My clients moved into this close-in Bethesda, MD neighborhood in the mid 1990’s for the school system — particularly access to Walt Whitman High School. They selected this particular mid-century house for the view from the living room. They did almost nothing to the house for the next 15-plus years. But the kitchen was falling apart and needed to be replaced so they approached me about a kitchen remodel. They had already met with several designers – but nothing clicked for them.
A Room With A View: The big idea in this kitchen remodel was to open up the kitchen and breakfast room to the wonderful view that first sold them on the house. Before the remodel, this kitchen (like all kitchens of the time) was completely blocked off from the rest of the house. Instead of the view, my clients looked at a wall of closets and a desk (see first “before” picture, below).
A Whole-House Palette: The second big idea was to build-on rather than eliminate or cover over finishes that they didn’t particularly like – such as the brick on the fireplace and the stone tile in the entryway. Once the kitchen was opened to views throughout the house, it was important to have a single consistent palette of materials and color.
We did explore covering over or replacing these original finishes but my client decided, appropriately to my mind, that the additional cost didn’t really bring additional value. So one my tasks was to identify a material and color palette that would make the original materials feel current and pleasing. The original gold-toned color palette brought out the wrong tones in the original materials. The grayed-taupe, grays, very deep eggplant, and honey-stained quarter-sawn oak cabinets bring out a completely different set of tones in the original materials making them feel much more current and coordinated.
I used a very dark accent color in the entryway to create a feeling of compression as you walk through the door. The tones get progressively lighter as you move toward those wonderful large living room windows. It evokes a feeling of movement through the house and of expansion as you move toward the lighter, larger areas.
The Inca Brown Marble and Glass Mosaic backsplash tile is a perfect foil for the original brick of the fireplace. The two pencil edges – one at the countertop and one at the bottom of the wall cabinets helps create a pleasing and consistent horizontal line that echoes the horizontal lines of the brick. The honey stained quarter-sawn oak euro-style cabinets work perfectly with the pickled oak flooring in the living and dining rooms. The Alpina White Silestone helps tie the palette together. The Granada Marmoleum on the kitchen floor helps hide dirt while blending in well with the rest of the palette.
Better Natural and Artificial Light: We created multiple layers of light that reinforce the modern lines of the home. We avoided the more typical recessed lighting scheme for surface-mounted lighting. We selected linear commercial lighting that uses high-efficiency lamps and that reinforces the modern lines of the home.
We also replaced all the windows in the kitchen and breakfast room — enlarging the one between the kitchen counters. We used casement windows that provide better ventilation and cleaner lines. In the dining room (not shown), we restored a large picture window that had been bricked over by a previous owner.
A Layout with Efficient Storage and Efficient Work Spaces: We changed the U-shaped kitchen into more efficient Galley kitchen with the ovens and refrigerator moved out of the galley. All the base cabinets are drawer cabinet – offering good storage for everything from pots and pans to dishware and foodstuffs. The large peninsula – free of appliances or a sink – provides a great work area where the cook can face her family and guests. Sequestering the double ovens and refrigerator into a single (close-by) but visually out of the way area, also makes the whole space feel larger.
Attention to Detail: Attention to detail is critical in a home without extensive molding and where view lines stretch from one end to the other. It’s important that the surfaces come together cleanly and in a way that makes visual sense. Notice below how the base trim, threshold, and wainscot come together.
Attention to Costs: While this neighborhood could have supported a much more expensive remodel, my clients wanted to contain costs. We made specific choices in several areas with an eye toward cost savings. Three decisions saved tens of thousands of dollars: 1) Using Marmoleum in the kitchen and keeping the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen the original size meant we didn’t need to refinish any of the hardwood floors that were in quite good shape. 2) My clients kept relatively new appliances including the cooktop, ovens and refrigerator. We replaced the refrigerator, range hood and had an ignition problem with the cooktop repaired. 3) As mentioned previously, we preserved rather than replaced many finishes original to this mid-centruy home.