Benjamin Guilardi wanted a "magnificent kitchen" for his Monte Sereno home. Photo: Jenn Virskus

It Takes Courage to Design a Magnificent Kitchen

Technically a renovation, the structure of this Monte Sereno home was taken down to the footprint, with significant modifications including a large, open kitchen, new bathrooms, and an in-law unit.

Situated on a hilly lot surrounded by tall oak trees, Benjamin Guilardi said his 60-year-old Monte Sereno home was liveable, but as a veteran of the Bay Area real estate, design, and construction industry, he knew what was wrong with it.

The kitchen, dining, and living area consisted of a series of small, distinct rooms. He wanted a great room with 13-foot floor-to-ceiling sliding windows to take advantage of the indoor/outdoor relationship that the site sits on. The goal was to be able to view the gorgeous 80-foot oaks and other trees in the open space adjacent to the lot from any of the major rooms.

The kitchen would be the heart of the home, and the kitchen he wanted would be anything but typical.

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This large u-shaped kitchen features textured gray handleless cabinets from the Aran Cucine Bijou collection and upper wall cabinets in white glossy and gold glass from the Erika collection. The countertop and full-height backsplash is Silestone quartz in Calacatta Gold. Photo: Jenn Virskus

“I wanted the kitchen to be as innovative and non-traditional as I could get,” said Guilardi. “In that great room, if I failed at my kitchen, then I would fail in my entire reason for my renovation. My kitchen was the most important part of my house.”

The home is a transitional Tuscan—traditional olive stucco wraps the outside of the home, with a very clean, modern interior. While technically a renovation, he took the structure down to the footprint, significantly modifying the floor plan and raising the ceiling height.

Guilardi met with four major kitchen cabinet design companies in the Bay Area before he landed at European Cabinets & Design Studios. The recommendation came from his interior designer Ziggy Trenkler.

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The kitchen features appliances from Miele. Photo: Jenn Virskus

“I’ve been in real estate for 35 years, so one of my greatest assets is my sense of judgment of professionals. From the moment I met Robert and Alexandra, my impression was that they were very kind and gentle human beings, wonderful professionals, and I would enjoy working with them,” he said.

The design for Guilardi’s kitchen reflects his affinity for the non-traditional: Slick white cabinets contrasted with rustic gray, an 11-foot-high Silestone quartz backsplash, transparent gold glass cabinets for beverages and precious glassware, undercabinet LED lighting, chrome stools at the breakfast bar, and three gold glass pendants over the expansive island. “I was looking for a magnificent kitchen,” he said.

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The glass wall cabinets have custom interior and undercabinet lighting. Photo: Jenn Virskus

“We were surprised by the request for the kitchen cabinets and the quartz backsplash to reach the full height of the ceiling, but the result is absolutely perfect,” said Robert Berkovich.

The countertops and backsplash, Silestone Calcatta Gold quartz, were fabricated and installed by Bay StoneWorks. The sheer height of the backsplash made the job extremely difficult, but the finished installation is seamless. Bay StoneWorks provided stone throughout the house, including a custom-built bathtub surround in the master bath and the kitchen in the in-law unit.

Modern home construction requires a much more collaborative approach than in the past, especially if smart home features or solar or other alternative power sources are involved. “Robert’s team came to the site many times to make sure the rough framing, finish framing, electrical, and plumbing was in exactly the right place,” said Guilardi.

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Master bathroom vanity from the BMT Bagni Fly collection. Bathtub surround custom-fabricated by Bay StoneWorks. Photo: Jenn Virskus

In total, European Cabinets provided design consultation and products for two kitchens and three bathrooms in Guilardi’s new home.

No home renovation is painless, but hopefully, the result is worth it. Though he has been involved in countless construction projects throughout his career, Guilardi said the unique experience of being his own client was new to him. It can be on one hand more joyful and other the other more tedious. “In a way, you have a lot of criteria to live up to, which is defined by your own eccentric self,” he said.

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A view of the completed great room. Photo: Jenn Virskus

At the end of the day, the key to a successful project is finding the right contractors—those that you trust and that readily understand your vision.

“I could not possibly have done this without Robert and his patience,” Guilardi said. “It looks like you just walked in and picked out the kitchen, but it took many months of pain and patience and investment of time. And it’s Robert and Alexandra and their designers who got us there. Without them, it would have been impossible. It took a lot of courage to do it, to get it exactly right.”

Benjamin Guilardi is a Bay Area realtor and architect. To work with him, visit his website.

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