STAYING IN PLACE
For an environmental attorney and his family who are big on family, and love their home, the time post Covid was the right time for a living space reboot. J S D A was called in to again complete a remodel of the residence. The center of the 1990s built house- the kitchen, and the center of family is his wife, the ultimate volunteer for sustainable causes, bird habit and anti-invasive species and baseball concessions guru. Madeline is a gourmet cook, serving up peach pie to the millwork crew, or whipping up a plum galette in a heartbeat. She regularly cares for not one but two elderly relatives in a nearby senior living facility, tending to the doctor’s visits, daily care and hosting Wednesday night dinners for the family, and the occasional celebratory feast.
She’s a busy person, traveling across the northwest for varying board of directors meetings, for personal travel interests, for family getaways that might include extended members of the family. Keeping up with two sons across the country. During the course of the project, a sister-in-law came to stay for months while healing from surgery, and one of her son’s got married impromptu in the backyard! Meanwhile, the home was in varying stages of construction.
Madeline was attached her existing spaces, the functional layout, but it had been through a remodel by others about 20 years ago and the quality of the work, particularly the painted cabinetry illustrated its age…it was falling apart from overuse. The idea of ripping it all out and starting over again was a mind-twister for Madeline. Time for new appliances and a new top to bottom remodel for the open kitchen, casual dining and family room.
The family room, serving as a respite for afternoon reading and evening television watching space is small, the result of the larger than usual casual dining space. In the beginning of the project, Madeline had considered lightening her normal fare of hosting dinners for 16. Essential to the process, we experienced a family hosted Passover dinner, with relocation of the family room furniture to the adjacent walls, and adding portable tables to create the required number of place settings. The space was transformed into a dining hall fit for a king. Downsizing hosting plans assisted the comfort of the available space.
The goal from the outset was to repeat the kitchen that she had…there was no bandwidth for talking about new… the client had been talking with another designer who had suggested wall ovens and different appliance locations….not what she wanted. So, we listened intently and kept things consistent. As the design evolved, over months waiting on the selected millworker, we drew elevations, made changes, researched granites and materials, talked different solutions. Incorporated little details like a specialty hardware lift at the microwave, cell phone charging station, a specific clearance to ease the lifting of the kitchen-aid mixer. But along the way, Madeline warmed to express an interest in designing everything custom.
One of main goals was to incorporate many linear feet of book storage, as the family loves to read. And they love seeing the books they’ve read, stacked every which way on shelving…including cookbooks to be incorporated at the end of the new island. Another feature was the pocketed water dish for the cats, on the bottom shelf, a nook just for them, too.
The idea that everything would be custom was realized with museum glass cut and shipped from the east coast, a mottled wavy distorted glass approaching an antique look at the upper millwork cabinets, hand-blown light fixtures with an artistic wood-veining that reminded of the bark of a tree, pendants hanging over the island just at the right height (37”) for the over six foot family to not have heads collide with the fixtures….custom operation at the undersink for trash and recycling convenience, touch and soft-close hardware for seamless drawers beneath the cabinets that contained the audio equipment, a live-edge double stacked fireplace mantle, and a new casual dining table custom designed from recycled barn wood to match the two-tone cherry and cranberry finishes of the millwork.
All the lighting in the space was replaced with higher-luminance LEDs, perfectly placed for performance at worksurfaces. The “chocolate” granite, off-white with grey marbleizing, had nature’s river-run veining designed to add a gentle rhythmic flow in unison across the new extended counter-spaces. Madeline’s east coast origin led us to a ribbed wainscot panel aesthetic on the ceramic tile which wrapped the new, large single awning window at the sink pop-out carrying a verticality to the space that transformed the horizontal soffited old space…opening up a new height for this new broad, open space built for tall people.
In the powder room, we continued the shaker millwork face panel design simplicity. A sustainable choice, the client chose cherry, an American grown species. The hardware was nickel, a classic and the plumbing fixtures were high-quality, Hans Grohe which will last a lifetime. The powder room faucet was wall-mounted with a decorative Mediterranean origin hand-painted vessel with a flared edge, floating on a charcoal man-made stone counter with full backsplash. Above the vessel sink was mounted a cherry framed mirror, compete with a chrome fixture carrying a hand-blown conical shade. Above the toilet was a clean, modern shelf with all hardware concealed for leaning artwork and a couple of decorative elements.
The family room was wall to wall bookcases, openly framed uppers, a mid-section of closed doors with adjustable shelving, open to the right for the large screen television set, and flanked at the base with drawers that concealed the fireplace shut off. The original brick detailing at the hearth and the firebox were unchanged, sporting another east coast reference and connecting the red-tones of the cranberry stained island. We completed the family room with new furniture from Bassett, a settee with a shorter length to accommodate the depth of the room, the clustering of seating around the television, with two occasional taller backed chairs at the window wall.
New, sustainable marmoleum (made from natural linseed oil) flooring replaced builder standard vinyl at the laundry room, now decked out with new off-white upper cabinets, replaced braided stainless steel plumbing lines, new LED ceiling light, undercabinet lighting and a shirt drying section that the husband loved, and space for utility cleaning handled equipment.
In addition to the new large 48” square window at the kitchen sink, a new exterior door (38” wide) with eschutcheon hardware and single light glazing (and controllable interior window blind) brought a great amount of western light into the space. The interior blind was appreciated to avoid issues with the playful cats. Matching new hardware began the look at the front door to the home, with the same long eschuteon style in nickel.
The existing oak wood floor toughed through the entire project, including the demolition and downsizing of an existing 3’ deep continuous soffit from family room to refrigerator cabinetry. Detailing of the wood floor at the adjusted island placement, details at new full height millwork panels that replaced textured drywall and a couple of deep scratches were repaired at the conclusion of the project, magnifying the continuity of the space and the quality of light reflecting throughout.
The project was fully permitted. During this supply chain challenged time, we creatively managed: we went through two electrical companies on the remodel, with challenged results even from the second company. Many of the trades worked in phases to minimize impact on the operation at the house, with a temporary kitchen set up in the living/formal dining room for a month or so. Phasing was carefully sequenced by J S D A to allow for plumbing on the first level of the house to be accessible 98% of the project duration. The client decided on some additional elements along the way: new windows at the basement level plus custom window sills, new finishes and millwork at the basement bathroom as well as a refreshed coat of protection to the millwork at the master bath that had suffered some water damage.
The intent was a comprehensive reboot to a home in an irreplaceable location, like moving into a new place made all your own; for the next 20+ years of family happiness and good eating!