It was something like the old Kohler commercial where the homeowners walk into a voguish architectural firm, instructing the equally-voguish principal to build a house around a faucet.
For interior designer and decidedly more approachable Principal Beth Leas of Interior Revivals, LLC, a seminal grey brick cement terrazzo kitchen floor in a Great Falls, Virginia residence was considered a key style component of the home, and in many ways even defined the mid-1990s residence. Originally built and owned by an area architect, the kitchen nevertheless presented a two-pronged design challenge for Leas.
At first glance, the vast 1,800 s.f. space had a decidedly poor layout, with appliances spaced so far apart they did not accommodate the lifestyle of the busy young family living there now. Tantamount to that, the aesthetics of the existing floor did not impress the homeowner, who'd felt strongly about replacing it.
“To me, a house should have a certain look, and you should never destroy that look,” Leas said. While she maintained a home's personality is established through furniture, the contemporary and natural feel of this house was largely articulated through its organic kitchen floor.
Additionally, with the refrigerator and sink separated by about 14 feet, Leas counted this among other user-unfriendly elements. Because the homeowners, with three little boys, were from extended Italian families and loved to cook for parties and family gatherings, proximity and efficiency were determining elements in reimagining the space.
Better utilizing an empty counter in the center of the room, Leas created an island with cooktop, along with a peninsula and lower bar seating area for the children for snacks and homework, but which separated them from the potentially hot cooktop temperatures. In an effort to efficiently harness space and incorporate aesthetics, a favorite lighted wood and glass china cabinet was relocated to the cooking area, with its elegant display always in sight.
Framing a new granite composition sink that reflected the home’s natural elements, an existing and enormous window connected the space to a sunroom on the other side that angled down. “You didn’t look directly into the room, but you were looking through its angled glass roof,” Leas explained, adding she wanted to mitigate the openness and sightline. To that end, the designer introduced a stained glass element that let in the light, “but made you feel as though you were no longer standing in front of a big hole.”
Addressing the controversial kitchen floor, Leas conceded neither she nor her tile professional had seen anything like it (though she later saw it outside of a building, she said). A decision to retain it was predicated on power washing its three-inch cement grout component, which had become grainy-looking over time and needed brightening. To complement the floor’s grey tones, Leas painted existing Craftsman maple kitchen cabinets a muted grey and installed quartz countertops redolent of the terrazzo floor, tying the space together.
Lighting was achieved through an integration of recessed lights and hand blown Italian glass pendants. “Everything else was kept very simple,” Leas said, noting she introduced bright, sophisticated, artisan-like Oggetti Luce fixtures in a variety of colors. Subway tiles on the walls with granite and abalone shell trim reinforced the kitchen’s natural visage, and black appliances replaced existing stainless steel which the designer said conflicted with the cabinets’ grey palette.
“At the end of the renovation, the client said it felt like the kitchen was supposed to have been that way from the beginning,” Leas affirmed, “which is the way design is supposed to be.”
For design story ideas, contact Beth: bh@ dcrealestate.com