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Elevated above the sea, this beach house has a galley-style kitchen with wide ocean views

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Beachside living is synonymous with a casual lifestyle. Not surprisingly, this is often reflected in the architecture. Light, airy spaces that flow freely from the indoors to the outdoors are part of the beach house vernacular.

In keeping with the relaxed nature of such homes, the kitchen has a pivotal role to play, and is frequently part of a large great room.

This tropical plantation house in California is a good example. The kitchen is part of a large, open-plan family area on the top floor – the level that offers the best ocean views.

Architect Grant Kirkpatrick of KAA Architects describes the design as an inverted floor plan. This places all the living areas and verandahs on the top floor, with bedrooms on the second story and garaging and a beach room at ground level.

Kirkpatrick says the design needed to merge two distinct styles – the traditional Nantucket clapboard-and-shingle beach house, and the more relaxed coastal architecture of the West Coast.

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"The family areas needed to be as open and flowing as possible, with no enclosed spaces," he says. "To this end, the white-painted wood ceiling covers the entire third story and helps create the sense that the space is even larger than it really is.The kitchen forms part of this space, and is not hidden or tucked away from view."

Owner, interior designer Suzanne Ascher, says the interior needed to be timeless and welcoming.

"We wanted the house to look as though it had been here a long time – and would look even better in another 20 years," she says. "It was also vital that the interior not detract from the spectacular view, so we have eliminated as much clutter from the kitchen as possible."

In keeping with these ideals, and to ensure the kitchen is an integral part of the overall space, the white-painted cabinetry has a furniture look. It features traditional beadboard wood paneling, and simple Shaker-style doors and drawers with old-fashioned bin pulls. Painted mouldings, cased beams and tongue-and-groove siding further enhance the simple palette in the room.

To contrast the matte painted finishes, Carrara marble was specified for countertops, and white subway tiles feature on the backsplash.

"Although there is a lot of white, we wanted to avoid a monotonous look," says Kirkpatrick. "Introducing different textures, such as the glossy tiles, creates interesting shadows and reflections."

The kitchen has a galley layout, with the main work areas and twin sinks on a long island, facing the view.

"Standing at the island is like being on the helm of a ship at sea," says Kirkpatrick. "The long buffet-style counter is also a very social space – ideal for the family, and entertaining."

Ascher says she introduced black bar stools, and black-and-white fabrics to make a strong contrast to the white walls and cabinetry.

"Every room needs a touch of black to bring it to life," she says. "Here, the very dark wood floor also provides a good contrast."

Black mismatched dining chairs continue the look, and reinforce the casual, laid-back beach lifestyle. The only other prominent color in the room is blue, which features on cushions, small appliances and the painted dining table.

"This is a very tropical shade, chosen to enhance the view of the Pacific Ocean and the sky above," says Ascher.

As well as the casual seating in the great room, Ascher has added a day bed, positioned to capture the view. And, like most Californian beach houses, there is an easy flow outdoors, to a verandah and an outdoor room, complete with open fireplace, bench seating and plumped-up cushions.

First published date: 04 May 2005

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Credit List

Architect Grant Kirkpatrick, AIA, ASLA, KAA Design Group (Los Angeles)
Interior designer SEA Design
Kitchen manufacturer Custom Cabinets
Cabinets Painted white
Countertops Carrara marble
Flooring Brazilian cherry, stained Ebony
Tiling Sonoma Tilemaker
Bar stools SEA Design
Lighting School House pendants
Backsplash Subway tiles
Sink Elkay stainless steel
Faucets Barbara Wilson polished chrome
Oven, cooktop and ventilation Viking
Microwave Kitchen Aid
Refrigerator Sub-Zero
Dishwasher Miele