Penelope Bianchi’s Romantic Kitchen in California

Welcome to Penelope Bianche’s colorful kitchen in Montecito, which is full of character and stories (like its owner). I featured her “Provençal Farmhouse” when it was on the market last year. She recently wrote to tell me that after it was named one of the “10 Most Romantic Houses in the World,” she decided not to sell it after all!

When she heard about my “Hooked on Your Kitchens” contest, she sent me these photos of hers to share with you. She writes, “I love, love, love our kitchen. I hope you do, too!”

Penelope is a designer whose work has been featured in magazines like House Beautiful and Traditional Home. She admits she has a weakness for old Fortuny fabrics, patina “on anything,” and Venetian antiques, but she believes houses should be a reflection of the people who live there: “It should feel personally collected, not decorated.”

Regarding the cabinet colors, she says: “The upper cupboards are the color of the trim in the whole house; the lower (including the two dishwasher drawers) are this dark red. The painters thought I was on ‘hallucinogens.’ The fabric on that skirt (above) ties it all together.”

I did a double-take when I realized that this is her refrigerator (below).

She says, “My wonderful upholsterer made me these fabric boards to be velcroed on to my fridge and freezer…so I can put pictures, invitations, and inspirational quotes on there. I see those many times a day! No stainless steel to show fingerprints…and a constantly changing array of family photos and wonderful memories!!”

She has some great stories to tell. Here’s one of my favorites, about those chickens on top of her Welsh dresser:

“Ten years ago, Oprah Winfrey bought the property next door! Can you imagine?

“One day I get this long message from her on my machine. She told me that a tabloid had reported that she did not like my chickens! And she was ‘losing her beauty sleep.’ She apologized…and two days later these gorgeous chickens from Italy arrived in the most beautifully wrapped boxes!

“The card said…Contrary to tabloid opinion, I LOVE chickens!”

I love that. For more details about her kitchen, visit her blog. (Photos by Mark Lohman.)

P.S. You can see my post about Penelope’s house here:

A Designer’s Provençal Farmhouse For Sale

For a list of all the readers’ kitchens that I’ve featured in the contest so far: Kitchen Stories. When I share my readers’ houses, I always ask that you keep the comments polite and positive, please. Thanks!

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  1. 65andcounting says

    I envy Californians who have so much natural light every day to have red cabinets. It such a warm color, one of my favorites. And no prettier town in all of California than Montecito. Lucky homeowner!! As for the overall kitchen, inviting and creative, but a few too many collections on the shelves and countertops for my personal taste. Where do you stash the Cheerios and Fritos? Is there a pantry? Also, I’m curious: how do you put fabric over the vent grille at the top of the fridge? Wouldn’t that make the fridge have to work harder?

    • says

      HI! The cupboard with the chicken wire and toile holds a lot of food!!

      Fritos etc. in deep drawers under the counters!
      We keep the cereal in the refrigerator because of those “moths”; and the thingie over the vent sticks out and the appliance guy said it doesn’t interfere!

  2. Shabby Chick says

    Awww….she loves chickens!!! We would be BEST friends for sure! I share her love of a collected, rather than decorated, look. I love that she piles things on the counters and covers her refrigerator with things and people she loves…I do that, too. Her kitchen is a stunner!!! Not sure the rest of us can really compete with the “most romantic house in the world”! 😉

  3. Brandy says

    Maybe a bit too eclectic for my more vanilla tastes, but, wow! Amazing job and like Oprah, I too love the chickens! Only thing I’d change is the memo boarded-fridge, it just looks too cluttered for me…but perhaps in real life it looks better. Great job!

  4. Carolyn says

    Penelope’s house (and garden) is one of my all time favorites, so I’m not the least bit surprised I love her kitchen too. Love the chickens story.

  5. Christina from Dallas says

    Wow neighbors with Oprah! Can’t imagine that! That is such a cute kitchen. It looks “natural” and not too decorated. Tell Oprah we said “hi”.

    • says

      You are invited! ALL of you! My favorite thing about blogs….is the “kindred spirit” thing!

      I have a few (not many) blogger friends who have encountered….”angry and scary’ comments!

      (If I have…”aksimet” (is that the name?) has screened them!


  6. Terri says

    “I never thought of that”, I must have said that more than a dozen times looking at this kitchen. It is beautiful and full of great ideas that almost anyone can incorporate in almost any kitchen!

    • says

      Hi Teri! I missed this the first time around! (I drown in email how do people cope?) yours I treasure!

      this is truly the most wonderful compliment of all! This is why I blog; this is why Julia bogs (besides that she is ‘hooked on houses’)!!

      Showing people what they can do with existing cabinets…..and such reasonable things!!

      Thank you for that lovely compliment!

    • says

      Hi Terri!

      thank you so much for this great comment! My goal is exactly what you said!
      “anyone can do it”!!
      is so right!!!

      I hope with all my heart……those ideas will make happier homes for families!



  7. says

    Thank you so much Julia!! I have loved your Kitchen Contest! And I am thrilled to be a contestant!!
    Thank you so much for your kind words; and the lovely comments from your followers!!
    You are a terrific writer!!


  8. Kim says

    What a lovely farm kitchen. I love the red and blue colors. They give the kitchen a calm feeling.

  9. grapevine93 says

    Wonderful kitchen! Can imagine enjoying an aromatic, tasty Coq au Vin, a lovely glass of wine and great conversation! For me that’s the kind of kitchen that is always beautiful!

  10. says

    Hi Julia! Oh, what a wonderful kitchen and so big and I love those huge hutches.
    Thanks for showing us.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia :)

  11. sandy says

    This kitchen is absolutely charming. Wonderful collections. Coziness & beauty all wrapped into one. Truly a beautiful & cherished home.

  12. Screendoorgirl 3 says

    I love, love , love this kitchen, too! I especially love the chickens…

  13. Amy says

    I love kitchens like this- but to be honest, in the end I see them as pure eye candy. While its all lovely in pieces, it must be very busy and tremendously hard to keep clean in real life. This kind of kitchen needs “staff” to keep clean- I cant imagine how oily and greasy the fridge fabric would be after just one day of cooking bacon for blt’s for a family of 4!

    • says

      Hi there! I guess the secret is having really good fans in the hood ! “Vent-a- Hood” with two fans! We cook a lot of bacon; and there is no grease on that fridge! We clean the fans twice a year; however, I can honestly say that our kitchen gets a lot of use; and is not hard to keep clean “in real life”!

  14. MissFifi says

    Absolutely Divine! The colors are wonderful and while some things are not to my taste, I can certainly recognize a beautiful job when I see one. Well done.