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High Profile Interior Designer Gives Her Kitchen the Star Treatment

The pandemic had inspired many people to undertake home renovation projects, and L.A.-based interior designer Shalena Smith was no exception. The unexpected downtime allowed Smith to turn her creativity toward revamping the kitchen of her Mediterranean-style home. After gaining notoriety as the designer to the stars, Shalena has acquired a long list of celebrity clients including Mariah Carey, Sean Combs (also known as Puff Daddy), Heidi Klum and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, to name a few. Her many years of experience heading two design firms, Gaga Designs and Shalena Smith Interior Design, meant Shalena was more than capable of bringing the kitchen of her dreams to life.

Area of Opportunity

The existing kitchen was not practical for an active family and the finishes further dated its look. Smith wanted the 250-square-foot space to reflect her design philosophy, which states that above all else, space must be functional, organized and safe before considering appearance. For Shalena to achieve this, attention to detail is integral. Each item sourced for a project, even down to the finishes, should be as pleasing to the eye as it is resilient to high-volume use.  

The existing kitchen was not practical for an active family and the finishes further dated its look.

Since the kitchen plays such an integral part of Shalena’s and her family’s lives and serves as the center of their home, she wanted the finishes and surfaces used throughout the high-traffic area to be durable, easy to clean, and visually appealing — a balance she works to reach within her clients’ homes as well. Smith structured the design to best serve the needs of her family by using elements of biophilic design, bringing in more natural light, and changing the color palette in the kitchen.

The Glow-up

She began by reconfiguring the oddly positioned kitchen to better capitalize on its abundant space. During the process, Smith made sure to create a layout that would allow her to repurpose the old cabinets, as they were well made and still in great shape. Smith removed an L-shaped peninsula, replacing it with an enhanced island. It helped to increase storage in the kitchen – freeing up valuable counter space and reducing clutter. The now wired workspace houses the microwave, bringing a touch of convivence to the area. Smith looked to work from a nearly blank canvas, removing all other components of the original kitchen.

The new kitchen’s floor plan and updated finishes are perfect for the Smith family.

The old appliances were replaced with a matching KitchenAid suite, and a new Zephyr cooktop vent hood was installed as well. Smith also added a Blanco Precis sink in SILGRANIT Anthracite — completing the look with a Graff Perfeque Pull Down Kitchen Faucet. To brighten the space, Smith added updated lighting fixtures from Hudson Valley Lighting.  

Next, Smith looked to update the surfaces and finishes within the space. She started by replacing the old flooring with luxury wood-look tile from A&W Rugs and Carpets, which brought a sense of warmth to the kitchen. She then turned her attention to the countertops and backsplash. For Shalena, these elements were especially important to get right in such a high-volume space. She relied on her design experience, in which she has found that the naturally beautiful look and durability of quartz are unmatched. For Smith, selecting the material for her own home was a no-brainer.

Smith was first introduced to Vadara, a manufacturer of artisan quartz surfaces, over five years ago while working with a client. She was delighted to find that the material perfectly mimicked natural stone while it was both easy to maintain and sanitize. Unlike natural stone surfaces, quartz doesn’t require sealants and is stain resistant — making it a superior option for busy families.

Shalena visited her trusted stone fabricator, where she was presented with various quartz samples. Smith decided on Vadara’s Marbella, a white base covered in intricate gray and taupe veining that resembles the innate beauty of marble for her countertops. Gloria of Planet Stone recalled, “We’ve built a great relationship working with Shalena over the years; she often recommends quartz to her clients. That’s why it was no surprise that she chose Vadara quartz for her own kitchen renovation. Vadara is an excellent surfacing material for those who love the look of natural stone but desire durability and ease of maintenance.” The new surfaces help to fuse the overall aesthetic of the kitchen, resulting in a clean updated look.  

A Fairy Tale Ending

Smith focused on creating a more inviting kitchen that her family would love. The new layout, refurbished cabinets, upgraded flooring and custom island were excellent additions to her kitchen, but the quartz surfaces are breathtakingly beautiful and completely steal the show. Her family can now enjoy the better functionality of their new space, and Shalena can have peace of mind knowing that the countertops in her bustling kitchen will serve her family well for many years to come.  

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