. She followed all safety protocols, such as installing proper lighting, ensuring code adherence when it came to ADA walkways and placement of electrical outlets, and using skid-resistant flooring.
Moreover, she also kept wellness top of mind when updating the kitchen. Interior design focused on creating wellness within the home has been gaining popularity for a while, and the recent pandemic only accelerated the practice. One reason Smith decided to specify quartz for the countertops and backsplashes was its intrinsic nonporous attributes. The ability to keep surfaces germ-free is more important now than ever before. Because quartz does not have crevices or cavities, it can be easily sanitized, leaving no place for germs and bacteria to hide.
Biophilic design also played a role in the wellness aspect of the remodel. The inclusion of natural elements within a space has been shown to increase an occupant’s connection with nature, which can positively affect cognitive function, physical health and psychological well-being.
Elements of this nature-oriented design approach are captured throughout the kitchen. The subtle intricate veining in the quartz provides the same sense of movement as marble, while the flooring and island surround infuse the space with the warmth of wood.
Once Smith’s other tenets had been incorporated into the kitchen design, it was time to address aesthetics. The designer’s approach is to fully understand each client’s lifestyle and tastes to design a visually pleasing space.
Like most Americans, the designer spent a good deal of time confined to her home due to the pandemic. The stay-at-home experience gave her the time to really focus on the design needs for her own home. It didn’t take her long to realize that the kitchen’s “dowdiness” was not working for her family.
The completed remodel provided a clean and crisp look, with a bit of understated glamour sprinkled throughout. The addition of simple items like the pendant lights and sconces -- Smith equates lighting to a room’s earrings -- helped to bring a sense of subtle sophistication to the kitchen. The quartz countertops and backsplash offered an artistic and whimsical feel due to the color variation and dynamic movement of the veining, while the wood elements grounded the space.
As a sought-after interior designer, Smith never seemed to have time to practice her craft in her own residence. The pandemic-forced lockdown allowed her to realize that her family and their home deserved the benefit of her talent.
Indeed, the transformation has made a lasting positive impact on the family’s lifestyle, including increasing time spent together along with bringing a feeling of rejuvenation and safety. Smith has even started to get more creative with her cooking. When asked how a homeowner without a celebrity budget can make their home feel like a million dollars, Smith advised, “Hire an interior designer who knows the tips and tricks of the trade.”