EXCLUSIVE: Marcela Valladolid's 'Euro-Mexican' California Cottage
Latin Fusion Comes Home
As a chef, Marcela Valladolid is known for creating accessible and delectable Mexican dishes. So it should come as no surprise that her charming Chula Vista, California, home is a creative interpretation of her Latin heritage. "In Mexico, there’s a huge colonial French influence," Valladolid, 38, explains of the house's cross-cultural style. "And I wanted to lean a little bit more on that than the traditional things people associate with Mexico, like the bright colors and heavy woods."
Cape Cod Goes California
The historic cottage is a city landmark, but needed some updating for a modern family. "The person who lived here prior really wanted the house to reflect the turn-of-the-century kind of style and décor, so the house was really dark," says the co-host of Food Network’s The Kitchen. "There were maroon walls and brown wallpaper everywhere."
Making a Fresh Start
Her first task after moving in? Painting the whole place white. "It was just me and my son, [Fausto], then. So I only furnished one room — his bedroom. And we basically camped out in there for four or five months while we painted the house and got everything ready."
A Different Kind of Animal Print
Despite harboring a love for interior design and even attending architecture school before dropping out to become a chef, she decided to get some professional help from designer Kari Arendsen. The pair cleverly upholstered traditional French furniture in Mexican fabrics from Valladolid's extensive collection. The star piece is a classical settee redone in a traditional indigo Otomi textile. "That became the inspiration for the color palette throughout the house," says Valladolid.
Mom's Time-Out Chair
Another culture-crossing piece is Valladolid's favorite seat in the house: an antique armchair covered in a patchwork of Latin fabrics that sits below a beloved print by her favorite artist, Salvador Dalí. "When things are hectic I sit in that chair in the entryway and leave the door open. I can see the garden and watch the baby play on the big area rug," she says.
The Real Chef's Kitchen
The chef has a colorful history with food — she worked at Bon Appetit magazine and even appeared on Martha Stewart's version of The Apprentice before landing her own Food Network show — so visitors often find her modest cook space a surprise. "It’s basically a blank slate," she says, "subway tiles and white cabinetry." Which is not to say she doesn't have some distinct ideas on kitchen design: "Simplicity is key. Some people like really high-tech kitchens, where you have warming drawers and ice makers and storage for a million different things. Honestly, for me, I need an oven, a stove top, a fridge and a sink."
Cushion Confidential, Exposed
A corner dining nook is loaded with a collection of throw pillows that Valladolid loves to change up with the seasons. "My former assistant used to tell me I have a problem with cushions and she was totally right," she recalls with a laugh. "The reason is because I’m constantly rearranging things in my house. And if I can’t move a whole piece of furniture, the easiest thing to rearrange is cushions. I like to keep things fresh."
A Space to Grow
The expansive backyard garden is a dream amenity for any cook, and a favorite spot of Valladolid's younger son, David.
The Thrill of the Hunt
A sweet and quirky hat display stands as evidence to the chef's lifelong design obsession. "There’s a design book I got years ago that had a statue of a dog with a bunch of hats on it, and I just obsessively fell in love with it," she says. "For years I searched for that dog. One day I walked into an antique shop in La Jolla and I found a white dog that I could put hats on!"