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Rustic Spanish California Home

Spanish California Home – The Kitchen

California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_before 1

Before I got involved with this kitchen, it was about to get RHONJ’d. In case you don’t speak ‘Bravo’, that means ‘Real housewives of New Jersey”d  where faux Tuscan shiny wood and tumbled tile reign suprem-o. They had just installed the cabinets and in FACT it was even worse than this. I didn’t take photos of the kitchen when the top cabinets were installed, too but trust me that it felt dark, small and dated. As you know (back story here) we were on a massive time and budget crunch so we couldn’t start all over and get new cabinets (especially since they were brand new – chosen by the contractor that was flipping it). This kitchen is in a 1916 Spanish Style home and it needed some old world charm with some modern amenities/technology.

California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_before 2

We only had a few days to be able to pick out the finishes – the tile, flooring, etc. So we went to the valley, where all the tile places are, and found some that we both really liked that weren’t out of control expensive. I spoke about the flooring in the dining nook post, but they really weren’t expensive and if you have an old world style house these cement tiles are kinda perfect (just make sure you seal them properly which will add a bit of a sheen but its worth it).

California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_progress 1

Shana wanted open shelving on top for a few reasons: a. it looks good, b. she had lots of pretty dishes to show off and c. the kitchen was smallish and we didn’t want to open it up and make it open concept because based on the layout of the house it wouldn’t have really worked and we would have lost a lot of the beautiful architecture. I was ALL FOR IT. Open shelving is a bit controversial because yes, you have to keep it neat and nice in order for your kitchen not to look like total chaos daily. She knew the risks and she accepted them. (I was at the house yesterday for a playdate with our kids and I’m happy to report that they still look really pretty).

California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_progress 2

We chose this black and white handmade tile that was really going to be the focal point, the big splurge. The floating shelves were made just from simple wood and then lacquered the same wall color (BM Swiss Coffee). The brackets were found on overstock I believe for $6 each.Not bad. Same with the farm sink – I think it was around $600 on either Overstock or Wayfair. I’m always surprised at how expensive farm sinks are but this one was not a bad price for it.

California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_progress 3

One of the things we knew we were going to do was paint the cabinets a dark tealy-blue. We tested out some greens (above in the samples) but they were too bright and it needed to recede a little more than that. You guys are going to KILL me though because we made the decision verbally and there is no record to show what color this is. I should hire a detective to comb through all my emails and paperwork to see if they can find it because I’ve spent what feels like hours looking – it was just 2 years ago, before we moved, I was pregnant, the contractor was constantly rushing us for decisions, so I a lot went undocumented. I’m so sorry.

But what I’m not sorry about is how this kitchen turned out. It’s a modern Spanish kitchen, with an edge, that is so fun to walk into every single time:

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I love this color palette – the blues, warm grays, black white and then some color to make it feel more collected and welcoming. A lot of people think that old world color palettes have to be all warm tones – taupes, creams, beiges, browns, burgandies, etc, but as long as the materials ‘feel’ old world the color palette can feel more updated and fresh. And I don’t even mind the detailing on the cabinets. I might not have been our first choice but once painted out, it’s totally works, especially with the addition of the black hardware (which I think was just from Home Depot – it was a great place to not spend too much money).

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California Country_Kitchen_Emily Henderson_BEFORE AFTER

Here is how Country Living shot/styled it. They replaced all the Heath Ceramics with Vintage Ironstone on the shelves, which I do like, but who doesn’t love Heath Ceramics? Nobody. The color of the tiles are also a bit warmer, the outlets magically disappeared and the rug was replaced with that pretty blue/white kilim (which I believe is from Loloi).

Kitchen tile

I really love this kitchen, every time I walk in it I feel so happy with how it turned out. So just in case you all want to recreate this look – here is a ‘get the look’ and a ‘look for less’/

Get the Look Kitchen_Combined

Get the Look:

Floor Tile | Faucet | Kilim Rug | Black Canister | Plates | Wood Bowls | Cabinet Paint Color | Hardware | Farmhouse Sink | Cutting Board | Ceramic Mugs

Look for Less:

Floor Tile | Faucet | Kilim Rug | Black Canister | Plates | Wood Bowls | Cabinet Paint Color | Hardware | Farmhouse Sink | Cutting Board | Ceramic Mugs

*All photos EXCEPT the Country Living shot (by Max Kim Bee) , by Tessa Neustadt. 

See the rest of the project here: Living Room, Reading Nook, Guest Bedroom, Master Bedroom, Dining Nook, Nursery, and Master Bathroom.

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  1. That floor tile makes me swoon every time I see it. I’m so sad that it wouldn’t look right in my house; it is stunning. I also really dig that backsplash tile. It’s amazing. The whole kitchen looks terrific, and I’m stunningly jealous of people who are neat enough to have open shelving.

  2. Hell yes! I think kitchens are a real strong point of yours Emily, you really have a gift for adding personality to a room with a lot of demands and constraints, just gorgeous. The post where you expressed opposition to stainless steel and granite seriously made me stand up and cheer. So many people buy into the “its totally upscale so it must be beautiful!” load of bull and miss a lot of great design opportunities. I love, love, love what you have done here – kitchens arent all appliances and counters – they can be floors, rugs and open shelves with incredible tiles! So inspiring, thanks!

  3. I love this kitchen as I’ve loved every room you’ve shown us so far in this house. Even I could keep those open shelves looking neat if I got to walk into that kitchen every day.

  4. I really really love this….trying to figure out if I could pull this off in my cookie cutter 1970’s home. I usually dislike wood cabinets but I actually think the wood could have worked well. The navy was a fabulous choice though!

  5. So so so good! I would be thrilled to walk into that kitchen every day. The tile and the rug make it just gorgeous! Well done!

  6. This is so fabulous! That tile is popping up everywhere, and I think the next place I want to see it is in my own home. I like your styling better than Country Living’s, although it’s always fun to see the different ways accessories can totally change a space.

    1. I am so with Courtney – The red rug especially wakes up and spices up the space, bringing it to another level.I also love how the backsplash tile echoes the shape of the floor tile & vice-versa.

  7. Looks great! I do enjoy Heath Ceramics but I have to say that I love how Country Living styled the shelves. Makes me want some in my own kitchen (which my husband continually and vehemently vetoes).

  8. The only reason I’m not balling my eyes out right now about the NOT KNOWING THE COLOR OF THOSE CABINETS is because I just painted my kitchen cabinets last year (BLACK). I wasn’t brave enough for a color…but I totally would’ve tried this color– it’s just soooo gorgeous. I’m totally pinning this kitchen because I’m planning on the butcher block counters as well… AMAZING JOB… and nice touch with the black handles, never would’ve thought of that.

    1. Now I’m actually really curious to see your black kitchen!
      I love black houses and rooms with black walls, or cabinets like yours, so when I finally buy my own house, I’ll have to be really careful haha

  9. That’s weird, I have that kilim rug and it’s Pottery Barn “Rosario.” Love the color on the cabinets and the tiles. Looks great!

        1. I got it May 2014. It’s def the PB Rosario or an exact replica! The one on their website now looks like more rustic autumnal colors so maybe they changed the colors. Mine is the reddish pink, blues and tans, as shown here on the blog. It’s beautiful, it was the starting point for my living room.

  10. Beautiful! I would love to walk into that kitchen everyday. Are the walls of the dining nook a different color? They look slightly gray? I just love this SO much. Thank you!!!

      1. I believe it’s BM Smoke Embers. I remember because that’s the main color in my house.
        Love the color of the cabinets and those floor and wall tiles. Beautifully done!

  11. You do such pretty work in kitchens…

    Quick question. How much do you typically spend on professional painters for cabinets? I’m having such a rough time finding estimates, and want a ball-park range before I call in folks for an estimate and end up giving myself a heart attack and wasting their time..

  12. Not that the cabinet color isn’t beautiful (it is), but as I was scrolling through this post I was thinking, “wow, amazing how those cabinets can go from dark Tuscan to warm Spanish by removing the uppers and mixing in the Spanish tile.” Am I alone in thinking that you could have gotten away with leaving the original cabinet color?

  13. I love this look and I’m really happy hand painted tile backsplashes are being embraced, it’s a refreshing change from subway tile (which I also love). One question on flatweave rugs on tile – any recommendations or sources for a good rug pad?

    1. She did a post on rug pads years past, or maybe just mentioned it??? I think it was circa the Lorey house. It was a website…I ordered one.
      Gee…maybe it was the dining room of the Lorey house….

  14. Part of me thinks that the contractor thinks you are a pain for changing all their decisions an then magically thinks you are the BEST thing to happen to that house! The clients are definitely lucky to have you challenging and changing things that doesn’t fit their vision of THEIR home! I am really interested in hearing what the contractors think of the final design of the home?

    I can’t tell you how many newer homes I have walked through and thought WHYYYYYYYYY!

    1. I agree. I’ve been looking at properties new and old in Los Angeles for the past two years and ask myself the same WHY!! more often than not. I think this kitchen demonstrates that good design can happen within budget and on time when you have a talented designer making the decisions. I’m also curious to hear what the contractor thought about the end result, the whole house looks incredible and there’s no way they can deny that. Maybe we’ll see a new renovation trend that embraces architecture, location, time period, authenticity and individuality, rather than defaulting to a dated idea of what luxury looks like.

  15. Wow! Usually I like the magazine styling better than actual styling, but not in this case! The pottery and your rug is so much better!

  16. Thank you so much for continuing these Look/Look for Less posts! I can see what Country Living was going for with their styling but I have to say that I prefer your look – stunning!

  17. I think I want to make a baby with this kitchen! I lovelovelove the cabinet color and the open shelving. Too bad I am not nearly tidy enough to have the shelves in my kitchen–they would just look like a thrift store exploded on them everyday lol.

    And the floor tile! Do you think it could be laid closer together with smaller grout lines? We’re thinking of tiling our first floor, and I love these tiles!


  18. This is so beautiful. I’m so glad your client is willing to let you share their home — I’m really enjoying it, and it’s wonderful to see something other than MCM. I love everything you post, but this home is much closer to my personal style, and it’s great to see that here.

  19. The painted cabinets give a wonderful modernized look to the cabinetry. Is the paint sprayed on or painted on with a roller brush?

  20. I love this – so warm and inviting. But the cabinet color looks exactly like my lower kitchen cupboards, which are Farrow and Ball DownPipe. Maybe it’s just my computer screen, but they don’t seem to have that greeny-undertone that Hague Blue (one of my favorite colors) has.

    But what do I know? In any case, it’s a beautiful kitchen.

  21. Every room you reveal on this house is just better than the last. I LOVE THIS. My style preference for kitchens has been swinging from modern to more updated traditional/countryish, so this kitchen is just a dream to me! I wish I could do this with my rental kitchen! Lovely work, Emily!

  22. I love how you point out what’s been Photoshopped. It’s one of those visual distractions that you don’t really notice in pictures typically until it’s pointed out. It’s a head slap of no wonder why REAL LIFE feels cluttered or just not as “clean” as that design catalog…It’s nice to see the real deal and the photo shoot images and know when things got lightened, changed or removed.

    I do have a question about those concrete tiles. I didn’t know they existed until you first showcased them in the dining nook but now I am intrigued. Do they require such a deep grout groove or is that an aesthetic thing that can be changed?

  23. Oh I love this. It will give me hope whenever I look at houses with bland cabinets. I also have open shelving and prefer it over cabinets!

  24. Dear Emily,

    I love open shelving as much as the next person, but have always felt like it’s completely irresponsible in quake-prone California. I don’t have fancy locking mechanisms on my cabinets or anything, but during the earthquake up here in Napa last week, those doors kept most of my dishes safe. (Also, I hadn’t done dishes the night before, so a good portion were still in the sink or dishwasher!). Do you have any tips/tricks for stabilizing items on open shelving, or just cross your fingers and hope for the best?

    Love from Wine Country,

  25. Seriously, I LOVE every single room you’ve shown us in this house. LOVE. For real. I really love this kitchen and I way prefer your styling over Country Living’s.

  26. Oh Emily, sometimes i just want to reach through my computer and give you a giant hug for making the world a prettier place. Especially with posts like this, that rescue that RHONJ style from coming to fruition. Mad love from Toronto, girl.


  27. Wow, I must say this is up there on one of your best posts… The kitchen came out so great and seems reachable for many readers.
    Personally I like how you have it styled much better, the blue rug Country Living put in is far to monochromatic with the space.
    Am I seeing the photo correctly… Did the contractor not account for the oven and need to remove cabinets in order to put one in?

  28. LOVE this… but…is that ship lap on the walls? Man, I’d love to see some of that painted instead of drywalled over. Dream on…I know.

  29. Gorgeous aptu (as per the uuge, that’s short for usual).
    And that oil painting in the hall behind with the pig looking into the kitchen is awesome!

  30. I LOVE this palette and have been wanting to do something similar in our bathroom. Quick question: would you recommend using butcher block for a bathroom vanity counter?
    Thank you so much!

  31. This is exactly my kitchen cabinets, with the beige on beige on beige tile etc included. And this is exactly the kind of post I wanted to see: how to turn bad cabinets/kitchen around on a budget! So awesome!

  32. Emily – I adore this kitchen. My style is usually more in keeping with your MCM designs, but I live in a little 1929 spanish bungalow in LA and some of your design ideas, like the patterned backsplash tile and cabinet color, would really tie in with the feel out our house.

    Can you tell me where you got the backsplash tile? We are about to remodel and I would love to go see some options like that.

  33. I love this! One question though: were the pot lights and/or any other lighting photoshop-ed out of the pics? I’m curious to know what kind of fixture you would’ve used in a Modern/Spanish/Traditional mash-up.

  34. LOVE what you did with this kitchen (Country Living’s styling not so much), but I’m confused about one thing. Some of the photos show that sexy floor tile in the dining nook and half show what looks like a hardwood floor.

    Did CL change the tile to hardwood, or was their styling of the kitchen shot BEFORE the dining nook was done?

    Thanks, Emily. As always, you are beyond brilliant.

  35. Love this kitchen and the thorough post from start to finish and with the changes to show the reshoot – so complete! We put concrete tile in our master bath and guest bath and find them to be challenging because of staining and restrictions on types of cleansers to use on them. What sealants/cleansers does your client use or do you recommend? Maybe we can have them resealed with something more durable. Thanks

  36. GORGEOUS work. Love how it all came together.

    Two questions in case you ever have a moment… is there a “rule” about rugs in kitchens? How they fit/scale/size, their “use”, etc? And then do farmhouse sinks always have to sit up that high (so there’s a lip between the counters and the sink)?

  37. I prefer your styling of the kitchen over the magazine’s (duh,get real, and stop photoshopping). The colorful rug really makes it feel more in the vintage Spanish/Moroccan style of the house & it warms up the coolness of the black/whites. The handmade ceramic tiles are amazing..I am a huge ceramics fan & daydream of one day designing my own tiles & pottery or maybe I did it in a previous life. 😉 Anyway, the tiles go so well with the outlines of the flooring and the doorway architecture. On my computer the painted cabinets look like a dark charcoal (which doesn’t do anything for me), but you said “teal” and I love that color & that jewel tone does go much better with the whole Moroccan feel…plus, yay on the butcher block counters which again warms it up & balances out the b/w (thank goodness they didn’t put in freaky granite that would’ve been a major needle record screech). Well done, you & to the homeowner for excellent taste.

  38. Do you know where you purchased the roman shade from? Also who/what/how do you recommend for butcher block counters? I live in Los Angeles area… if you have already done a post about butcher block counters, I would love the link! thx Emily

  39. Emily, I just have to say that you really do have a gift. With a time crunch, your amazing talent just shines through. This isn’t even my style and yet I love it – to quote the wonderful Amy Poehler, “Good for you, not for me!” And I am so happy to celebrate you here! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Hugs and hugs.

  40. Very pretty but seems impractical with the wide grout (which always seems to stain) and the dust collecting shelves…Looks like a magazine though!

  41. This post makes me so sad. I just moved into a house with the exact same cabinetry (top and bottom) and that tumbled tile you speak of. There are aspects of the house I love, such as layout and size, but the faux tuscan look isn’t doing it for me and I’m struggling with how to update/freshen it without tearing out all the damned tile and cabinets. Painting and adding hardware to said cabinets is an option (although I might have a big fight w/ my husband on that issue). It doesn’t help that the previous owners loved them some faux paint finishes and any walls that don’t have one are painted beige. Anyway, at least this post gives me some ideas for improving the situation.

  42. Amazing kitchen. I would never have thought to mix the dark grey cabinets with a black and white tile but obviously, it works perfectly and I’m not an interior designer. Also, you definitely convinced me to go for open shelving on top so, really, I’m completely influenced by your work, Guru Emily Henderson.

  43. Love everything about this kitchen! I actually have an appliance question–it looks like a newer brand, NXR, which they sell at Costco. Wondering if the owner likes the stove? I’ve been researching and it seems like it could be a great way to get a professional style stove for less, but would love feedback if you have any.

  44. Okay – I learned a new word. Someone already said “amazeball”. That’s IT!! You are amazeball. This house is my new dream house. The kitchen is remarkable. For me, the rug totally pulled it together and gave it life. Home run.

    1. Love everything about this kitchen, too. In addition to how these cabinets were painted I wondered if the cabinets are painted on the inside (of the boxes). Do you have a general recommendation for that? Thanks!

  45. Maybe I missed it in skimming the comments, but I’m dying to know where the countertops are from! This kitchen is a dream. Love everything about it.

  46. I am in the process of renovating my first home (!!!) in Los Angeles and am dreaming of bathroom floors with gorgeous patterned cement tile. Would love a list of your recommendations for must-visit places in the Valley! A friend of mine who owns a few restaurants gets a lot of hers downtown, but I am concerned I’ll have to pick through 4 million tiles to find enough good ones. Thanks!!

  47. I love the floor tile. I think open shelves are great, but don’t think they are good for resale. A lot of people are scared of them.

  48. I’m also interested in the butcher block counters. Do they hold up well? Are they high maintenance? Are there problems with bacteria?

  49. I live near LAX and the beach, so I would have to get cleaning my shelves every hour, not just every day, if I had open ones. And that’s not even considering the earthquake issue. I wouldn’t want to use eq putty on dishes I used often.

    The tacky white microwave on the counter in the before shot cracked me up.

    And I much preferred the styling with the Heath Ceramics.

  50. Emily,

    I love this Kitchen! We live in Seattle, WA and recently purchased a rambler built in 1961. I really want to recreate this kitchen, it would be perfect! I inquired re: the cost of this tile and was quoted $10 per sq. ft… Do you have any suggestions for a similar tile that is closer to $5 per sq. ft??

    I appreciate your time and help!

  51. Oh my gosh, I freaking love it. And I can’t believe what a difference it makes in the feel of the kitchen just by switching out a rug and some dinnerware. The Country Living shot really does make it look more like a country kitchen, which I like, but I like your styling better! Beautiful kitchen either way, though.

  52. Well, I won’t kill you but I did come here specifically to get the paint color. :p The kitchen is beautiful, love it!

  53. Hi Emily,

    You did a beautiful job! I am an interior designer in Aspen, but currently doing a job on a Spanish Mediterranean home in Berkeley, CA. I would love to use this kitchen as an inspiration, but I’m obsessed with those black and white wall tiles. Can you point me in the right direction on where I can find those, or something similar?



  54. WoW!! Your kitchen looks amazing, I love everything about it!! I’m currently starting my kitchen remodel & I have been trying to find tiles like this everywhere! We have very limited resources in our area, so this has been a journey! Do you know how much your floor ended up costing or cost per sqft. ? I’m really trying to keep cost down as much as possible, but would love to have these tiles or something similar. Also did you contact the company about ordering or do you know if they outside dealers who actually carry these products? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

  55. I know this is an older post, but question. I noticed you didn’t take out the soffit above the cabinets you pulled out. Was there a reason for this? Or is it better for your design? I have one in our kitchen and don’t see the purpose if I’m just going to take the top cabinets out anyways.


  56. Hi Emily,

    I just moved into a 1929 Spanish home in San Diego. I have been carrying around the Country Living with this kitchen in it for 2 years and I am finally moving forward with a remodel to DUPLICATE exactly what you have done here because I LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT.

    PLEASE PLEASE can you tell me where you got the backsplash tile? I have found everything else.

    Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring work.


    1. I also am remodeling our kitchen and would LOVE to know where to purchase and get the details on the backsplash black and white tile. Thank you so much!

  57. Hi there,
    Beautiful kitchen!!! Where did you get the kilim rug that you used?? It’s stunning and the colors are exactly what I’m looking for!!

  58. Love it! Where on earth did you find that floor tile? I’ve search high and low. Any help would be greatly appriciated!!! Beautiful kitchen! Thank you

  59. I am so in love with this kitchen! Fanrastic work. I’m currently house hunting and hoping to make the new home my own – I know you mentioned the tile backsplash was a splurge, could you tell me where you found it? I would love to do something similar!

  60. Hi, I LOVE the blue paint colour on the cabinets. What type of paint did you use for the cabinets, and how were they done? I’ve only ever used chalk paint on cabinets and the finish doesn’t seem to come out as nice as I’d like.

  61. Just awesome topic! Unfortunately, I found this article too late – I already found the answer on another service. I mostly use https://goo.gl/n9L8jp. to edit my PDFs. I think it also allows you to to create fillable pdfs and esign them.