In January of 2018, Christopher Grubb, president/founder of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills, CA, embarked on a complete interior remodel of a 6,500-square-foot residence on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Due to the expansive details to be incorporated, the renovation required a substantial amount of time for design, development and conceptual ideas. At the heart of the project was the transformation of the kitchen, which involved enlarging and brightening the space. Every element in the custom luxury kitchen was hand-detailed with true Old World craftsmanship, with each item shopped in person, according to Grubb, who worked along with contractor Alon Afuta of Major League Builders, as well as consultants Philippa Radon of Philippa Radon Designs and Bryce Amato of Amato Design, LLC on the project. Recently, Grubb took time to share with Contemporary Stone & Tile Design details about the high-end kitchen remodel.
CSTD: Before starting a kitchen remodel such as this one, what are some discussions you have with your client about the design possibilities?
CG: The first thing we do is determine their functional needs and design preferences. Is the kitchen for a family? Do they entertain frequently? Do they need the kitchen to have homework or home office capabilities? So, I determine how much they use their kitchen and the types of meals they typically cook.
I ask the client to pull inspiration of kitchens they like, separately if it is a couple, to see what they have in common and give me a visual of design direction. This gives me a starting point to discuss their design style and their thoughts on materials: Do they want a traditional feel versus something modern? Do they want the overall space to be formal or casual? What are their “likes” when it comes to colors, appliances, countertop materials, floor or backsplash tile, lighting and maintenance? I like to add elements of the “unexpected” into my projects, so I’ll talk to them and get a feel for how open they are to stepping outside of the box and trying new things.
Customization is always an important topic. When it comes to today’s luxury kitchens, customized storage is given a lot of attention. I will even go in and measure what they want to store to be sure we’re creating ample space. I make sure we’ve thought of everything from spices to oils, small appliances, storage containers, cookware, entertaining pieces, dinnerware, flatware etc. What was unique about this project is it is a kosher kitchen so it needed even more attention to function and storage.
As for function, it’s been interesting to see that people have started to ignore the “cooking triangle” rule and use kitchens in a more unique way. This project is an example of that with an oversized island “interrupting” the cooking triangle.
CSTD: How do you go about selecting material for your projects?
CG: As I mentioned prior, I always ask the client to collect inspiration pictures. This helps me determine their likes. For example, do their inspiration images contain natural stone or tile? Is there a specific color that runs through the images they selected? I study these and we work from there to determine what it is that they’re attracted to in the photos. Then I figure out how I can translate that same feeling into their new space.
CSTD: For this particular design, what specific material did you choose? Please explain some reasons for each selection.
CG: The countertops are from Stone Mart in North Hollywood, CA. The client liked green, and this was a stunning special material we found when we shopped in person and the reward is when I hear “We love it.”
The backsplash and tile feature above the stove is from Westside Tile in Los Angeles, CA. We liked the touch of whimsy of the harlequin looking backsplash that accented the formalness of the kitchen in a fun way. The applique above the stove was mostly handmade and colored to complement the countertops.
For the flooring, we chose a tile from Leonardi Almond. Because the kitchen is used so much, a porcelain tile was used for the floor. It has a wider/smaller alternating pattern which gives the room a slight contemporary element, but in the same language of the look and finishes of the kitchen.
“I love natural stone because it adds a sense of luxury no matter the price point,” explained Grubb. “Each slab is one-of-a-kind, which feels special.” Photo @imagineimagery on IG
CSTD: What was the overall design goal for the kitchen remodel?
CG: The family of five living in this Beverly Hills home had several requirements for their kitchen update. Besides aesthetic improvements, the family first desired more space and expanded the house out to the edge of an overhang of the second floor. Inside of the larger footprint, they wanted an expansive island -- an element they didn’t have in the original kitchen. They wanted the space to be more functional and lighter, with slightly off-white cabinetry, to be exact. They entertain a lot, so they wanted lots of space for family and guests, who are often around when food is being prepared. And, since this was to be a kosher kitchen, they required two of most appliances, prep areas and sinks. Another element to the kitchen project involved improving the flow into the adjacent family room. The original layout had a wall that impeded access to the family room. So, in addition to adding square footage, we were also asked to open up the space -- both physically and visually -- with additional windows and higher ceilings. The family’s affinity for classic architectural details dictated a need for elegance, but as a family kitchen, it required other elements that suggest it is a space for casual relaxation as well.
CSTD: What would you say is one of the most memorable aspects of this project in regards to the stone and/or tile work?
CG: It had been a journey finding backsplash tiles that would balance the elegance of the kitchen with the slightly less formal feel. The final tiles had actually been selected before the countertops. Hence, a memorable aspect of the project was that while initial sampling of countertop materials did not resonate with the client, we made the time to shop and hand select materials, eventually finding something that thrilled the client.
Complementing the stone countertops are porcelain floor tiles, which provide the durability necessary for household traffic. Photo @imagineimagery on IG
CSTD: In general, do you often use natural stone in your designs? If so, what are some reasons for doing so?
CG: Absolutely. I love natural stone because it adds a sense of luxury no matter the price point. Each slab is one-of-a-kind, which feels special. I like to use mosaic natural stone as a visual focal point whenever possible because it adds texture and depth to the whole space. Our clients also appreciate and request it, which is proven by the fact that 90% of our bathroom projects in particular incorporate natural stone.
CSTD: Does sustainability play a part in the materials you choose?
CG: Of course, it depends on the project, but this particular kitchen does feature some sustainable elements. One of the most significant environmentally friendly aspects of this kitchen is its use of natural light. By expanding the windows and allowing sunshine to flow inside, the homeowners reduce their need for lights during the daylight hours. But, when lighting is necessary, all task lighting is LED for energy conservation. We used green materials like ceramics and porcelains since they do not contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). They also require far less maintenance than natural stone or wood, and they have a far longer life-cycle. Plus, using smaller tiles instead of large stone slabs, aids in cutting down on fuel consumption. All of the paint we used in the kitchen contains low or no VOCs and all plumbing fixtures adhere to CALGreen low-flow code requirements.
CSTD: Has your approach to a design changed at all through the years?
CG: From day one, my goal has been to create a space as unique as each client. It’s about them and a way for me to use my artistic abilities in a plethora of ways to be successful. That has never changed. What changes are the preferred materials, finishes, “looks” and style people like. This also helps me in my product design efforts too by knowing what “new desires” are being requested. Contemporary has been our clients preference for many years, so this project was a fun way to foster a look in a new fresh way.
“We liked the touch of whimsy of the harlequin looking backsplash that accented the formalness of the kitchen in a fun way,” said the designer. “The applique above the stove was mostly handmade and colored to complement the countertops.” Photo @imagineimagery on IG
CSTD: What are some of the current trends you are seeing in kitchen and bath designs?
CG: Oversized windows are big now. Quite literally! We’re even using them in the bathroom thanks to technology and the ability to incorporate exterior motorized shades and elements like Switch Glass for privacy. We spend a lot of attention on details that help us bring the sunlight in.
Integrating appliances into cabinetry is another huge movement. I’ve been saying for a few years now that we’re all getting “stainless steel fatigue.” So, adding panels to blend the refrigerator and the dishwasher in with the cabinets is very common. Hiding them in plain sight also helps to create the illusion of more space.
Another concept we’re seeing more and more in the kitchen is split finishes. Whether it’s different uppers and lowers or the perimeter cabinets are a different color than the island, mixing up colors and finishes is one way to really create a one-of-a-kind look.
Before the pandemic, we had been removing the old school desk in the kitchen, whether physically or in concept. Instead, we added elements to the island that would replace the original intent of the desk and make it a “home office” with file drawers, pencil drawers, a space for a printer and full access to electrical and data. This works wonderfully post-pandemic in work-from-home situations.