Tom Goodwin and his partner, David Friscic, purchased their Bethesda condo in 1997 and immediately wanted to remodel the nearly 30-year-old, ill-equipped galley kitchen. But fear held them back.

"A lot of people in the building had their kitchens and bathrooms done, and every one of them had horror stories," Goodwin said.

So they tolerated the kitchen, with its original plywood cabinets, Formica countertops and vinyl floors, until last year. That's when friend and interior designer Charles Almonte eased their fears and transformed the nightmare kitchen.


"He did just a wonderful job. All my fears about going through this process didn't happen," Goodwin said. "It was a great experience actually."

As with most galley kitchens, storage and countertop space were primary concerns. "For a galley kitchen to be functional with two or more users, it has to be laid out in such a way that creates individual work areas where activities can be done without users bumping or crowding each other," Almonte said.

To create additional storage and prep space, the homeowners decided to eliminate a door near the entrance and remove a walk-in closet. This required approval from the condo management.

"We were not allowed to remove walls without consulting with the building management," Almonte said. The reason was that the two long walls in the kitchen had pipes, ducts and electrical conduits that ran up and down the height of the building.

Because the walls in the adjacent walk-in closet were not load-bearing and contained no building utilities, they demolished it and created a reach-in pantry. "The walk-in was not that functional," Goodwin said. "You put stuff in a place like that, and you have trouble finding it. This way I know where everything is. Everything is much more convenient. I love it."

Shifting the doorway at one end of the kitchen created enough wall space for a secondary work area, with a counter, base cabinets and wall cabinets with glass fronts.

They chose Shiloh maple cabinets in Maple Space from Rockville-based Sunday Kitchen and Bath. Almonte added elements of French Country design to give the kitchen character.

"I was very careful in interpreting traditional French Country," he said. "I thought a literal interpretation with elements related to that would be too busy or too rustic, so I only have subtle details that give homage to that style."

This includes the Calliope Series from Hakatai backsplash, simple yet elegant crown molding and glass-fronted cabinet doors, which "add to the illusion of openness to the space," Almonte said.

They chose a Corian countertop called Jasmine because of its soft light-green tone "that evokes a well-used counter in a country kitchen."

Goodwin called the new space a pleasure to be in. "It's better organized. The appliances work better. The food lasts longer. When I cook the food tastes better," he said. "It's a total upgrade."