Laura Muller Cooks Up A Kitchen Design For The Modern Minimalist Foodie

Nestled in the park-like grounds of the Santa Anita Oaks neighborhood of Arcadia, California is an historic 1937 Federal-style home—Locke House— designed by architect, Gerard Rae Colcord, known as “Hollywood society’s architect.” The home is modeled after an East Coast country estate.

In 2020, Locke House was chosen to be the Pasadena Showcase House of Design. Now in its 56th year, the venerable showcase is one of the longest-running house and garden tours in the country. The 6,700 square-foot home was reinterpreted by 17 interior designers and four exterior designers and was an opportunity to completely reimagine what the home could be, more than 80 years after it was built.

In our recently released aspire design and home Showhouse Issue, we sat down with Laura Muller to learn more about her creative process in designing the Kitchen and Butler’s Pantry for this project.

aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Laura Muller: Typically, a showcase timeline is considerably “expedited” and takes about six months from design to completion, but this year was quite an exception. We were selected in November 2019, and began finalizing our initial design schematics. By the end of February 2020, we had an approved plan, budget, and a permit in hand. Construction began in early March, and after months of working in strenuous and challenging conditions, we successfully completed the Kitchen and Butler’s Pantry remodel and staging by late August, 2020.

aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Laura: The biggest challenge this year was to keep myself and our team healthy, flexible, focused, and moving forward, in spite of the continued uncertainty and modified schedules. Architecturally, the big challenge was to design a contemporary state of the art kitchen that was true to our brand and vision, that maintained the overarching wellness and sustainability themes (especially with regard to materials and availability), within the narrow limitations of the existing style of the house and the client’s personal vision for the space.

aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Laura: I was never really worried about things NOT happening on time, especially once the schedule was “opened up” due to the Pandemic, which (fortunately) provided plenty of additional time to complete the construction of our space. I have many years of design-build experience, in the area of Kitchen design-build especially, and I had secured my incredible partners so early that it was just a matter of remaining flexible and focused with regard to materials, shipping, and installation. Sure, there were some creative compromises that were made along the way, and that happens sometimes. It is at those times we come to appreciate our secret motto the most… ALWAYS have a Plan B.

aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Laura: Our FOUR POINT signature “CLEAN FRESH MODERN” state-of-the-art statement kitchen was inspired by and designed for the modern minimalist “foodie” and elegant entertainer with a busy family life; where function, flow, sustainability, and wellness are key elements at the core and center of their lifestyle. With a bold focus on mindfully selecting and integrating unique high-quality eco-friendly natural materials, harmonious textures, and layers of soothing neutral colors, this kitchen was intentionally designed to reduce stress, promote wellness, ignite conversation, build unity and create joy.

The inspiration for our well-edited cozy kitchen was the intersection of wellness, design, and technology. Aesthetically, this kitchen suite celebrates the collected, edited, and modern spirit with a focus on EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL WELLNESS and JOY! With a smooth touch of that cool midcentury modern flair and divine simplicity; with a respectful nod to (and retention of) some of the original traditional architectural elements of the 1930’s home; curated and poignant modern art and furniture pieces; and a few unencumbered and treasured vintage elements; this space speaks volumes about the future of kitchen design.

aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Laura: One of the bravest things we did in this space design was to NOT go down the typical path of expectation when it came to the kitchen design concept and detailing. Introducing new “rule breaking” concepts is what a designer showcase is all about, right? We made a bold decision to remove the “typical” island pendants, and much of the upper cabinet storage in order to illustrate some of the ways you can add “wellness design concepts” and “modern elements” to a traditional home and still create a cozy and functional space, that truly supports a lifestyle driven by good health and joy.

aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
Laura: No, the designers only have a list of colors, and a theme. We did not coordinate the designs for our spaces. Showcase designers are typically well versed and up-to-date with modern trends in home design, color, and style, as well as having the insight and experience to “push” and “innovate” the future of design. I believe that this is one of the main reasons that designer showcase homes have a sense of continuity and flow.

aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
Laura: Space “size” is not the only factor to providing a better opportunity to stretch one’s creativity. Sometimes it is simply the intuitive response to the space and how it marries with the timing and development of your own style and design voice at the moment. I think it is not simply, bigger is better. However, that said, large spaces CAN be prove to be more expansive, expensive, AND extensive when it comes to labor costs, which may (or may not) be a risk for a designer with a full project roster. I have experienced great success and plenty of challenges in both very large and small showcase spaces; both have been just as creative and each personally and professionally satisfying.

aspire: Describe the town of Pasadena in one sentence.
Laura: Pasadena, CA is a city steeped in unwavering tradition, stunning architecture, rich culture, and quaint beauty.

This or That?

aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
Laura: Paint
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
Laura: Hardwood
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
Laura: Beach
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Laura: Black and White
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
Laura: Brunch
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Laura: Midcentury
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Laura: Drapery
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Laura: The English Patient
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Laura: Broadway shows

Click Here to view more interviews for the designers of Pasadena Showcase House of Design.

Photography by Amy Bartlam.

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