Text by: Tiffany Carboni
To the clever mind of designer Karen Harautuneian, few things are more satisfying than finding a fixer-upper in a good area. That’s exactly what she got when she picked up this duplex in Manhattan Beach, CA a few years ago.
By converting the structure into a single-family home, Harautuneian turned the second floor into a cozy main living area taking full advantage of the nearby ocean views and breeze. The kitchen and living room flow as one contiguous space reminiscent of a European beach cottage.
The oven wall features exposed knotty pine paneling that continues into the living room. To give the kitchen its own focal point, the sink and window seating walls are covered in clear pine paneling painted off-white. Like the oak flooring, the planks on the walls are pieced together side-by-side (as opposed to a tongue and groove installation) leaving gaps and imperfections between. “I’ve always been inspired by the quaintness and simplicity of European kitchens and the planks reflect that quality. The flooring, called ‘poor man’s hardwood,’ is incredibly forgiving when you drop things on it,” explains Harautuneian who rubs tung oil on it occasionally to buff out evidence of any such accidents.
Imperfections of all sorts, however, are encouraged by the designer for what they add to the home’s ever-changing patina. “We are very close to the ocean and you need to embrace what the sun and salt are going to do to a home otherwise you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with the elements,” she notes.
In keeping with many European traditions, Harautuneian’s kitchen strays from lacquers and paints. Instead maple cabinets stained in deep aubergine and topped with teak counters treated with mineral oil create a space that looks less like a kitchen and more like living space. On either side of the sink are plank shelving allowing easy access to everyday crockery. Above that is the designer’s collection of art she culled from her trips to France, England and a lucky find or two from local Southern California antique shops.
When she’s not busy cooking or entertaining guests, Harautuneian can still be found in her kitchen but curled up in her favorite spot—the window seat. Behind the curtain, a day bed provides a spot to stretch out and watch the sun set over the water. It also doubles as a surprisingly comfortable guest room for sleepovers. “My father built it for me when I moved in. I sit there every single day,” she says. “I love it.”