‘California Modern’ in Traditional Connecticut

When a busy Manhattan couple set out to renovate the traditional kitchen of their family’s

summer home, they tapped prominent interior designer Laura Michaels to lead the


The getaway residence was ideally located in picturesque New Canaan, Conn., just an hour

outside the city. But the home itself needed a major rehab — particularly the kitchen.

“The house was outdated and extremely traditional,” says Michaels, founder of the full-service

firm Laura Michaels Design. “The overall layout was fine but the design had to be updated.”

The interior designer has a reputation for creating warm, inviting spaces that stand the test of

time. In this Connecticut kitchen, that meant doing away with dated elements like ornate

corbels, heavy molding, small cupboard doors, and cornered cabinetry.

Photo by Venera Alexandrova

“I wanted the kitchen to blend with the architectural style of the home but have a more

streamlined appearance,” says Michaels, whose artistic vision with thoughtfully layered textiles

pulls generously from her experience as a fashion designer.

The result is a “California Modern” vibe that prioritizes beauty and function in equal measure:

sleek-but-durable slab porcelain countertops, dramatic double islands that offer ample prep

and entertaining space, and state-of-the-art Monogram appliances that deliver professional-

grade performance with a luxury look.

It All Starts With Appliances

When designing a kitchen, Michaels says careful planning is crucial — and that begins with selecting the right appliances.

“A kitchen could hardly be a kitchen without appliances, so certainly they are our first priority,” she says. “Actually, we won’t start the design of a kitchen until the appliances are selected.”

The homeowners selected Monogram’s Minimalist Smart 5-in-1 30-inch Wall Oven for its versatility and speed cooking. The fact that it also functions as a convection oven, toaster oven and microwave (among other uses) was appealing, as it meant fewer appliances and a more streamlined look. The contemporary design also fits the kitchen’s aesthetic, adds Michaels.

Photo by Venera Alexandrova

Paired with the 5-in-1 is Monogram’s 30-inch Smart Electric Single Wall Oven, with voice controls, scan-to-cook capability, and 5 cubic feet of space to accommodate even the largest meals. Despite its capacity, it still fits flush with the cabinetry, allowing for the low-profile look Michaels sought in this kitchen: “I try for as much consistency in-depth as possible,” she says.

Photo by Venera Alexandrova

Similarly, Monogram’s sleek Panel-Ready Column Refrigerator and Freezer were selected for their clean lines. The refrigerator’s built-in water filter hidden inside vs. exposed was an added bonus, Michaels says.

But as important as appliances are to a kitchen, Michaels says they should complement the aesthetic not dictate the look of the space. That’s why Monogram was a perfect fit, as the appliances could be effortlessly integrated, either with the use of cabinet panels or as sleek complements to the overall design.

Regardless of design preferences, Michaels reiterates that it is essential for clients to really think about how they will use the space before embarking on a kitchen renovation.

“Make a list of what is important. Understand your needs for storage. Consider how you cook and prep,” she says. “A kitchen designer will not know how you work in your kitchen. It is important that you understand the layout and that it is conducive to your family and lifestyle.”

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