Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
After completing the interior architecture program at San Francisco's California College of the Arts, Curtis Popp surprised friends by moving back home to Sacramento. The cities are only a two-hour drive away from each other, but they're light years apart where design is concerned. Although Popp shrugs off the prospects of an architectural revolution in the Central Valley—"not in my lifetime or in yours"—his Shelter Design Studio has nevertheless managed to bring Bay Area standards to some of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in the state capital.
Because of stratospheric prices for Sacramento real estate in recent years, even small houses are candidates for upgrades. Case in point: A 900-square-foot Spanish-eclectic cottage from the early 1900's. Popp made over its tiny, embarrassingly out-of-date kitchen for Stewart Rosen, a fortysomething auto mechanic who admits he was "living like a college guy," surrounded by "lots of exotic toys." That love of gadgets comes through in his priorities for the new kitchen—he spent the lion's share of his $30,000 budget on appliances.
Both the cast-iron range and the refrigerator are top of the line, though space constrictions dictated that the range be pint-size and the integrated fridge a slim 27 inches across. The fridge is fronted in panels of book-matched zebrawood veneer, which Popp used to customize the stock cabinetry as well.
Veneered doors replaced the birch-melamine ones that came with the under-counter units. Though the new doors cost five times the price of the original cabinets, the overall investment was still just a fraction of the estimate for building everything from scratch. Above, a glass-fronted melamine cupboard got the zebrawood treatment, too. ("So it doesn't look like plastic.")
The wall-mounted polished-chrome faucet is what Popp describes as the "money shot," although he admits that he had to forego the satin finish he prefers, "mostly because of the expense." As for the travertine floor tile and the marble counters, he chose them for their bargain prices at the stone yard. He avoided costly low-voltage recessed ceiling fixtures and skipped a range hood altogether, sinking the guts of a modular ventilation unit directly into a new soffit above the stove. Backsplashes are painted milk-chocolate brown except for behind the stove, where Popp says he installed "really expensive" handmade ceramic tiles for fireproofing and a little extra flair.
"Take care of the luxuries, and the necessities will take care of themselves," Popp proclaims. Frank Lloyd Wright never said it better.