Three years ago, when Carla Malloy moved into her 1890s ranch house near Ojai, California, she focused on the kitchen first — well, that and the garden out back. For this mother of two, cooking with homegrown produce is a top priority, both personally and professionally. Carla (left) sells preserved fruits, vegetables, and more at , the business she started with her sister-in-law, Grace Malloy, and neighbor Erin Pata. In other words, Carla's kitchen doubles as her "production facility."
Luckily, the space already boasted great bones, including century-old fir floors and beadboard cabinets. She simply brightened it up with plenty of white paint, then set about adding personality through charming 1950s appliances, tree-trunk stools, and colorful Fiestaware. "Some days, I never leave this room," Carla says. "And that's fine with me!"
1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. These cabinets had been in the house for more than 100 years, so Carla didn't dare mess with them. Instead, she called upon white paint and a thorough hardware cleaning to effect an affordable makeover.
2. The secret to giving a kitchen dinner-party potential? A crowd-pleasing table. "Our friends always hang out in this room anyway," says Carla. So she forewent a diminutive dinette set in favor of this eight-foot-long pine antique, big enough to accommodate plenty of guests. (For similar table, $1,400; )
3. Go out on a limb with unconventional furniture. Much less expected than chairs, these cypress stools didn't cost a thing. Carla's husband, Chris — a pro surfer and brand ambassador for — scored them in a barter with a woodworker pal, trading a wet suit for the stumps. (For similar stools, $199 each; )
4. Vintage appliances offer service with style. A neighbor gifted the Malloys this cast-off 1950s refrigerator, as well as an O'Keefe & Merritt stove from the same era (previous slide). "I love the way these look," Carla notes, "and both still work perfectly!"
5. Wood floors evoke a "real room" feeling. Who says kitchens (and bathrooms, for that matter) must include tile? The Malloys' fir floor not only warms up this space, but also visually connects it to the rest of the house.
6. Less can be more when it comes to curtains. If privacy's not an issue, and your windows look this good, think about skipping drapes and blinds altogether. "The redwood was too gorgeous to cover up," Carla says. "Besides, Chris and I live like farmers — the sun dictates our schedules."
7. Consider a different kind of country countertop. The Malloys' kitchen incorporates what some may view as a modern statement: steel counters. Carla, however, sees the material another way. "It reminds me of farm tools, like galvanized buckets," she explains.
8. Handsome islands don't have to cost a fortune. Carla came across this early-1900s Mexican desk — $350 at an antiques shop — and saw an opportunity for a one-of-a-kind workstation. To make the piece even more functional, she improvised a lower shelf by propping basic wood planks atop the stretchers. Though Carla's happy with the island's 32-inch height, it's a cinch to elevate a table with casters.
9. Take advantage of vertical space. It would've been a shame to waste the kitchen's closet on buckets and a broom. So, Carla transformed the area into a pantry with six-foot-tall pine shelving units that also maximize corners. Come spring, the shelves fill up with preserves for Carla's farmstand, including her favorite: pear-vanilla bean jam. (Shelving units, $199.95; )