Previously inhabited by several teenagers, a lime-green shag carpet, and a kitchen that was really more of a kitchenette, the pool house on the property of our Mediterranean-style home in Los Angeles needed some attention. So when we renovated, everything but the huge brick fireplace went, leaving us with a wide-open 35' x 21' space and none of the usual kitchen restrictions. We had equipped the main house with a modern, slightly formal kitchen and dining area—but its minimalist decor didn't seem quite right for our weekend hangout.
My chef husband, Joachim, has been an avid flea-marketer for years, scouring marches aux puces all over France to fill our eight bistros and four cafes with authentic charm. On trips to Paris, Lyon, and Avignon, he began collecting for our kitchen—and returned with a bistro table, steel shelves from a Paris bakery, a funky iron chandelier, and several cane-back, 1920s Thonet-style restaurant chairs. We used unpolished limestone on the floor to sustain the rustic style that was developing, and began filling the room with more of our favorite finds—pudding molds, old martini shakers, mismatched china. Now our weekend dinners here—with French classics playing on the stereo and our young sons helping Joachim cook—feel like vacations in the south of France.
Solution In Stone (photos 1 and 2): Instead of a wood extension that would never truly match the old mahogany of this bistro table, the Splichals opted for a slab of rough limestone. Now it seats ten (ideal for the couple's frequent dinner parties) and is, says Christine, "the centerpiece of the whole room."
Butcher Block (photo 3): "It was made in Ste-Livrade-sur-Lot in Bordeaux," Christine tells us of this well-worn table. "My mother bought it for us at a flea market in the Basque country." Matching shelves—complete with a carved wood cow's head—store glasses over the bar area.
Too Many Cooks (photo 4): "When Joachim is in the kitchen, the whole family likes to help out," says Christine, shown here with her husband and their twin boys (at age 3), Stephane (left) and Nicolas. Easy-access steel shelves and plenty of space between workstations make it easy to cook with so many assistants. "My job," laughs Christine, "is prep cook and cleanup crew."
Recycled Details (photo 5): Even a few of the terra-cotta tiles in the backsplash are recycled: They once accented the staircase in the main house. Old coffee grinders, cake dishes, and a bird-shaped cleaver line the hood. "Every time we go to a market," Christine tells us, "our collection grows."
Year-Round Room (photo 6): The fireplace and hearth make this pool kitchen a haven in winter, too. Joachim added a spit for roasting fowl, and a wood-burning oven next to the hearth for homemade bread and—the twins' favorite—pizza.