If you assumed this kitchen belonged in an 18th-century chateau in the south of France you’d be mistaken but understandably so. You might be surprised to learn that the kitchen is attached to an estate built in the 21st century that is perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The room’s remarkable resemblance to an authentic Provencal kitchen from another era was achieved through close collaboration between the designer and homeowners. Kitchen designer Bruce Colucci of Le Gourmet Kitchen, Orange, California, was hired by the homeowner not only for his design experience, but also his passion for cooking—a passion the homeowner shares as well. “Cooking is a form of meditation for me, especially if it’s in a beautiful, well-designed, well-equipped kitchen,” the homeowner says.
Bruce developed a close relationship with the clients during the project and considers it among his favorites of his 35-year career. Many times a casual conversation would lead to a collaborative effort on a design element. “Understanding how a client cooks and lives in their space determines the direction of the design. The kitchen has to reflect the lifestyle of the client,” he says. “My vision was to make it functional regardless of whether the homeowner was cooking for the family or a large gathering. It is designed to accommodate both. It can expand or contract based on the need,” he says. “A residential kitchen is very much like a restaurant and has to function in the same way.”
The homeowners spend much of their time in the south of France, so they wanted their California kitchen to be an accurate reflection of French Provencal design. “The goal of the project was to recreate the authenticity of the kitchen design found in the south of France through the architecture and furnishings,” Bruce says. “There’s an art to creating a design that looks authentic rather than contrived.”
KEYS TO THE KITCHEN
Bruce conducted extensive research on homes in the south of France to determine the essential design elements. “The woodwork needs to be distressed using a slightly chipped paint finish to look like it’s been around for a long time,” he says. “Blending vibrant and subtle hues is important. Mixing patterns is important as well for a casual, effortless look. The use of pleated fabrics to hide storage and keep dust off the dishes is a classic element of French country style.”
The ceiling heights and architectural design of the 400-square-foot kitchen lent themselves to open shelves rather than high cabinets for a casual, comfortable ambience. The homeowner displays his culinary accessories, clay pots and canisters on the shelves. Among the homeowners’ favorite aspects of the kitchen are the upper windows for natural light, marble backsplash design, glass cabinets, open shelving and the range hood Bruce designed. “The hood looks like a fireplace hearth,” the homeowner says. Bruce’s favorite kitchen elements include the cooking ensemble, the range hood and the open shelves above the cooktop. “Although this kitchen is 16 years old, it still looks beautiful and new,” he says. “Good design is timeless. It’s comfortable, and you can look around and reminisce about travels. It’s so much more than a kitchen.”
Best Budget Ideas for a French Country Transformation
If your wallet won’t allow a complete French country kitchen makeover, here are a few ways you can add French flair to your kitchen without spending a fortune:
1. Swap glossy, contemporary faucets and hardware for options in an iron finish or those with an antique patina.
2. Open upper shelving to reveal your kitchen collectables and use counter skirts or aprons down below to hide storage.
3. Display linen towels and tea cloths for a look that is rustic, luxe and practical.