The Stone Makes the Kitchen

Distinct quartzite sets a tone complemented by the furnishings, backsplash, flooring, and cabinetry.


Photo of kitchen and stone by Ramona d'Viola; photo of Gregor by Laura Turbow

Surrounded by feral orchards and unruly slopes of oxalis, a battered house with magnificent views presented the kernel of inspiration for an architect’s home. When Andrew James Gregor and Leigh Salvo discovered “the lot that time forgot,” the “location, location, location,” and abysmal condition of the existing structure made it even more enticing.

Gregor (below), principal of Blue Dog Construction and Renovation, is well known throughout the Coastal East Bay for his meticulous, high-end remodels, renovations, and astounding elevated decks. A native of Lebanon, the fine homebuilder holds multiple degrees from Britain’s Oxford School of Architecture and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

When it came to realizing his own family home, the interior designer-cum-architect builder let his imagination and skill run rampant in the kitchen. Gregor and Salvo envisioned a purposeful place for cooking and a convivial space for communing. When released from the constraints of a client’s budget, Gregor imagined a singular kitchen that defied classification while paying homage to his European sensibilities in a wholly California context.

“My approach to designing, particularly kitchens, is to allow the quality of the space to complement its function,” Gregor said. “Leigh and I spend a lot of time in ours. We wanted an inviting, functional, and beautiful space to cook, eat, and entertain in. It’s the hub of our home.”

Gregor’s unique trapezoid-shaped kitchen is a sublime marriage of Old World aesthetics and modern amenities where stone adds gravitas and long-lasting appeal. Influenced by earthy materials and natural tones, stone countertops are de rigueur and always on trend in today’s kitchens. This is where the architect’s interior design instincts came into play.

The couple selected Roma Imperial from Tiles Warehouse in Concord, a distinctive quartzite sought after for its vivid colors and veining patterns, stunning when used expansively. They chose this stone for the kitchen’s cook top island and surrounding countertops for its decorative marble look and its granite-like durability. The Italian stone provided the starting point for the kitchen’s color palette. Swirls of rich chocolate, creamy whites, and rusty oranges enliven somber cabinetry. Natural fiber soft furnishings add an organic element while a cool green Italian glass backsplash invokes a calm sea. The flooring, a porcelain tile called Cotto Rustic from Art Tile of Oakland harmonizes the palette and imparts a subtle golden glow to the room.

The kitchen’s cabinetry, stained to resemble black walnut, was constructed from solid alder, selected for its noticeable knots and beautiful imperfections that lend the kitchen a rustic feel.

 Miele appliances in stainless steel finishes add modern appeal.

Salvo’s daughter, Isabella Salvo, a recent Rhode Island School of Design grad, designed and created the custom brass drawer pulls and cabinet hardware, another layer of personalization and collaboration among designers.

Beneath a bank of southwest facing windows, the kitchen’s deep ceramic farmhouse sink imparts another Old World element. Window screen frames are stained to match the cabinetry providing cohesion and visual continuity. It’s these subtle yet purposeful touches that reveal the quality of craftsmanship in some places you can’t see.

“We were very intentional in all our material selections from a quality and sustainability perspective,” Gregor said. “Surprisingly, one of my favorite things in our kitchen is the faucet. It’s solid metal construction, with no plastic parts, meaning built to last decades, and easily repairable instead of replaced every few years.”

With its ergonomic design and adaptable functions, the über contemporary fixture, from American manufacturer Waterstone Faucets, represents the vanguard of plumbing options available on the market, and yours for $1,500 (or more).

As far as trends go, quality never goes out of style.

Gregor and Salvo are also devoted animal rights activists who frequently foster cats and dogs at their home — enough so they designed a pet kitchen/mud room to help contain the chaos and “keep ’em separated” at supper time. A phalanx of feeding stations, above and below, ensures the kitties get fed and the canines keep content.

“We sometimes foster whole litters of kittens, and since the dogs will eat the cat food on the floor, we have to feed the cats on the counter,” Gregor said. “Leigh was adamant that the cats had their own counters to eat from – and they not be ours.”

When it’s yours, you do what you want. But, we concur.


Blue Dog Construction and Renovation

Architecture, Interior Design, Construction

Waterstone Faucets

Plumbing Fixtures

Art Tile

Flooring and Backsplash

Tiles Warehouse