The similarities between baking a cake and remodeling a home might be slim in the minds of most. But to renowned pastry chef and owner of Extraordinary Desserts Karen Krasne, paying attention to detail when decorating anything—be it a gorgeous wedding cake or her 2,200-square-foot house in Mission Hills—is the recipe for a tasteful design.
Krasne began remodeling her 1970s craftsman into the dynamic, contemporary space it is today with the help of local architect Aaron Anderson nearly 15 years ago. “We started with this custom gate, actually,” Anderson says, pointing to a large, suspended steel-and-glass opening at the entrance of the Krasne residence.
Past the gate, guests step into the front courtyard that serves as an outdoor dining room. Beneath a custom steel canopy filtering sunlight into the space—an effect inspired by the oak trees of San Diego County—sits a grand stainless-steel communal table topped with zebra quartzite stone. Along the north wall, a smoky gray mirror magniﬁes the space.
The intimate courtyard brings the outdoors in, while the architecture and design of the house spill outwards.
“Both Karen and I grew up in San Diego, so the house is heavily influenced by that sort of outdoor living,” Anderson says. “But the interesting thing about Karen is her travels. What she does, as a chef, is heavily influenced by her international travel, so we also brought all that influence into the house. It’s anchored in San Diego, but it has all kinds of international flourishes.”
The south wall of the courtyard is a striking cement fiberboard privacy screen that’s been pierced with an intricate design. “The very first day I met Karen, she brought these Moroccan lanterns she bought on a trip to Marrakech into my office and she said she wanted the front part of the house to be about these,” Anderson remembers. “I had [the lanterns] on my desk, and we just thought about unrolling them and cutting out the design onto a piece of slim fiberboard. The piece is backlit so, at night, this side glows just like a lantern does.”
The old-world, international inﬂuences don’t stop in the courtyard. Inside the home, Krasne’s love of traveling is reﬂected in every room. A hand-carved wooden Moroccan cabinet has been repurposed into a bathroom door. Ornate candle holders from Bali adorn the master bathroom countertop. And in the living room—which expands into a second, bamboo-flanked courtyard through massive stacking glass doors—a feature wall was inspired by traditional azulejos tile Krasne once saw in Spain.
“We tried to take all these different influences—Morocco, Bali, and Paris, where Karen went to culinary school—and balance them with the edgier, modern stuff,” Anderson says. “It’s really hard to take a craftsman house and modernize it without it looking terrible, so I think one thing we all did well was elevating it without overtaking it.”
The kitchen, where Krasne spends most of her time while she’s at home, was renovated last. A large island topped with a Japanese-inspired lithograph on natural quartz sits in the middle of the sunlit room, nearly always covered in a food spread for Krasne’s family and friends. Floor-to-ceiling, built-in cabinetry is coated with a self-healing gray Fenix laminate, giving the space a calming atmosphere.
“Those,” Kranse says, gesturing to ornate, art-deco chandeliers hanging over the kitchen table, “are from an old opera house in Austria. I had them sprayed silver to match the sconces, which all came from the same opera house. I also wanted to bring in French Champagne buckets—I really wanted the space to be about us drinking wine and entertaining.”
The Champagne buckets line a shelf hung above built-in lounge seating. Next to the lounge is an in-wall desk with a stack of her favorite cookbooks on display. There, Krasne researches and experiments with new recipes.
“I have a huge office at my restaurant, but I can’t think straight there,” Krasne says. “You feel the frenetic energy, you hear the tamping of the espresso machine and the phones ringing.” It’s here, in this calming, creative space (and in her personal gym downstairs), that Krasne finds inspiration.
As we exit Krasne’s kitchen and step back out into the front courtyard, she jokes with Anderson that she recently came up with a landscaping idea for the front entrance while on a trip to Puerto Vallarta with her husband.
“I know, with Karen, there’s actually a good chance that it’ll happen,” Anderson laughs. “Karen knows more about construction and putting a house together than any other client I’ve ever worked with. We actually get to a detailed level of thought and design. That’s super rare.”