San Diego Home/Garden Magazine (January 2015) – “All Fired Up”


La Jolla, CA


"All Fired Up"


January 2015


Larny J. Mack

An element that enhances the whole feel of Nancy Scull’s La Jolla kitchen is the honey-colored Jerusalem limestone around the pizza oven – except that Nancy respects the appliance too much to refer to it with that term. She calls it “the wood-fired over.”

We don’t call it a pizza oven, because we cook a lot of food in there, including stead, vegetables and Thanksgiving turkey,” she says. “My son, who is married and lives five minutes away, helps me with it. He has taken professional courses on cooking using wood-fired ovens. It takes a lot of skill.”

But it wasn’t the wood-fired oven and its warm umber stone that the kitchen was designed around, says Architect Ione R. Stiegler, FAIA. It was a kitchen hutch.

“Many years ago, we bought this old Welsh dresser,” Nancy explains. “My husband is English, so we love Welsh- and Irish-style dressers. It displays our china collections from Italy, France and England, as does some open cabinetry. They really warm up the room. When choosing cabinet colors, I definitely wanted dark wood. But rather than doing the island in white like I had seen in many magazines, I decided to go with the honey color that better matches our Welsh dresser.”

English heritage aside, the kitchen’s style is French provincial with a smattering of Italian panache and a California overtone.

“The cabinets are very French in the way the corner panels come together,” Ione says. “The cabinetmaker is French, so he could handle truly French details on the cabinets. They are of alder and stained and treated differently. All of them are distressed, but they are distressed in a way that a real cabinet under heavy use would have been distressed, as opposed to someone abstractly hitting it with chains and a gouger.”

Marble on the main countertops isn’t pristine either, but Nancy couldn’t resist its beauty. “I really wanted that,” she says. “In Italy and France, they use marble. I know that it looks as if it is used; but that’s OK, because it gives my kitchen the feeling that it is not just for show.”

A farmhouse look was achieved by installing wood beams salvaged from Montana. “The happy coincidence was that the guy we bought them from heard the tuna were running,” Ione says with a laugh. “So he drove the beams down for us so he could go tuna fishing.”

“When the beams first arrived, I nearly had heart failure,” Nancy says. “They were gray and dry looking. I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness. What did we do?’ But when we stained them with furniture polish to get a darker brown look, I breathed a sign of relief that we hadn’t made a major mistake. The really help make the kitchen. The first thing people say when they come into our kitchen is, ‘Oh, I love the beams.’ I think that is because they bring the whole kitchen together.”

Now that the kitchen is complete, Nancy has a new task on her agenda: “I’m going to master baking bread in the wood-fired oven,” she says.