Real Estate

A study in contrasts

One designer approaches two kitchens differently

A good interior designer knows there is not one cookie-cutter solution to solving a problem.

That’s how Rise Krag, a Midpeninsula designer, approached two recent projects: One is a 1960s Barron Park ranch house, the other a more traditional home in Los Altos.

“Stylistically, the two kitchens are very different, but both utilize technology to make the kitchen more functional,” Krag said.

Palo Altans Cheryl Oku and her husband David Casseres didn’t start out to redo their kitchen, though they realized it needed work.

“We’re a case of people who back into a remodel,” Oku said, noting that they started with some exterior work, really liked their contractor, stuck with him, and found Krag to design their kitchen.

“We had moved into the house about 20 years before, and it was an owner remodel. The finishes and appliances were kind of low end. The bones of the kitchen were not bad, but everything needed to be replaced, the cabinets were starting to peel," Oku said.

“It’s the main room in the house -- a living room, dining room, kitchen -- and it didn’t feel as inviting. It’s still pretty simple, but we needed it to be more functional."

Krag created a plan that relocated some of the kitchen's functions and putting the dining room closer to the view in the back.

That view, of a creek and a giant oak, is what drew the couple to the house 20 years ago, and it is what pleases them the most today.

“The real asset was the view of the creek. It’s a beautiful setting, way underutilized. They spent most of their time in the least attractive part of the house,” Krag said, as she created a more open plan with more emphasis on the view.

“Now when working in the kitchen, you can enjoy looking out at the creek. (There’s) lots of natural sunlight,” Oku said. “Rise got us to think a little differently about our living space, and we’re enjoying it a lot,” Oku said.

Several years ago the owners raised the ceiling on their ranch house. While adding to the feeling of spaciousness, the beamed ceiling had no space below the roof, so attaching lighting became a challenge. Krag solved this by running the wiring along the planks in the ceiling, camouflaging as much as possible.

“In shifting the kitchen we wanted pendants for greater illumination, that had to be directly over the island. For the counter along the wall, we used under-cabinet lighting,” Krag said. Lighting was also added above cabinets, adding ambient lighting that washes up the tall walls.

Other highlights include tall pullout storage cabinets, new hardwood floors and an island countertop of natural stone, replacing the old butcher-block top that was stained and scratched (and passed on to the contractor for his office).

A key piece was working with an “integrator,” Krag said, who figured out how to connect different functions of the home electronically. An integrator is a consultant who is knowledgeable on all systems: heating/cooling, security, network, shades, audio/video, lighting, pool equipment, landscape and grey water, according to Tony Fisher of Fisher Power & Data in Mountain View.

His work on the Barron Park house including automated shades and motorized window openers on high windows, as well as lighting and security cameras, all controlled by a touch screen by the entry.

The second kitchen, a more traditional one in Los Altos, presented quite different challenges. The owners chose the home for the location, rather than the Country Italian style, but they wanted any updates to coordinate rather than replace that style, Krag said.

“I was hired to try to transform it into something with cleaner lines,” she added.

Her plan called for adding new stained-alder cabinets in “a traditional style that didn’t look too alien to the rest of the architecture,” she said.

Krag also needed to work around inset tiles in the wood floors.

One challenge was the placement of the island and the dining table, which the couple wanted to be perpendicular to each other. “We played with (the table) being attached or not” (it’s not), because they wanted to maximize the ability to view certain sports shows while in the kitchen.

Other problems to solve: how to install lighting in a very high ceiling, dealing with an odd space for the refrigerator, the cooktop and hood in a corner, displaying the family’s pitcher collection and adding a charging station to the island for laptop and phones.

The integrator, called in for this job too, was challenged by how to overcome blocked cell-phone and wifi signals in parts of the home, and simplifying the audio/video system as well as the pool and alarm, by using a single control.

Krag resolved one issue by designing a large, circular pendant light fixture that hangs over the dining table. “It’s not only a beautiful object but a functional solution,” she said.

Freelance writer Carol Blitzer can be emailed at


Interior design: Risë Krag, RKI Interior Design, San Carlos, 650-854-9090,

Contractor (for Palo Alto kitchen): Jim Humphrey, JH Construction & Remodeling, Sunnyvale, 408-379-6285, 650-949-1452,

Contractor (for Los Altos kitchen): Jim Campi, Campi Construction, Los Altos Hills, 650-941-2908,

Integrator: Anthony Fisher, Fisher Power & Data Inc., Mountain View, 650-964-1000

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