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Chef Sara Kramer could already see it: harvesting tender fennel bulbs from tiered raised beds, pulling juicy Blenheim apricots from fruiting trees, and snipping stems of mystical protea to scatter about in vases. She envisioned cooking over an open fire, serving butterflied fish under a dipping sun.

But in reality, when she started to consider a renovation of her charming home in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood five years ago—which she now shares with partner Emil DeRosa and their dog, Kevin—what she had was an unmanageable tangle of bushes and other plant life. She had given new life to a garage on the small property but still yearned for a home garden. Having grown up in New York (she was the opening chef of Glasserie in Brooklyn), she had never come this close to her dream outdoor space.

Kramer headed west in 2014, where she and her business partner, Sarah Hymanson, opened Kismet in 2017. The Los Feliz restaurant, featuring Mediterranean and California as well as Sephardic foodways, has carved a solid spot among the city’s vibrant constellation of restaurants, dishing up malawach, marinated feta, and a lot of Persian crispy rice over the past seven years. The eatery is so beloved that it inspired the duo’s first cookbook, which hits shelves this week. It’s packed with the spirited vegetable-heavy dishes they’ve become so well known for. The idea of being able to grow the very essence of her work at home meant something special to Kramer.

Kramer and DeRosa in their backyard with Kevin.

“The thing that drew me to the house in the first place was the outside space,” she remembers. “It just seemed so out of reach coming from New York, that when it appeared as an option, I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that I can have this here.’” At the time she bought the house, it was more wild than well kept, so she slotted the idea of a refresh away for when she was ready. 

Abisko Aurora Blue Left Sectional, Article; Round Pillow, Schoolhouse; Grid Pillow, Schoolhouse; Rug, Benisouk.
Vintage Dining Table, Chairs, and Hutch; Pendant Lamp, Helen Levi Ceramics.

The circa-1938 home had been through a thoughtful renovation even before she purchased it, which included a refreshed kitchen with retro orange Caesarstone countertops and glossy multicolored IKEA cabinets (a combination she wouldn’t have chosen herself but loves nonetheless). Kramer could tell that the space had been taken care of even if the door molding was mismatched. Plus there was something about the unique wood frame outlining the transition between the kitchen and living/dining area that was sort of sweet.

Countertops, Caesarstone; Cabinets, IKEA; Cutting Board, Boos.

She initially tackled a minimal renovation of the garage to accommodate a roommate by closing up the ceiling and putting in a window. “It was meant to be a rentable space, which is why it has a little kitchenette and counter area next to the bathroom,” she explains. 

But, after the first cohort of renters moved out, and with nobody moving in during the pandemic, she decided to make the garage space her primary suite—and hasn’t looked back. “I just wanted the room to be pretty serene,” she says. Inspired by a home and designer she met in New Zealand, Kramer decided to have cork flooring installed and added sliding doors that open onto the deck overlooking her lush yard. The big design moment she wanted came by way of her friend Leonard Bessemer of Objects for Objects. A verdantly hued custom wardrobe with built-in bookshelves takes up nearly an entire wall; it was storage that was sorely needed in the home (there’s only one other closet in the whole place). 

Andes Acacia Wood Platform Queen Bed with Nightstands, CB2; Bedding, Target; Susie Lumbar Pillow, Block Shop; Custom Wardrobe, Objects for Objects; Rug, Benisouk.

Throughout the rest of the home are clean white walls decorated mostly with art from Summertime Gallery, a Brooklyn nonprofit that shows work from a range of neurodiverse artists. Kramer counts paintings by Max Karnig and prints by Luke Gilford and Charlie Engman among her collection. Other prized wood pieces, like a treasured Danish hutch she received from a friend’s family and a Yamaha piano, are on display throughout. (Little-known fact: Kramer was once on Broadway—she was in Mamma Mia when she was 18.)

When she was ready to tackle the exterior in 2022, she knew exactly who to call: her neighbor David Godshall, principal of landscape architecture and design studio Terremoto. The termite-ridden back deck had to be reconstructed, and Kramer took the opportunity to repaint the home’s exterior in Dunn-Edwards’s Travertine, rebuild a protruding rock wall in the front (it had always scratched her car before), enclose the front yard for her dog, and install a gravel driveway.

After all the practical updates were taken care of, they could focus on the more dramatic transformations. “[Terremoto’s] work is so incredible that I couldn’t not go for it and really make it spectacular back there,” she says. From the back patio stairs unfurls an epic outdoor cooking setup, complete with a fire brick grill, where Kramer can char vegetables over an open flame, and a showstopping James Herman–designed oven. “I love cooking outdoors; I really wanted to make that special,” she adds.

Soft Rib Towel, Parachute.

Nearby, she serves fava bean pesto, citrus, and tomatoes to her guests atop a locally made table. But descending further, wood and gravel stairs reveals the pièce de résistance: a wood-clad hot tub and outdoor shower, flanked by jasmine and passion fruit. She and DeRosa enjoy sunsets from the tub, but Kramer reveals that her “favorite time to use it is when it’s lightly raining.” It’s just as she imagined it so many years prior.