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Interior designer Sapna Aggarwal of Bungalowe shares a sisterly bond with Filisha, the co-owner of this 1950s home in Sherman Oaks, California—the two have been friends since college. So when it came time for Filisha and her husband, Krushna, to update their über-dated kitchen, there was no question that Aggarwal would be the one to oversee the transformation. “Obviously, I was going to be involved, but mixing construction with friends and family isn’t easy,” says the designer.

The kitchen, before
The kitchen, before.

Fortunately, there were no fights or fallouts, even though Aggarwal admits they had their moments. What proved tricky was getting Filisha to land on a particular vision. “Aesthetically, it was a bit of a challenge, because she appreciates literally anything that is done well,” says her friend, laughing. “For example, she’ll see a Spanish-style house and be like: ‘Oh, my God, that’s so my vibe,’ but then say the same about a really modern and minimal look.” In the end, they settled on a calming canvas that could change with Filisha over time as her tastes do (drawer handles can be swapped out; fresh art can be hung). With all parties happy to wave farewell to the existing kitchen’s cropped curtains and laminate floors, here’s a breakdown of how Aggarwal made the space feel personal. 

The Magic Number

With a limitless budget, Aggarwal would have elevated the space with a blend of slim Shaker doors and fluted cabinetry. But with souped-up millwork out of the question, she brought in a variety of textures in a more cost-effective way. The simple act of going with a trio of cabinet colors (the refrigerator wall is white oak, the lower cupboards are painted an olive hue, and the island is a creamy mushroom shade) checks the dynamic box. Each door front also has a different style of hardware, from brushed brass knobs to leather-bound handles to marble-topped pulls. “It was fun to play with a range of finishes without getting too crazy with over-customization,” she explains.

Double the Light

While the kitchen stayed in its original spot, you’d almost never know looking at the “before” photos, and that’s thanks to the fact that Aggarwal took down the wall separating it from the sitting room. Because Filisha and Krushna have large extended families, this newfound openness fosters an easy sense of gathering when they host. To really make it cozy and welcoming, Aggarwal put in a skylight and, echoing the architecture around the rest of the house, carved out an arch-shaped pass-through that looks on to the dining area and makes it easy to hand dishes over. “It has ended up being everyone’s favorite detail in the house,” shares Aggarwal.

Vent It Out

“I like to do vent hoods as inserts so there can be a custom surround, but this is the first time I’ve done it in stone,” explains Aggarwal (previously she’d only worked with plaster). Wanting to try something outside her comfort zone, she opted for an unpolished leathered granite in her friend’s case “so you can feel the natural veining in the stone.” The celestial-looking granite makes another appearance on the island’s surface, while the surrounding countertops are a Taj Mahal quartzite (also leathered for extra texture). “By using natural materials, the contrast doesn’t feel too loud or in your face,” reasons the designer. 

Open to Possibilities

Aggarwal embraced open shelving but purposely didn’t make it a focal point. Of the neat cubbyholes positioned above a cleverly disguised appliance garage—which keeps everyday essentials like the coffee machine out of sight—she says, “It’s nice to have the ability to show some personality without feeling overly pressured to have everything styled perfectly all the time.” The six nooks are reserved for cookbooks, plants, and knickknacks that spark joy.

Think Smart With Offcuts

A shallow backsplash ledge along the back wall makes special use of the quartzite remnants. “It adds dimension and another level; it could have just been a flat moment,” says Aggarwal. Above, the walls are accessorized with a pair of sconces positioned high enough that Filisha and Krushna could further personalize the space by hanging artwork. That’s what friends are for.