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When designer Christa Martin purchased this historical Palm Springs condo, the tight and restrictive G-shaped kitchen had more problems than just its limiting layout. 

The condo had potential, but it had underlying water leaks causing water to seep into—and behind—the 55-year-old laminate countertops. It was time for a complete overhaul. 

The first order of business was creating a layout that would be more conducive to the way we live today, and because this condo is meant to be a vacation home, Martin wanted the main living space to be easy to take care of, open, and ideal for hosting guests. “The original layout had a small kitchen and dining room, which I combined to make a more inviting entertaining space,” she says. “I opened up the space, keeping the core layout the same and installed a central island for gathering.” 

This move wasn’t just a functional one. Famed architect William Krisel designed each condo in this complex, called The Sandpiper, to have a view of the pool and the mountains. And opening up the walls brought that vision to life allowing for the desert light to flow through the space. The kitchen sees the sunrise, while on the other side the sunset—and with the walls down, that light trickles through the entire space at all hours of the day, says Martin. The result is a supremely inviting light, bright kitchen that plays well with the modernist Palm Springs architecture.

Though neutral, Martin made sure the space wasn’t boring, thanks to pops of warm wood tones and eye-catching fixtures. “The wall between the entry and kitchen was paneled in walnut, and I added open shelves in to give the space some depth and drama,” she says. If you look closely, you’ll see hints of the same walnut in the kitchen on the base plate of the Cedar and Moss light fixture over the sink. 

Other design details that elevate the space include a handmade white tile backsplash, a large-format terrazzo porcelain tile on the floors, Semihandmade’s Supermatte White Slab fronts with brushed brass knobs and pulls, walnut floating shelves, and gorgeous oversized rattan light fixture over the island. 

The kitchen also has added bonuses that make the space perfect for hosting, like an entertainer’s sideboard with a beverage fridge and storage for platters, wine glasses, and candles, an island that overhangs on three sides to accommodate plenty of seating, and a pass-through window that leads directly to the patio where the grill and the main eating area are located. 

Though this desert retreat seems to have it all, Martin says it’s one of the least expensive and most comfortable kitchens she’s ever designed—just what a vacation spot should be. 

“Keeping all of the cabinets streamlined really saved money,” she says. “I used door front cabinets and fewer drawers than I might have installed in a full-time kitchen.” Semihandmade Supermatte fronts  paired with budget-conscious Whirlpool appliances. Martin also used classic white quartz countertops, which are one of the least expensive quartz finishes and are always in stock, costing her jut $1,200.

“By watching all the angles and lines, getting a sleek counter-depth fridge, no edge countertops and aligning the micro hood with the cabinet bottom and shelf, the space feels designed,” she says.

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Island Hopping

A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.