Mount Helix home’s modern makeover sets tone for design pros’ annual Kitchen and Bath tour

Susan Howell

For many of us, the perfect weekend is spent visiting other people’s beautifully appointed homes to get design ideas and inspiration for changes we’d like to make in ours. So, add to your calendar the April 29 Kitchen and Bath Tour 2023, organized jointly by the San Diego chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

There will be 12 homes open on the tour, and one of them is the Mount Helix home of the event’s chairwoman from the San Diego ASID chapter, Rebecca Zoni-McMakin.

Zoni-McMakin has owned her own firm, RZ Designs, since 1995 and is also a longtime instructor at the Design Institute of San Diego, teaching interior design and advanced AutoCad. She bought the home in 2004 and lives there with her husband, Bob McMakin.

The split-level house, set on a hill surrounded by mature trees, was built in 1962 and has four bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms. Zoni-McMakin has blended a midcentury-modern style with some of the rustic charm of the neighborhood, with wood ceilings and beams in the living room and now Coretec Adelaide Walnut luxury vinyl flooring that carries from the living room up to the kitchen. The latter space, along with the next-door powder room and outdoor kitchen, was remodeled in 2021.

A remodeled kitchen, showing the center island with appliances.

A Fulgor Milano built-in microwave in a drawer was installed next to the drawers containing pots and pans as one of the renovations in the Mount Helix kitchen remodel.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“In 2004, the house had carpet throughout with tile in the kitchen and bath, and popcorn ceilings in kitchen, dining and office,” she recounted. “There have been modifications prior to the kitchen remodel. We replaced all windows and sliding doors to be more energy efficient. All the bathrooms have been remodeled. Lighting has been replaced throughout the home both inside and out. We also added an outdoor kitchen in 2021, and a Jacuzzi in 2020.”

“The indoor kitchen was my priority,” she said. “I wanted it to feel more welcoming from the moment you enter the home.”

According to Zoni-McMakin, it lacked storage and proper lighting. In addition, it was closed off from the home’s entry a few steps below and difficult to access from the dining area and their expansive yard outside.

A built-in wine rack in what used to be a pizza oven.

On a wall across from a new kitchen island, Zoni-McMakin replaced a never-used pizza oven with a built-in wine rack.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A wine refrigerator in the remodeled kitchen of Rebecca Zoni-McMakin's home.

A wine and soft drink refrigerator was installed across the entry to the hallway leading to the powder room in the Zoni-McMakin home.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

She wanted to create an upscale kitchen that melded midcentury elements and modern technology. And, because the couple intends to stay in their home as they get older, she was cognizant of adding universal design elements.

Starting in August 2021, after the outdoor kitchen was built, the couple began their indoor renovation. The tall partition blocking the kitchen from the entry and visibility to the outdoors from the living room was replaced by a half wall featuring beautiful Emser Center linear white 3-D porcelain tile. It stands in front of the new trapezoidal-shape 12½-foot-by-3-foot island. The wall only extends partway across the island to facilitate a small seating area, just large enough for two.

The island and cabinet countertops feature highly veined Cambria Kendal quartz from European Wholesale Countertops. Above is a white, curvy, three-sided Corso Rhythm LED pendant light. Jeff Hinze of Hinze Building Interiors built the cabinets. The island cabinetry is painted a turquoise blue. Two open display shelves are on one side near the 36-inch Fulgor Milano gas range. In the ceiling above the range is a recessed Faber stainless steel hood, operated by remote control. Under the stovetop are plenty of large drawers that hold the pots and pans. There’s also a spice drawer on one side of the range and a vertical pullout rack on the other side. And, Zoni-McMakin had a Fulgor Milano microwave in a drawer installed next to the pots and pans drawers.

A remodeled outdoor kitchen near a pool has a roof with a ceiling fan, stools, a wide counter and new grill.

La Mesa, CA – March 08: The remodeled outdoor kitchen of Rebecca Zoni-McMakin’s home near Mount Helix in La Mesa, CA on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Zoni-McMakin’s home is part of the first-ever joint kitchen and bath tour of the San Diego chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Kitchen and Bath Association. (Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A remodeled outdoor kitchen, showing the side with grill, counter and refrigerator.

La Mesa, CA – March 08: The remodeled outdoor kitchen of Rebecca Zoni-McMakin’s home near Mount Helix in La Mesa, CA on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Zoni-McMakin’s home is part of the first-ever joint kitchen and bath tour of the San Diego chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Kitchen and Bath Association. (Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Opposite the island is a long countertop that ends with a Fulgor Milano refrigerator encased in custom cabinets by Hinze Building Interiors. The crew removed the dropped ceiling to allow for full-height upper cabinets, where three sets of dishes are stored. Zoni-McMakin pointed out the craftsmanship by Hinze, who carefully cut the Douglas fir veneer so that the grain matched as it transitioned from one door or drawer to the next. The rich, dark wood complements the light, textured Emser Euphoria Ocean tile backsplash.

Zoni-McMakin based the beachy color palette on her reupholstered dining room chair fabric.

“Ocean blues and greens with warm gray tones are paired with the warm wood tone of the cabinets and LVT flooring,” she explained. They fit with her love of Scandinavian design — the clean lines and natural wood finishes with a pop of color.

Custom cabinets by Hinze Building Interiors in the Zoni-McMakin home, fitted with Cambria Kendal quartz countertops.

Custom cabinets by Hinze Building Interiors in the Zoni-McMakin home were fitted with highly veined Cambria Kendal quartz countertops.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Zoni-McMakin incorporated her dining room table and chairs into the new space, placing them on a very practical area rug of Fall in Line Jade carpet tiles by Flor. On the other side of the kitchen, she had more cabinets made.

The room was able to be slightly elongated by removing an existing pantry, so she designed another storage area featuring a coffee bar with storage below that includes a drawer for storing coffee, tea, and mugs, and another to use as a cellphone docking station. Above the countertop is a long display shelf and above that are extra-deep upper glass-paneled cabinets with lighting for serving pieces. Alongside, where the refrigerator had been, is a pullout pantry.

Because the water line was still in the space, she was able to install an Umjava water-filling feature for their Keurig coffee maker. Across the entry to the hall leading to the powder room and Zoni-McMakin’s office, she had a wine and soft drink refrigerator installed, and across the stairs, in the wall across from the island, where a never-used pizza oven had once been, she had a built-in wine rack constructed.

Among the coolest elements of the space are the Lutron Caseta smart home switches her husband insisted on.

“They’re amazing,” she said. “You can ask Google to turn on/off lights as well as dim them without touching a switch. I like that we also have a general switch that turns them all off at once. We also are enjoying the recessed hood vent. It doesn’t obstruct the view, and with the 600 CFM blower, it is powerful and very quiet.”

Pull-out pantry shelving in a remodeled kitchen.

A pullout pantry fills the space formerly occupied by a refrigerator in the Zoni-McMakin home.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Once the kitchen renovation was under way, the couple realized that the powder room next to it also needed updating. The color palette, Zoni-McMakin noted, borrows from the kitchen but with more the grays and wood tones than the bright turquoise. A painter, she added a pop of color with a turtle oil pastel drawing of subtle blues and grays that she created and a blue, green and yellow/beige stained-glass window.

One of the difficulties was narrowness of the bathroom, so she had to have not just a narrow width to the vanity but also shorter. She found the solution in a Fine Fixtures Imperial vanity in Wheat with a white ceramic top. She added tile wainscoting along the three walls with 3-by-6-foot Carrara marble tiles topped by narrow Sahara Carrara tiles from Floor & Decor. Instead of having a rack of lighting over the sink and mirror, Zoni-McMakin found a Dididada Oval Lighted LED bathroom mirror that adjusts the lights with the press of one of three buttons in the mirror.

A glass door leads out of the kitchen into the backyard. The outdoor kitchen was husband Bob’s priority. It sits on concrete pavers and is shaded by a pergola the couple built. The stucco cabinet has concrete countertops with a Lion Premium grill. Facing outside, under the counter and in front of two stools, is a sea turtle painting. The sprawling yard and pool are surrounded by beds of succulents and a stand of fruit trees.

If there were any challenges, not surprisingly they had to do with supply chain hold ups. But as a designer, Zoni-McMakin had accounted for that in her planning.

The coffee, tea and pantry area of a remodeled kitchen.

The coffee, tea and pantry area of the Zoni-McMakin kitchen. A refrigerator water line was repurposed as a built-in water supply for a Keurig coffee maker.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I knew the issues my clients were having obtaining them. I decided to order my appliances online, where I discovered the Fulgor Milano brand from Italy, and purchased a package including the range, microwave drawer, dishwasher and counter-depth refrigerator,” she recalled. “Delivery was a challenge as well since they were shipped from the East Coast. Since the powder room was last minute, I had to come up with design decisions on the fly and am very happy with the result.”

With her own indoor projects completed in January 2022, Zoni-McMakin is happy that she can help get people excited about the newest concepts for kitchen and bath design, both with her renovation and those of 11 other homeowners featured in the April tour.

“I’ve gone and seen every single kitchen,” she said. “What you’re going to see is a huge variety, not just of high-end kitchens, but also more accessible kitchens, including tiny kitchens in small houses with very limited space. People will be able to see that designers can modernize even small spaces, but also make them look like they fit into the design of the home from the beginning.”

A remodeled half bathroom

The palette of the powder room remodel of the Zoni-McMakin home borrows from the kitchen but with more grays and wood tones than turquoise.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A vanity inside the remodeled half bathroom of Rebecca Zoni-McMakin's home.

A vanity inside the remodeled half bathroom, where a Fine Fixtures Imperial unit in Wheat fit the narrow space.

(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

12-home tour from ASID and NKBA

What: The San Diego chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Kitchen and Bath Association are teaming up for the first time for a joint self-guided Kitchen and Bath tour of a dozen newly remodeled properties. These projects will feature the latest trends in flooring, surfaces, appliances, color, lighting, sustainability, materials, technology, and universal design.

When: April 29, beginning at 10 a.m.

Cost: $15 for ASID/NKBA student members, $20 for ASID/NKBA members, $30 for general admission in advance and $35 if purchased the day of the event.

Information and tickets: Eventbrite via the ASID website at casid.asid.org/events

Golden is a San Diego freelance writer and blogger.

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