This Reno Proves That Mustard and White Are Perfect Kitchen Colors

Morgan Goldberg
Designer Jonathan Taylor finds that a mix of exposed shelves for select display items and cabinets for additional storage work best for most people.

Jonathan and Jess Taylor are the husband-and-wife team behind aptly named Los Angeles–based design firm Taylor + Taylor. The self-described best friends are raising a family and running a business together, so it makes sense that many of their clients are couples. “It’s really rewarding to bring our experience as a couple that is perpetually navigating the creative process together into the dialogue and decision-making that’s required in design,” Jonathan explains.

For a recent project, the Taylors worked with a pair in their mid-30s who had stumbled across an untouched late-midcentury property while they were on a walk in Silver Lake. They had been searching for a real estate investment, so the couple purchased the duplex home from the original contractor who had built the place more than four decades ago.

"It was a very segmented little galley kitchen," Jonathan says of the original, ’80s-style room.

While the new owners considered moving into one of the two units, they ultimately decided to create a duo of luxury rentals with the help of Taylor + Taylor. “We tried to approach it kind of like a boutique hotel, where you weave in themes that continue throughout, but each space is distinct in itself,” Jonathan says. Natural maple wood is one of those themes.

This material is on full display with custom cabinetry in the south kitchen in the property’s lower unit. The room opens up to the leafy backyard, so it offers a jungle quality that Jonathan and Jess played off when they imagined the decor. But before they were able to have fun with terrazzo and mustard tones, the team had to figure out how to make the tiny footprint feel bigger. They ended up knocking down a wall and introducing a peninsula that provides the openness the owners wanted.

"We love to play with elements that are modern and earthy and to bring in things that are high-end and handcrafted, while also integrating things that feel very utilitarian and unadorned. All of those find a middle ground that gives us spaces that feel less bound in time and trend," Jonathan says.

Kitchen location: The south kitchen resides in a late-midcentury Silver Lake duplex built in 1979, which is located right across from the reservoir in this creative Los Angeles district.

The before: “The space was astoundingly dark and dim and almost oppressive, so the first challenge was figuring out the best path to gaining openness and taking advantage of the natural light. It was very segmented, small, and galley-style. It also had the water heater for the whole unit in it, so there was very little functional storage. The ceilings dropped down, as well. It had the ubiquitous '80s built-in fluorescent panel lights that I just despise profoundly,” says Jonathan of the original kitchen.

The inspiration: “More than anything the owners had a desire to make it feel open,” Jonathan says. “They also wanted us to make logistical sense out of this rather small space. The clients were really drawn to the idea that the soul of the home would be brought to light in this process. We tried to celebrate the midcentury origins of the home without going into the really overplayed, Pinterest-esque midcentury elements.”

Square footage: 70 square feet

Budget: The homeowners wanted to spend around $100,000 on the kitchen renovation, including design fees, materials, and labor.

Mustard-colored tiles, terrazzo floors, maple cabinetry, and white accents define the room.
The Taylors knocked down a wall in favor of a peninsula that opens up the kitchen to the rest of the house.

Main Ingredients:

Floors: Concrete Collaborative Terrazzo Tile. “This flooring was my personal favorite,” says Jonathan. “I would totally use it in a space in my home. It’s these little black chips in a gray cement base that I just think is beautiful and timeless and doesn’t feel overly soft.”

Cabinets: Custom Maple Wood. “This is the kind of space where you can’t do cabinetry really well without going custom. There are so many quirks of the space itself that are constraining. The C-shaped shelves we added beneath the uppers, and the floating shelves that are embedded to the wall, were things that we were able to pull off because the cabinetry was custom,” explains Jonathan.

Cabinet Finish: Loba on Top!. “We often run into challenges with lighter wood,” Jonathan admits. “Almost any clear coat you put on will become yellow with time. We were really trying to find something that felt ultranatural and that would retain the right color. There’s a product we started working with from Germany that’s really fantastic. It’s meant to be a floor finish, but we use it as a cabinet finish because it’s so durable.”

Cabinet Pulls: Atlas Homewares It Pulls. “The space just wanted to be light and crisp, so these clean-edged pulls had the simplicity we were after,” says Jonathan.

Backsplash: Fireclay Mustard Seed Tile. “Choosing these minimal, beautiful, utilitarian maple cabinets meant that we could pull in a color that was really unexpected. It works so brilliantly with the black of the floor and the soft neutralness of the maple,” Jonathan says.

Counters: Silestone

Paint: Benjamin Moore White Dove. “It’s the perfect white if you’re not going for stark, but you also don’t want anything too creamy. It’s got a little bit of body to it,” Jonathan opines.

Faucet: Brizo Matte White Kitchen Faucet

Appliances: Fisher & Paykel Refrigerator, Summit Appliance Range; Bosch Panel-Ready Dishwasher. “We’re inclined to use Fisher & Paykel in slimmer spaces—they’re useful, minimal, and have a great price point. You get the European functionality, but they’re from New Zealand,” Jonathan says. “For the stove, we were really constrained because we needed a small, white range, of which there are very few in existence, but we were committed.”

Lighting: Cedar & Moss Pendant

Most insane splurge: The custom maple wood cabinetry was the most expensive investment in the kitchen, and Jonathan thinks it was worth it. “If you were trying to customize a bunch of creative panels from one of the many upstarts that’s making fronts for IKEA bases, you would just end up spending so much time, energy, and money trying to make them fit into a kitchen like this,” he says. “Custom really is the way to achieve this beautifully fitted cabinetry in a tight space.”

Sneakiest save: “We tend to push our clients, in this type of project, to go with appliances that allow you to get a real value for your dollar,” Jonathan explains. “With these mid-range European appliances, you’re getting quality and style that’s much better than the American equivalents, in my opinion.”

The best part: “The thing that excites me most in this kitchen is the way the colors and tones play together. I love the starkness of the floors against the airy, natural elements of the cabinets and countertops and the surprising pop of mustard in the backsplash,” Jonathan gushes.

What I'd never do again: The integrated hood liner located in the upper cabinetry became a quite complicated aspect of the project because of existing structural elements. Jonathan wishes he would’ve pushed himself and the general contractor to devise a plan for the mechanical details before starting to work.

Final bill: Jonathan and Jess made sure to complete the renovation right under the $100,000 budget.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest