Craig O'Connell Architecture

Studio Updates


A Kitchen Fit for a Chef and a Baker—Woodacre Remodel


When Woodacre residents Arielle and Nick Giusto were knees-deep in a challenging bathroom remodel, they called on Craig, also a friend and neighbor, to help them finish off what turned out to be a beautiful bathroom and more importantly, to design a kitchen catered to their professions. A baker and a chef by day, the couple wanted a bigger, brighter kitchen that was more functional, modern, light and spacious – and one that brought their beautiful wooded surroundings inside.

Photos by  Helynn Ospina.

Photos by Helynn Ospina.


 Craig jumped right in and made it happen, says Arielle, who created the popular menu for M.H. Bread and Butter in San Anselmo, CA. 

“It was huge getting those plans on paper. We were pretty specific about what we wanted in the design, and Craig really helped with symmetry and especially creating our ceiling.” Craig removed the previous 8-foot drop ceiling to allow for a cathedral ceiling with reclaimed beams accompanied by 6-foot-wide windows to bring the outdoors in. A big skylight was also added above the stove, a plus for Arielle to let out steam as she cooks.

With daily home-prepared dinners and experimental culinary projects on weekends, the kitchen serves as Arielle’s office, in a way.  “I was looking in a magazine one day and there was a really long kitchen with no upper cabinets, and as soon as I saw that, I was like, ‘oh, that’s it.’” With no neighbors in sight, Arielle wanted to open up the space and give it more light and life, and was able to store larger items in the lower drawers that are discreet.


“There’s clearly a movement right now to open things up. The fact of the matter is, everyone wants to hangout in the kitchen. So I have people say, ‘let’s celebrate this, let’s open this up, let’s take the walls down.’” - Craig O’Connell

 From Tiny Office to Sprawled Kitchen

One of the biggest transformations was removing an interior wall that enclosed a small office in order to make the kitchen much larger.

“There’s clearly a movement right now to open things up. The fact of the matter is, everyone wants to hangout in the kitchen, and even if it’s a small square box of a kitchen, everyone tries to wedge themselves in there,” Craig says. “So, I have people say, ‘let’s celebrate this, lets open this up, let’s take the walls down.” And that’s exactly what Arielle and Nick did. Arielle, who loves to entertain and has guests over frequently, says she never used to let anyone in the kitchen with her while she cooked. Now that there’s plenty of space, it’s one of her favorite parts about having people over. “It makes dinner parties really relaxing,” she says.

In addition to the high ceiling and new open floor plan, the couple utilized different tree species for the wood shelves and drawers (custom made by Hopebuilt), chose a 48-inch red oven model from BlueStar and a solar powered skylight by Velux. Craig also designed a beautiful copper hood as the vent hood that expertly fit in the space. Concrete countertops around the sink were custom made by RE Union Creative, and open shelving was welcomed for a woodsy-meets-minimalist approach that reflects the vastness of the forest that surrounds.


All in the Neighborhood

Being neighbors and friends, the process of working together turned out to be enjoyable for everyone.

“What was great about working with Craig is we’d have these little huddles with him and our contractor, (also a friend, Spyder Pederson), really early in the morning before we all went to work; a little coffee huddle. Even if it was just 30 minutes, it helped so much, and was a huge impact on everyone’s day. And – Craig is such a nice guy,” says Arielle.

In the past, Arielle dreaded Thanksgiving, because she was normally working in restaurants and away from home. But this year, she had 30 guests at her home for the holiday, including Craig and his family. “It was wild! It was amazing to see a big line of people in the kitchen.”

“It turned out better than we expected. The wood is a living, breathing thing and if it gets dinged or marked, it’s ok – we’re living here! We want it to feel alive.”

 This remodel is celebrating its two-year anniversary, and was recently featured as “Kitchen of the Week” on Houzz. Read the article here.