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Our Kitchen Renovation, Part 1

It still has not sunk in that we are renovating our kitchen.  I've been planning this moment for a long time and now that it is here, it doesn't seem real.  Even after four weeks of our family of four and our new puppy living in our master bedroom and eating frozen and carry out meals (with the exception of once a week getting a wonderful home cooked meal at my in-laws house...thank you Bill and Carol!), it seems like a dream.   We renovated our house five years ago which included new windows, new portico, some walls taken down, new bathroom, and exterior stone work, and more.  But a new kitchen was not in the budget until now.  

We bought our home 14 years ago.  Within a month of closing on our house, we covered up the yellow linoleum with grey linoleum (a good tile lookalike), replaced the green perimeter counter top with a light grey laminate to coordinate with the existing darker grey island laminate, and painted the unattractive builder grade cabinets cream and "weathered grey" and upgraded our appliances.   You'll see a picture of it later in the post.  It was a quick, cheap fix that worked for many years.  But we've become tired of fixing broken cabinets, looking at chipped laminate and paint, and our appliances were starting to fail.  Plus there was also a desire to upgrade our kitchen's finishes so that it worked with the rest of your home.  

So we dusted off the architect's plans from five years ago and started the design process.  The design process started the same way I start many client projects…reviewing inspirational pictures.  I have collected 1,000s of photos from magazine photo libraries, Pinterest and Houzz  and searched them for kitchens and finishes that I really like for our home.  I probably saved close to fifty images for this project alone.  I like so many different kitchen styles, but when deciding on a kitchen style,  I feel it's super important the kitchen design speaks to the architecture of the home and the lifestyle of it's inhabitants.  I also wanted our kitchen to be classic and stand the test of time.  

Below is an image that I come back to all the time.  I love the white inset cabinets, the mix of glass and solid doors, the creamy marble counter, the mix of wood island with white cabinets, the wood floors, and generously scaled pendant lights.  I thought for sure our new kitchen would be a close cousin to this one.  

Here's another kitchen I've admired for some time.  I like the white cabinets, shelving for dishes, herringbone wood floors, and the dark island cabinet finish.  We have black accents through out our home, so I liked the idea of having a black island.  The mix of counter top materials was interesting, but most of all, I really like the La Cornue stove and vent.  The mix of metals on the oven and vent is sophisticated and beautiful plus it's a go to stove for serious chefs.  We've always had a pot rack hanging over our island which we didn't want anymore but I've liked how they displayed the pans on the walls for a working kitchen feel so they are easily accessible.  

Well, after admiring these images for many years, we have decided to go into a completely different direction. As much as I like white cabinets, I felt they would be too stark in our home.  Plus Abbie, a newfie puppy and recent addition to our family would ensure they would have to be cleaned daily.  Abbie looked like this in December…

Here's Abbie at seven months and with a lot more growing to do.

It became obvious wood floors were not practical considering our family's pet choice.  Plus we are messy cooks.  One of the tougher decisions we made was not to use marble for the counter tops.  We are one of those families who usually doesn't change our filters timely, so sealing a countertop was guaranteed not to get done timely either.  Also, Abbie is a champion counter surfer, so basically we opted for an almost indestructible quartz counter top.

So our kitchen is going to look most similar to the kitchen below with some adjustments.  This particular kitchen won Kitchen of the Year by House Beautiful in 2013.   Like this kitchen, we've opted for inset wood cabinets, natural tile floor, Ceaserstone counter top, and creamy white walls.  There are several differences too, such as we are not doing a hanging pot rack, and our countertop will be much lighter.  I want our kitchen to be cozy but also reflect lots of natural light.

I really like the painted interiors of the glass cabinets below.  The plan is to paint the interior of our glass cabinets a light color too.  

When you consider the picture below of the front of our house, I think you can see another good reason why we went a very different direction with the kitchen design.  The warmer, more rustic feel of the kitchen fits the style of the home.

As much as I love soapstone countertops or honed black granite countertops, our flooring choice lead us in a very different direction.  Once I saw this natural slate tile, I couldn't consider anything else for our kitchen and dinette floor.  The grey/blue and orangey brown colors worked great in our home and it brings an outside feel to the inside of the home.  The manufacturer says the stone has significant "color variation".  I've also chosen to install the floor tiles in a random pattern for even more variation…a bit scary, but I feel this floor is going to have some definite personality, in a good way!  But because the floor is going to be lively,  it's the reason I've kept everything else in the kitchen very simple…one finish for the cabinets, a creamy light countertop and creamy tile backsplash.  

I have a lot more to share on finishes, lighting, layout, appliances, etc but it'll have to wait for another post.

Dry wall started getting installed this week and cabinets get installed next week so it'll be moving quickly over the next few weeks.  But in the meantime, I'll share a few before pictures and progress pictures.  

Here's what our kitchen looked like right before demolition.

Once they took the wall down behind the stove, I knew immediately, we had made the right decision.  Our kitchen had very little natural light.  Below you can now see the natural light pouring into the space.

The picture below may not look like much but it is amazing the amount of work it took to get it to this point.  Five new windows were installed to bring in as much natural light as possible.  Our stove and vent will be centered between the windows on the far wall.  The new opening on the left leads to our dining room.  All new electric was put in.  The plumbing was significantly reconfigured so we wouldn't need bulkheads anymore.  The HVAC was reconfigured, so much so, we decided to move to a two zone system, which was not part of the budget.

Below you can see three windows were installed.   These windows are centered on the existing bay window on the front of your house and the opening from the dining room to the kitchen.  The idea is that you would be able to see our back yard from the from the front of the house.  An architectural feature that I'm a big fan of.  Our sink will be centered on these windows.  We also pushed the windows out an extra 8" to give the kitchen a more expanded feel in that area.   My architect, Jeff Gallaher, suggested we do this, and he was completely right.

When you enter our house from the front door, you walk down a hall and see this room ahead.  It's always bothered me that the opening was not centered on the light fixture or the back sliding glass door.

Here you can see we've fixed this by opening up more walls and we replaced four sliding glass doors with new windows in our family room.  It took a heck of a beam to accomplish.  The white slab door on the left leads to your back yard and is temporary until it's replaced with the door below, which will be stained the same color as our front door.

Here's our new back door to be installed soon.

Manor Construction is our builder and they are doing a fantastic job.  They do quality work and are keeping the project on schedule.  Around The Clock Plumbing, Brighticity, and Bay Area Mechanical did a ton to make the plumbing, electrical and HVAC work with the new layout.  These companies are professional and quick.  Permit inspections were a breeze.

I hope you enjoyed the information I shared and find it helpful in case you're planning your own kitchen renovation soon!

Have a great day!



American Craft Council Show in Baltimore is THIS WEEKEND!

So much has happened over the last 12 months!  It's all good but it's been crazy busy so blogging has taken a back seat for some time.

I'll be catching up on posts soon but wanted to send a quick note about the American Craft Council Show that takes place this weekend in Baltimore.  Last fall the ACC approached me to see if I would be interested in taking part in their Make Room exhibit.  This is where four designers are given the opportunity to transform a 12x10 white box into a room that highlights artists work at the show. I had just made the tough decision to not submit a design for the 2015 DC Design House.  I decided that I would be insane to do it again this year with a new puppy, our own kitchen renovation and a crazy amount of work.  So the ACC show seemed like a manageable project with set up and tear down happening in less then a week.  Plus I have been a huge fan of the show for many years and was excited to be part of it. 

Part of the Make Room process is that the designer gets to select the arwork they would like use in their room.  After reviewing about 25 pieces I knew immediately I wanted to design my room around Michael Bauermeister's "Cloudy Towers".

Michael was inspired by a cloudy day on the Missouri River bottomlands that surround his studio.  The contrast of the towering clouds with the row of trees at the river's edge provides a powerful focal point for the space.  I wanted Michael's piece to be accentuated while the surrounding space provides a luxurious backdrop with a sophisticated mix of textures and finishes.  The ACC also asked that I design the room based on the element of "Air".  So I used glass, acrylic, lucite and a throw that mimics owl feathers in the design.  I also found a pretty bamboo silk rug from Stark Carpet that reminds me of swirling wind or air.  Here it is with some fabric samples I'm using in the room.  

I also chose this wood accent chair from The Phillips Collection to add curve and wood grain to the space.

 Below are pictures and the illustration of my room that ACC has been using for show promotion.  I'll share more pictures of the room after the show.

I highly recommend you make the trip to visit the show at the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend.  There are over 650 talented artists selling their work.  It is also an excellent opportunity to find one of a kind items for yourself and your home that you will treasure for a long time.  And please stop by the Make Room exhibit.  I would love to see you!

Have a great week and hope to see you soon!



DC Design House and more...

It's hard to believe the tour of the DC Design House starts this coming weekend!  My room was completed over a week ago.  The "press" gets access to the house before it opens to the public.  After lots of snow and hard work, over 35 spaces have been transformed in under 5 weeks!

The entire house is looking amazing.  I highly recommend you check it out.  It's guaranteed to provide you lots of inspiration of your own home.  The tour runs from April 13th through May 11th.  During the week the hours are from 10-3 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 pm.  You can find more info here.

Old houses have lots of character but they also come with lots of issues.  Every room required tons of prep…including mine.  The plaster walls were in pretty poor condition.  Check out the old water damage below.

Luckily, my super talented painter, Peter Hawes, knew exactly what to do to make the room look like new.

I have to say that the support from the other designers and trade folks has been amazing.  Here's TJ, with Ibby, cleaning my windows for me!

Here's Dee with Deelight Design completing my red banding stripe.  Dee is a super talented decorative painter.  This project was an easy one for her but I wanted her to do it since it had to be just right.  You can check out her amazing portfolio here.  She has to be one of the nicest (and talented) person I've ever met.

I'm really pleased with how the striping turned out.  Dee ensured it's perfect, which on plaster walls is no easy task.

Dee gave me the great tip of using Goof Off for cleaning up old paint spills.  This product made the clean up so easy.  I highly recommend you get some!

Skip Doda, with Severn River Carpentry, did a great job on my radiator cover and custom seat in the dormer.   

Another great tip I received was to use Museum Gel in my room.  I'm using it in case folks who want to touch things won't accidentally move or break them.  The Museum Gel keeps breakables safe and in place.  What a great product for your home, especially if you have kids and pets!

My guest bedroom is on the small side.  In fact, there wasn't a place to fit a dresser, so luckily, Closet America, built me one in the closet!  Here's the before picture of the closet.

And here is how it looks now.

The top drawer protects your jewelry.

I recommend Closet America to all my clients.  They offer great quality custom closet solutions for a good price.  This month they will be transforming a client's garage.  

During the DC Design House tour, most of the items in the rooms are on sale…art, furniture, accessories, lighting, rugs, and more!  A portion of the sale goes to the Children's National Health System so you can feel good about donating to a good cause too!  

Here are some of my favorite items for sale in my room.

For sale, lavender and fern scented candle in brass container.

For sale, fun books such as "Parisian Chic".

For sale, bubble glass ceiling fixture.

For sale, "Chesapeake Girl" by the talented local artist Rick Casali.

For sale, "Female Torso" sculpture by Rick Casali.

For sale, custom twin headboard and pillows using Victoria Larson fabrics.  Also, for sale, bedding from the gorgeous bedding store, Isabellas, located in Charlotte, NC.  You can shop online here.

If you can visit the DC Design House, please let me know when you're going.  I will do my very best to be there.  Hope to see you!

Work on client projects continues too.  Here's a couple in-progress iPhone pictures of a home I've been working on for a few months.  When it's complete I'll share some proper pictures.

New pillows for the bedroom.

A new New Zealand wool runner with canvas banding was just installed.

It hasn't been all work and no play!  For my mom's birthday, her friend, Pat and I took her to the Philadelphia Flower Show and Barnes Foundation Museum.  If you like to garden, the Philadelphia Flower Show is a great place to visit for inspiration.  Here are a couple pictures of floral displays that are "Calder" inspired.

Another special treat was visiting the Inn at Little Washington with good friends.  My girlfriends and I usually go on a girls trip each year but this year we opted for an amazing culinary experience with our husbands instead.  The Inn is one of the top restaurants in the country and was a real treat.  

After our three hour dinner we got a tour of the kitchen.  They have someone who cleans the brass and copper every night!  I'm now inspired to keep my kitchen a little bit cleaner.

It was so much fun to find out that the london-based interior designer, Joyce Evans, who designed the interiors at the Inn, had her design illustrations framed and placed through out the inn. 

If you love good food, I highly recommend you add dinner at the Inn at the Little Washington to your bucket list.

Have a great week!


DC Design House 2014 - Sneak Peak at my Design

I'm so excited to be one of the designers picked to transform the DC Design House 2014!  This year's house is a beautiful stone home built in the 1920s with over 7,900 square feet.  It has 6 bedrooms, 5 full baths, 2 half baths, a three car garage and a swimming pool.

Three weeks ago, I decided to tour the house.  I thought chances were slim that I would submit a presentation because it would be a huge time commitment.  Turns out I have a soft spot for old homes.  Especially ones with lots of character and wonderful architectural elements like this hallway that leads the way to the family room.

DC Design House 2014

One of the last rooms I saw on the tour, I knew immediately I wanted to design the space.

Here's what the room looks like now.  As you enter the room, the wall straight ahead is just calling for a great piece of art to provide a strong focal point.

DC Design House 2014

You can see here we have to work with some crazy angles. We also need to address the radiator.  The crescent window is great!  The base moldings are pretty but need some tlc.

Design House 2014

Loving the dormer window that needs a custom built seat!

DC Design House 2014

This wall is mostly all "door" to a closet.  So glad Closet America agreed to join my team to help me transform the closet.

DC Design House 2014

This wall has a door leading to the bathroom which is going to be completed by TJ with Ibby.  Definitely check out Ibby's super cool website that allows you to design your bathroom online.  

DC Design House 2014

After the tour, I couldn't stop thinking about the space and began collecting fabrics, looking at lighting and furniture and before I knew it, a design was coming together that I was really liking.

Here's the board I submitted…

Instead of playing it safe with neutrals, I was in the mood for color and pattern!  

It all started with the peacock fabric.  Three years ago, a very talented local textile designer, Victoria Larson,  showed me her new fabric line.   Today, Victoria's fabric line is represented in design centers located in Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and Sydney, Australia.  She's also currently featured in the spring issue of Home & Design!  

Victoria's peacock fabric is the jumping off point for the room and will be used throughout the space.  Below you can see it on the custom headboard and bedskirt.


My goal was to create a fresh modern space that combines fabrics with an organic feel and the clean contemporary lines of the furniture.  Custom details such as the leather straps "secure" the pleats on the bedskirt.  The brass and glass ceiling fixtures adds shine and glamour.  I want to add whimsical artwork with splashes of yellow.  I'm super excited about the chili red banding detail we're adding to the walls to accentuate their angles and add a tailored preppy vibe to the space.  

Since I found out last week that I was selected to participate in the house, life has become busier.  Assembling a great team of contractors to help implement the design is critical .  Electrical work, custom carpentry, painting, custom furniture design, and so much more needs to be completed by March 31!   

There is a Bare Bones Tour open to the public on Saturday, March 1st from 11am to 3pm.  You have an opportunity to see the home before the work begins.  Each of the designers selected will be in their room with their presentation board describing their vision.  As soon as the tour is done, we can begin work!

I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes!  The house will be open to the public beginning April 13th and runs through May 11th.  The DC Design House is the leading annual fundraiser event benefiting the Children's National Medical Center.  

I would love to see you there!  Click here for more event info.

P.S.  The February 28th deadline is quickly approaching to vote for Melissa McLay Interiors for Best of Annapolis.   Click here to vote for us and your other favorite local business!