When Scott Levine and Melissa Blume bought their 1940s colonial-style house in Chevy Chase, Md., they knew exactly what they were doing, despite the poorly designed, out-dated additions to the back of the home.
"We adamantly wanted to find a house in the Village. Our first baby was coming, and we had planned on getting the next workable home," Levine said.
The couple's eldest son was born shortly after they moved in, but it was only when they were expecting another boy that the remodeling began to accommodate their growing family.
"I was introduced to the project early on," says Sarah Kahn Turner, a designer at Gilday Renovations who specializes in high-end remodels. "The homeowners contacted us to rework the back of the house, incorporate two older additions and improve overall space planning."
One addition had included an impractical kitchen next to a cramped family room, squeezed further by unnecessary backstairs. From here, a bricked-in breezeway had led to the other add-on, a separate and narrow in-law annex.
"The family simply had no use for the in-law suite or the breezeway. They were just taking up unused space, so we decided to absorb them into a much larger, open-plan family room, breakfast room and kitchen, which the family could all enjoy at the same time," Turner added.
To enlarge the family room's square footage, the secondary staircase was removed, and the breezeway integrated. The old kitchen was dismantled, becoming a breakfast room. By breaking into the in-law annex, a new kitchen was created from scratch.
"When we eliminated the old kitchen's load-bearing wall to connect to the in-law suite, we replaced it with a framed-in beamed ceiling than ran the length of the entire room and was discreetly incorporated into the new ceiling's coffers," Turner said.
The coffers also add spatial definition to the family and breakfast rooms and provided architectural continuity with the home's original millwork. Between these adjacent areas, a custom cabinet, with decorative columns, creates visual separation, while concealing audio equipment. Once the breezeway was gone, French doors were added. They open onto the backyard, bringing in natural light.
Next came the much-needed kitchen redo. "The old kitchen was a big, ugly box with no island. There was nowhere to eat, and everything was miles apart. You were always walking around, trying to make it work," Levine said.
The new alcove-style kitchen works beautifully and efficiently. It includes cottage-style cabinets and an island housing a deep sink, double dishwashers and pull-up stools. There is a wall of refrigeration and well-placed paneled appliances.
"If a kitchen is laid-out well and is functional, it's easy to make it look good," Turner said of the kitchen's beveled minibrick tile backsplash, Carrera marble-topped island, wood and glass cabinets and antique-finished Kodiak brown granite counters.
"It's practical, bright and pleasing, with lots of flow," Levine said. "We use it all the time. It's exactly what we need until the boys go to college!"