Sensational Kitchen on a Budget
Homeowners Redo their own Kitchen for a Downhome Design that Wows
Chicks and pups and calves staring up at you from binder pages pleading, “Please pick us” in 24-point blue type below their oh-so-cute photos had a positive influence on our judges. They loved the entry’s delightful presentation and the included Rancho Santa Fe project’s backstory. But in the end, it was the farmhouse kitchen’s charm that brought homeowners Melisse and Jason Mossy the winning thumbs up from our Kitchens of the Year judges—and our readers, who chose this homeowner-designed kitchen as their number one favorite by an overwhelming Readers’ Choice majority.
“I always wanted a little farm near the city where I could build a nest for my family,” Melisse says. “It was a miracle that we bought this house. It was selling for $5 million when we first saw it, which was way out of our price range. Two years later there was a short sale and we mustered up every penny we had but we were outbid. Then it went into foreclosure. We bid even less and we got it!”
Known as “The Bishop’s Estate,” the 1946 ranch-style farmhouse and equestrian/tennis property was built by Bishop Walter Mitchell, one of the area’s first residents and the head Episcopal bishop for the State of Arizona. In 1946, the property was stellar. When Melisse and Jason bought it seven years ago, it was a teardown foreclosure with dead landscaping and several colonies of bees making hives in exterior spaces. The couple dedicated nearly every weekend to restoring the home and waited to do the kitchen until they had the budget to “do it right.”
“This house is all about family and friends so we wanted to make the kitchen a gathering space,” Melisse says. “Our biggest challenge was that we did not want to create a big, modern kitchen. We did not want to lose the historical aspect of our home.”
For six years, Melisse and Jason imagined a better cook’s space. “We used Pinterest a lot and had tons of magazines and files and files of different things we loved. We wanted a relaxed kitchen where friends and family would feel comfortable and we kept that goal in mind. We really didn’t know what we were doing but our heart was so connected to it, it led a lot of our decisions.”
Decisions like chucking the old brick boiler chimney that, in the room’s center, hogged all the space; bringing in lots of pull-out drawers instead of cabinets to help make the kitchen one big, congenial square; opening up the exterior wall with a large pass-through window to bring the outside in and connect the kitchen with the panoramic ocean view; and getting rid of a few walls and a second set of swinging doors to open the space to the back and front yards.
“We retained the first set of swinging doors for nostalgia,” Melisse says. “If you look around the kitchen, you’ll see a lot of nods to the farm because horses are a big part of my life and having a farmhouse is the biggest dream come true ever. The island is reclaimed barn wood that came from a farm. The post on our stairs came from our barn when a horse broke a cross tie. The pendant lights are replicas of milk containers from a dairy. There’s an old iron weather vane horse above our range. And we have Roy Rogers salt and pepper shakers. I love Roy Rogers.”
Except for marble on countertops (which, Melisse says, she is learning to relax and love), materials are easy care—especially flooring that is an organic distressed wood. “We’ve raised all kinds of animals through 4H,” she says, “and have had lambs wearing diapers in here, lots of dogs and cats and muddy boots, so I needed something stress free.”
Now that the kitchen is as casual and relaxed as Melisse and Jason are, it’s become the hub of the house. “It’s a space where homework gets done (they have two girls, ages 16 and 19), friends come to chat, and my husband and I have a glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind and talk about things. We even have breakfast together as a family now. Before, breakfast was just a kind of forgotten, hurried meal. Now, my husband—who doesn’t usually cook—often makes breakfast burritos for all of us and it’s a great way to start the day.”