In 1974 -- the year Renata Kanclerz and Lisa Coleman's Hollywood Hills kitchen was previously remodeled -- dark plywood cabinets, butcher-block counters and red brick backsplashes were considered cutting edge.
Three decades later, however, those materials were too old to be hip and too young to be historic.
So last year, Kanclerz and Coleman tore out that kitchen and replaced it with today's version of ultramodern: light-stained birch cabinets, quartz composite counters, porcelain floor tiles and a stunning stainless steel woven backsplash.
Though the old kitchen was worn out before the remodel, that was not a problem when Coleman, a musician who scores TV shows, bought the distinctive 1927 French Normandy home in 1986. At the time, she was on the road a lot and how the kitchen looked or functioned was not an issue. "We weren't really here cooking," she said.
The kitchen had some nice qualities, especially the bank of original French windows over the sink and a cozy breakfast nook. But poor design had put a large pantry cabinet between the nook and kitchen, isolating it and blocking natural light.
Kanclerz figured the previous kitchen renovation was a homeowner-handyman special, and that suspicion was confirmed when, once they began their own remodel, a "time capsule" was discovered hidden behind the cabinets. The capsule included some marijuana and a handwritten note predicting that President Nixon would be impeached, and it named the gaggle of friends who were living in the house (all of whom the note said had voted for Sen. George McGovern) and those who were working on the kitchen. "This is ridiculous," the note concluded.
It took Coleman and Kanclerz some time, however, to get to that demolition. The project languished as they were beset with indecision -- even though they pulled out $100,000 when they refinanced four years ago intending to redo the kitchen.
The two were spurred into action last year when Coleman became pregnant with their daughter, August. They didn't want her growing up in a kitchen with plywood doors and drawers held together with gaffer's tape. "That was the impetus," Kanclerz said. "It really propelled us."
Kanclerz started the project by looking on the Internet and in magazines for a sense of what she and Coleman would like and tore out pages and put them in a notebook. "When we went to the appliance store," she said, "I had my book."
Once they knew the kind of kitchen they wanted -- modern and unique but compatible with the style of their vintage home, and with a Viking or Wolf range -- they sought out designers. Bradco Kitchens had been featured on the "Designers' Challenge" home improvement show and the two liked what they saw. Still, they dreaded their home being torn up and the project stalled. Then one Sunday, Kanclerz said to Coleman: "Come on, we've got to bite the bullet," and they walked into the Bradco showroom.
There they met designer Eve Montana, who, among other things, educated them about different levels of cabinet quality and the costs for each.
At first, Kanclerz and Coleman wanted cherry cabinets with a dark finish. "We were still living in this dark world," Kanclerz said. But Montana urged them to consider red birch with a natural finish, as well as a simple Craftsman door style.
Before they left the showroom, they had given Montana a check for $1,000 for the design fee. It is a common practice to pay a design fee upfront. Contractors may legally collect upfront deposits of 10% or $1,000 -- whichever is less.
"We were pretty taken with her," Kanclerz said. "We really liked her aesthetic."
Within a few days, Montana came out to the house to measure for cabinets, and they discussed the other details.
For the counters, the homeowners considered natural stone. But then they heard about a composite quartz product called CaesarStone that would reportedly not stain, scratch or burn, and didn't need sealing, as does granite. "I didn't care how much it cost," she said. "I knew that's the way we had to go."
A farm-style sink was another must-have, and Kanclerz really wanted an under-counter, glass-fronted refrigerator, in addition to the standard refrigerator, to hold drinks. Montana pointed out they would lose valuable drawer space, but Kanclerz held her ground. "That was my luxury," she said.
Coleman and Kanclerz had their one big disagreement over the cabinet knobs Coleman wanted, which Kanclerz said looked "like Grandma's house." They eventually settled on sleek European-style pulls that satisfied both of them.
Kanclerz and Coleman had their last coffee in the old kitchen early last September, and later that day the kitchen was gutted. They didn't notice until day's end that while one kitchen doorway had been taped off with plastic, another had not, and a layer of dust had settled over much of the house. Kanclerz's advice to other homeowners is to check out the company's dust control measures in advance of the crowbars and reciprocating saws.