Monday, November 22, 2010

A Black Belt in Kitchen Design


By Beth Herman

In the ever-evolving, big-ticket world of kitchen renovation, particularly in the toniest of D.C., northern Virginia and suburban Maryland neighborhoods where the average culinary redesign can cost $50,000 - $200,000, eviscerating the kitchen is not for the faint of heart. At the apogee of kitchen reinterpretation, former North Carolinian Beverly Glover-Wood of Bethesda-based Glover-Wood Interiors has spent the last decade transforming tired and/or inefficient kitchen spaces, emulating trends while simultaneously honoring timeless, traditional style (an admitted favorite).

“I love houses and hunkering down,” Glover-Wood said of her passion for residential design. “I love what dwellings give people: They’re a place of refuge. I love the solace a house gives you.” As for her deep-sea dive into kitchen design, Glover-Wood said at the outset of her design career in 2001, she’d envisioned doing everything residential work required – every room in the house, which is still the thrust of her business. However because clients continue to be centered on kitchens as seminal gathering places, creating spaces that reflect both the heart and hearth of the homeowner is often the direction of her work.

Pen to Panache

Leaning toward more classic design herself, Glover-Wood revealed that her father, an architect who retired only last year and is currently 88 years old, is every inch a contemporary architect and many of her kitchen (and other) designs are a confluence of different time periods. With an interior designer-mother and a sister also in the design world, Glover-Wood’s immersion into the industry was admittedly exciting and comprehensive (as a child she accompanied her father to some of his jobs), though unwitting.

“I didn’t go into design first and was actually an English lit major who worked as a writer and editor,” Glover-Wood revealed. “As a writer, you’re inner-focused because you’re creating in your brain. But as a designer, you’re always noting design out in the world: how buildings are designed; arrangements of furniture; color - which is wonderful. It’s a different kind of creativity.”

Applying her own creative stamp to kitchens, the designer has observed a shift in the last few years away from the “more is more” modus operandi back to thinking less is more. “Because our economy was booming, we were always going up, up, up and people were doing more and more grandiose things with their kitchens,” she recalled. “They had to have top-of-the-line everything: faucets; sinks; stoves – everything kept getting bigger.” She added that one can only have a kitchen that’s so big, because pretty soon it’s no longer a workable space.

Heat of the Moment

To that end, and with energy efficient appliances always paramount, many of her clients are moving away from the commercial stoves of the beginning of the decade into more practical appliances. Some of that may have to do with condo living in the District and retirees and empty nesters downsizing, she surmised. “Once you’ve had a 42-inch stove, with so many burners, and you’ve done all that (she added the mammoth stoves are harder to clean), you learn that you can do just as well with a 36- or 30-inch stove today. Viking and Wolf make more traditional products, with Dacor a little more contemporary, but all with special features perhaps not even available 10 years ago. “You can get a 30-inch GE glass top electric stove that has five burners and one that can handle a grill,” Glover-Wood said, also speaking to the age-old gas vs. electric debate. “I’ve always loved gas because it’s very quick,” she explained, “but the new electric cooktops are phenomenal in that they’re about as fast – or faster – and probably just as hot.” GE’s Advantium oven promotes what the manufacturer calls “speed cooking,” with features that include convection and microwave options.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Where refrigerators are concerned, Glover-Wood referenced a 19th Street D.C. row house redesign where a neglected basement became the centerpiece of an active family’s home life. “It was a perfectly good basement (structurally) that walked out into the back yard with a hot tub,” she said, where the family did much of its entertaining. The basement was accordingly gutted and made into a play space for the children, as well as into a little kitchen to complement the primary one upstairs. “I was able to get small but really good appliances,” the designer said, noting the ice maker and tiny Viking stove, as well as a Lieber refrigerator – very narrow, to acclimate to the small space. “I’m also seeing a lot of under-counter refrigerators,” Glover-Wood said. “Doing two refrigerators but putting them under the counter works well in a small space.”

Trend-wise, in full-size spaces many people are opting for “counter-depth” refrigerators as opposed to the older 31-or 32-inch models. Explaining that a counter-depth refrigerator has a trajectory of only 25 inches from the wall (the handle may contribute to an extra inch), and the counter itself is 24 inches, aesthetically it works better “…and you don’t have a chance to grow green things in the back because you’ve forgotten about them,” the designer said. Revealing that she likes the look of stainless steel juxtaposed against warmer wood elements in so many kitchens today, the designer said stainless steel is better on a large appliance anyway so people don’t have a big wood refrigerator. “It’s a clean, contemporary look in the middle of a traditional kitchen,” she explained.

Counter Culture

“Some people are actually coming back to Formica and Wilsonart for countertops and saying, ‘It’s not so bad; maybe we should go with that,’” Glover-Wood affirmed, citing a digression from expensive granite. “I do think granite is dying out. It’s not quite as popular as it used to be,” she said. Acknowledging that so many products are in use today, she noted people are still using marble though at one time the industry thought it might phase itself out because it’s a softer material. “The British have been using it for eons, and I see it creeping back into kitchens,” she said, adding that quartz products such as CaesarStone, Silestone and Zodiaq have also remained in vogue. “People do want new things, but they are a little more balanced about how they spend their money,” she said, adding that the trend in islands – even small ones that respect a smaller space – can serve to eclipse a long trip from the sink to the refrigerator and may therefore be a practical investment. “I put a small, 18-inch-deep island into a 12x14-foot kitchen (in a new house, an island is generally 4X7 feet), where we only had 3 feet to walk around on each side, but that’s all you need,” she said.

Declaring that paint, for her, “is the be-all, end-all,” Glover-Wood said that if somebody just wants a new look, paint can entirely change the space. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, she explained, painting 1980s townhouse kitchen cabinets, for example, will refresh and modernize that space without spending thousands of dollars.

“I think the thing today is that everybody really wants a workable kitchen,” she said. “As designers, even with everything that’s out there, it’s our job to keep it that way.”


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