By Beth Herman
Around the time a charismatic John F. Kennedy captured the Democratic Party's nomination for president, a far less attractive mid-century modern house began its life on a suburban lot in Silver Spring, Md.
Fronting a quiet street and backing up to 200 feet of abundant trees and open space, and ultimately to Maryland National Capital Park, the emblematic 1960 flagstone structure was defined by small, dark rooms and limited access - from all but one of those rooms— to sprawling woodland vistas.
At 5,613 s.f., the house bifurcated into a typical split level on the left, with bedrooms above and a below grade walkout space with a den—subject perhaps to a future renovation. For the busy attorney/single mom homeowner, addressing a tired, period kitchen, breakfast room, powder room and laundry/utility space—and opening the home to embrace the backyard panorama—were paramount in creating the warm, modern, sunlit environment she desired.
“When we started talking, I believe she’d owned it about a year,” said Carri Beer, Brennan + Company Architects associate. “Most of the home was cut off from the view and had never been renovated.” The original kitchen’s pink laminate countertops, old cooktops and 1960s powder room yellow sink were prominent features. “We had to take it all apart and relocate things. It just didn’t function well,” Beer said.
Approaching the renovation as a single space where occupants' views were directed to the back, the architects bumped out nearly four feet of kitchen space, expanding into what was a closed-off combination dining and living room (the only original space with the view), and going from 160 to 215 s.f. Though it wasn’t a huge increase, Beer said in addition to updates and aesthetics, the objective was to fit the space with a utilitarian island. A door was also added to the other side of the kitchen, opening to an angled driveway at the front of the house to facilitate unloading of groceries without having to traverse a large entry hall.
With an eye toward sustainability, usable old kitchen and powder room fixtures were donated for recycling by contractor Corcoran Builders. Desiring modern finishes, the kitchen was gilded with stainless steel appliances, with hard-surface base cabinets painted a durable matte acrylic. Upper cabinets were realized in cherry, with cherry featured abundantly throughout the 680 s.f. renovation in cabinetry, custom work, built-ins, shelving and flooring. Seeking a common palette, the cherry wood, along with manifestations of brown and green hues in different materials, gave cohesion to the various aspects of the redesigned space.
Also in the kitchen, a green tile backsplash is made of 100 percent recycled glass, and eco-friendly (recycled paper) PaperStone countertops lend a softness to the space, according to Beer. Kitchen flooring is a cork and recycled rubber composite tile, which is teased into the adjacent powder room.
A tea bag by any other name
Demolishing the wall and its three-foot opening between the kitchen and breakfast room made it one long open space, and new double wood and glass doors were also added to open the breakfast area to the former living room and dining room space—with their bank of sliding glass doors that access the view.
In the adjacent powder room, the green and brown palette is delivered in a custom blend tile from Modwalls, and cherry cabinets, built in open shelving, tiny stainless steel sink and an IceStone (recycled glass and concrete) countertop complete the design.
Defined by pink laminate counters and vinyl flooring, a nondescript mid-century laundry room got a modern facelift with mudroom flexibility—a custom bench, open shelving and sturdy hooks outfitting the space. Modern Abet Laminati countertops made from recycled tea bags (though the material has been more recently discontinued) were installed, and lower cabinets, though not acrylic in a cost-saving measure, were painted the same color as the kitchen bases for continuity. Upper cabinets were painted green to reflect the palette of the kitchen’s glass tile backsplash.
“The home’s entryway was pretty awful,” Beer recalled of the foyer, describing a dated white door and tired 1960s black and white vinyl tiles, which were replaced with cherry flooring. A new quadri-paneled patterned glass façade and door added elegance to the home’s exterior, and facilitates a view straight through to the back. A brand new curved foyer wall mimics an opposing wall that curves the other way. “It plays on curves that were already found in the house,” Beer said, including a new custom cherry ceiling piece that defines the area over the kitchen sink.
Revealing that the homeowner favored nothing about ‘60s décor, Beer said they prevailed upon her to retain a vintage dining room lighting fixture, and also fill a long period stone planter along the foyer floor with lush greenery. Appropriate ‘60s style pendant lighting and other retro fixtures were selected from options at YLighting.com.
“In the end we warmed up the home and made it more modern and functional,” Beer said, adding the homeowner had essentially handed them the reins and entrusted them with the redesign from soup to nuts. “Every project has its own set of challenges, but you don’t always get a client like that.”