Published on March 16, 2020

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Photography by Zeke Ruelas; Design by Lori Gilder; Styling by Merisa Libbey

It all started with an old refrigerator that began making strange noises overnight. “I thought if my fridge needed replacing, maybe I could also relocate my stove and push out the wall to gain extra square footage so all of us could fit in the room,” remembers Tracy Pumilia. She and her husband, Abel Lezcano, had renovated the kitchen five years after moving into their home in Culver City, California, in 2005, but the floor plan no longer suited them and their three children ( TJ, Maggie, and Lucas), two cats (Snowball and Arlo), and dog (Goobie). 

Pumilia immediately called her interior designer, Lori Gilder, for ideas. Gilder had worked on the first remodel, during which they added a second story to the 1950s bungalow and built a galley kitchen with a breakfast nook on the ground floor. It looked beautiful, but the range was tucked away from where people hung out, and navigating the narrow space turned out to be tricky for the large family. The side yard, where Pumilia tried (and failed) to grow a small garden year after year, sat largely unused.

So the second time around, Gilder came up with a new plan: Extend the house all the way to the edge of the property to create an area where the family could comfortably entertain and gather. The design addressed all of the couple’s needs—new appliances, forgiving surfaces (the green, marble-like countertops and backsplash are actually durable quartzite), a walk-in pantry, and an island that seats five—with one caveat: They would lose the view. Luckily, Gilder had a few more tricks up her sleeve.

Blocking Out the Neighbors Just Enough

Kitchen With Backsplash Window CutoutPin It
Photography by Zeke Ruelas; Design by Lori Gilder; Styling by Merisa Libbey

The larger window that once looked out onto the garden wasn’t a possibility with the new kitchen so close to the house next door. So Gilder imagined a long cutout right above the backsplash that framed and highlighted the hedges. “By keeping it low, we see greenery rather than the neighbor’s home behind it,” says Pumilia. “It also lets in a beautiful breeze in the warmer months.”

Maximizing Sunlight

Kitchen With Backsplash Window CutoutPin It
Photography by Zeke Ruelas; Design by Lori Gilder; Styling by Merisa Libbey

Gilder didn’t stop there; she also installed a skylight the same length as the backsplash opening to provide an influx of natural light from every direction. “Our old kitchen was bright, too, but this makes a huge difference,” says Pumilia. “It’s one of my favorite features.” The quartzite with green undertones is another nod to the lush outdoors. “The direct connection to nature with views of both the sky and foliage creates a sense of calm and well-being,” says Gilder.

Making It Functional

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Courtesy of Lori Gilder
Kitchen With Backsplash Window CutoutPin It
Photography by Zeke Ruelas; Design by Lori Gilder; Styling by Merisa Libbey

To give the family plenty of storage, Gilder designed upper cabinets above the cutout for everyday dishware, purposefully picking glass fronts to reflect the rays streaming in from the skylight. Together, her clever solutions more than make up for the lost scenery.

See more kitchen renovations we love:
This Couple Traded a Powder Room for a Kitchen That Fits All the Neighbors
A Clever Layout Tweak Doubled the Storage in This 36-Square-Foot Kitchen
Can You Spot the Optical Illusion in This Mint Green Kitchen?

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