Dining at one of Suzanne Goin’s Los Angeles restaurants feels like an invitation to an elegant, casual dinner party at a friend’s house. There’s no need to celebrity-watch (despite the star-studded clientele); the elevated decor, smells coming from the wood-burning stove, and exquisite French-leaning food and wine are all the assurances you need that you are the star of a very special culinary moment. As Goin explains, every one of her restaurants is designed to make diners feel as if they have been invited to a meal in her own home.

But while Goin was lavishing attention on her customers, her own domestic interiors took a backseat. She had spent years looking for the perfect house for her family (she is married to the chef David Lentz, and they have three children). The dream was to find a home with “that old-world, old L.A. feeling,” she says; in 2008 they found the ideal setting in a 1927 Spanish-style house in the Outpost Estates section of the Hollywood Hills. The owners, fans of her late restaurant Lucques, agreed to a good price. “But we blew our budget just buying the house,” says Goin, who grew up in Los Angeles and worked at top restaurants from Chez Panisse in Berkeley to Arpège in Paris.

family room
In the family room, the existing daybed was re-covered in a Schumacher velvet, and the vintage kilim rug is from the designers’ eponymous shop. The steel casement windows and terra-cotta floor tiles are original.
Amy Neunsinger

A decade later, the couple was ready to renovate. To realize her vision, Goin turned to Nickey Kehoe, the Los Angeles design duo of Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe, who earlier this year designed the second outpost of her restaurant A.O.C. in Brentwood (the first is in West Hollywood). After years of mulling how she would renovate the space, the detail-oriented Goin knew exactly what she wanted to change. “She has an architect’s mind,” Nickey says.

In January 2020, the family moved out of the house and into temporary quarters to make way for the renovation. Just weeks later, the pandemic changed everything. For the first time in her adult life, Goin was not spending days and nights in a restaurant kitchen. The lockdown was professionally devastating. By May, she was forced to close the 21-year-old Lucques. “I had to realize early on that this was so much bigger than all of us,” she says.

dining room
The dining room’s table is topped with a vintage striped textile and a yellow Once Milano tablecloth. The wallpaper is by Morris & Co., and the molding and ceiling are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Hay Stack.
Amy Neunsinger

But the period also proved revelatory on a personal level. Home had always been her haven—a serene contrast to the thunderstorm of noise and emotion that characterizes a busy restaurant kitchen. “For the first time I was able to be home for dinner each night and enjoy time with my family,” she says.

Meanwhile, work continued on the renovation, and the family was able to move back in in May 2020. It’s no surprise that in the home of two chefs, the kitchen was at the heart of the redesign. Like most early-20th-century kitchens, this one was tiny. The couple had considered creating a massive open kitchen, then ruled the idea out. “Sometimes we cater at peoples’ homes and see these huge islands,” Goin says. “It’s actually so annoying because if you need something, you have to run all the way around to get to the refrigerator or sink.”

breakfast nook
The breakfast nook’s trestle table, bowl, and vintage stool are from Nickey Kehoe, the vintage pendant is from Agapanthus ­Interiors, and the walls are painted in Snow on the Mountain by Benjamin Moore.
Amy Neunsinger

They opted for a cozier design inspired by restaurants. “Those kitchens tend to be small, and that is actually more efficient,” she observes. “Everything is within arm’s reach.” The designers created an island just “big enough for two people to prep on,” Goin says. “You have everything you need in front of you and can just go.”

And rather than opting for a classic La Cornue stove (“my dream since I was a kid”), she surprised herself at the last minute by going for an American-made BlueStar. “Right before we were making the decision, we did a charity dinner at someone’s home and they had a BlueStar,” she says. “I loved the look of it, and it has high BTUs and 10 burners, and you can fit a whole sheet pan in it, so it’s very much like cooking in a restaurant.”

primary bedroom
Amy Neunsinger

The renovation also involved some major structural changes: A kid’s bedroom became a breakfast nook; an unused kitchen space became a bedroom. The whole layout of the house flipped. But the primary goal throughout was to accentuate the architectural features she first fell in love with—from the original Spanish-style wooden door to the casement windows that overlook a courtyard to the three original fireplaces. “So often in L.A.,” Goin notes, “everything gets renovated and renovated. You lose all the character.”

“Restaurant kitchens are frenetic. When I come home, I value the space, peace, and quiet.”

Now that she is back at the helm of her restaurants, Goin appreciates the sanctuary of her domestic sphere all the more. “Restaurant kitchens are frenetic all the time,” she says. “There is banging, crashing, sometimes yelling. When I come home, I value the space, the peace, and the quiet. I always have.” 

Try Suzanne Goin’s spiced-up roasted veggie mélange

See a Chef's Delicious Renovation of Her Home in the Hollywood Hills
living room
november 2021 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE