Personal Space: Copy This Photographer's Colorful, Cool California Kitchen

Sunny colors, alfresco seating, and retro touches: Photographer Leela Cyd's home has that Golden State glow.
Publish date:
leela cyd in bright kitchen

Photographing other peoples’ kitchens for magazines and blogs helped Leela hone her style. She chose traditional materials with a modern twist: square tiles instead of subways, and a gray-on-gray checkerboard tile floor.

Nothing kicks a reno into high gear like a bun in the oven. That was the catalyst for author and lifestyle photographer Leela Cyd, who moved into a 1950s bungalow in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband, David Kilpatrick, a stop-motion video director, in early 2016. 

Location was everything for the couple. The house is close to the ocean and just blocks away from Leela’s childhood home. But the kitchen left much to be desired: Termites had done a number on the cabinets, the sink didn’t work, and the fridge was rusty. In the fall, with their son, Izador, on the way, the couple got down to business creating a functional space for their soon-to-be family of three.

leela cyd at home with family

Leela, David, and 10-month-old Izador hang in the living room, which features art by David and their friends. 

The design plan centered around two main projects: installing a vintage Wedgewood stove (Leela’s dream appliance) and carving a big pass-through window above the sink (an idea born of a late-night Pinterest session). Turns out, that opening would also make for the perfect breakfast bar, allowing Leela and David to capitalize on the SoCal weather and enjoy a true indoor/outdoor lifestyle. 

leela cyd's pink kitchen cabinets

The couple wanted major cabinet space for holding dishware, pantry goods, and a prized collection of plants.

As for that megawatt cabinetry, lots of color swatching—and pumping up the saturation at the paint store—led the couple to a peachy-pink, sunset-inspired shade. Sure, they ate a lot of takeout for almost five months while construction crews worked, but the end result was worth it. “I can’t help but be happy cooking in here now,” says Leela.

leela cyd's open kitchen shelving

Open shelving near the stove allows for easy access to mugs for making a quick cup of coffee or tea.

"Color is a big joy and focal point for us," says Leela. We've used shades of the sky and sea all through the house and pulled ideas from our time in India and Europe."

leela cyd's outdoor entertaining area

Leela and David borrowed their pink-and-green combo from an old Parisian building they saw while on vacation. White walls and aqua-trimmed windows round out the palette.

pastel paint swatches

From left:
Vista Paint Dainty Debutante (0056) with 25 percent more saturation
Benjamin Moore Stokes Forest Green (2035-40)
Vista Paint Turkish Teal (0694)
Benjamin Moore Super White (OC-152)

"Materials matter," says Leela. "I chose marble counters since I shoot a lot of photos in the kitchen and marble is very photogenic. I'm OK with stains and scratches."

leela cyd taking photo with iphone

Leela’s Strawberry & Thyme Switchel

leela's strawberry and thyme switchel

Leela has written three cookbooks. This tart apple cider vinegar–spiked drink comes from 2017’s Tasting Hygge, and the mix is often in the fridge in case company stops by. 

Try Leela's Strawberry & Thyme Switchel

"styling for instagram" by leela cyd

Leela's fourth and latest book, Styling for Instagram, focuses on how to build a visually stunning social media feed.