Designer Kari Arendsen Helps a Social Solana Beach Family Reimagine Not One but Two Kitchens

Even hardcore design lovers may need a moment to identify just what “modern farmhouse plantation style” is. But to in-demand interior designer Kari Arendsen, it’s fairly obvious.

“It looks like this kitchen,” the owner of Intimate Living Interiors says without a touch of guile.  

Kari chuckles when pressed, then gamely breaks down just what this three-up of design inspirations looks like. She’s applied it with a deft touch to the kitchen that she crafted for founder of P.S. Platinum Real Estate Brett Combs, his wife, Christie, and their three sons. 

The darker-than-might-be-expected butcher block countertops, for instance, are a nod to plantation style, that mix of the formal and the casual born during Britain’s colonization of coastal climes. The farmhouse aesthetic lives in the generous helping of Calacatta Crema marble, which tops a supersized island with hardy purpose. And underfoot, poured-in-place concrete floors add a swipe of spare, clean modernity.  

“Those really speak to all three influences,” Kari says. Each feature comes into relief as she identifies it. But taken as a whole, they blend together and are more than the sum of their parts. Kari’s custom cocktail shakes out to a style all its own; modern farmhouse plantation, indeed.

Deliberate-but-not-obvious looms large in Kari’s bag of tricks. It’s evident in the way finishes throughout the space subtly speak to one another. The matte-black hardware on the cabinets ties in the dark eating-nook table. The butcher block sneakily snakes into the adjacent butler’s pantry. The wine closet echoes the reclaimed beams on the ceiling in the weathered wood of its diamond bins. It’s also at play in the way Kari and the homeowners made sense of the now wide-open floor plan.

“This space was originally the kitchen, the dining room and the living area. We opened it all up into one,” she says.

An unobstructed configuration would facilitate family life and grace the whole area with light and views. But Kari still took steps to define each hub of intended activity.

“We differentiated the space by our ceiling designs. The beams hover over the kitchen space. The dining room has V-groove ceilings. Over the living room those beams come back again,” she says.

“What we did with this home, Brett and Christie were very much a part of creating that vision,” Kari says. “We helped extract and apply it. But the way it turned out was very much a success for all of us…they were so great to work with.”

Clearly, the admiration went two ways because soon Brett sought another joint production, this time designing a kitchen in one of the P.S. Platinum offices. More precisely, Kari shares, his request was that she simply replicate his new, gorgeous Solana Beach kitchen at the office. Kari declined.

No one likes to be told no, she admits. But Kari knew that this space deserved a unique design that would maximize its own beauty and functionality. Brett was swiftly convinced, and what came out of the collaboration was similarly inspired. Today, clients who walk into the P.S. Platinum offices in Del Mar Plaza are treated to marble shelves, a generous island and comfy seating. It’s a luxe, home-like atmosphere that perfectly sets the mood for property shopping.

To view a video of the Combs home’s transformation, visit







  1. Designer Kari Arendsen, | 2. The kitchen at P.S. Platinum Real Estate in Del Mar, | 3. Pendant by Arteriors,  | 4. Homeowner Brett Combs | 5. Drawer pull by Ashley Norton Architectural Hardware,