Bethesda jewelry designer Karen Kaplan felt trapped in her own house. Built in the 1950s, its compartmentalized rooms were so small that she and her four kids could barely gather in one space as a family. “Somebody would be watching TV and somebody would be in the little computer room,” she recalls. “I’d be in the kitchen, and I couldn’t see anybody. I felt so confined.”
Kaplan loves to cook and entertain, but her tiny kitchen and cramped family room were less than inviting. What’s more, the lifelong art collector had very little space to display her collection.
She finally decided the time was ripe for a renovation. “It took me a long time to figure out I didn’t want one of those big additions on the back—that wasn’t going to solve anything,” recalls Kaplan. “I just wanted to take the walls down.” She approached architect Jay Davies and designer Joanne Fitzgerald to reconfigure the main level of her home.
“There were so many awkward spaces that were not usable,” explains Fitzgerald. “Opening the home up was what Karen needed to make it functional. She needed more breathing room.”
They devised a plan to demolish the walls of the existing kitchen, family room, computer room, sunroom and breezeway, creating a large, expanded kitchen, breakfast area and family room. An eight-by-22-foot extension along the rear of the home, which added more functional space to the family room, was the only change made to the footprint of the home.
As the project unfolded, Kaplan and Fitzgerald collaborated on a major upgrade of the furnishings and finishes throughout the interiors, focusing on a clean, contemporary style that would complement Kaplan’s favorite works of art. “As the rooms started coming together, we really started taking stock of the art that she had, getting it re-framed and deciding where to place it,” says Fitzgerald. “Karen has so much art that the actual palette really needed to be plain so that all of her great art could pop.”
The design scheme in the dining room started with a length of Bergamo silk that Kaplan bought years ago and saved until her kids were old enough not to destroy it. Fitzgerald found the perfect wall covering to pair with the pewter floral, which has been fashioned into drapes. Round linen chandeliers hang over the oblong dining table; Kaplan, who loves circles, had similar motifs repeated throughout the home.
Fitzgerald covered the room’s red-brick fireplace in a white-pebble finish. The colors and textures create a glamorous effect.
Brighter shades prevail in the adjacent “Shiraz room,” named for Kaplan’s favorite wine varietal. In this intimate gathering space, walls are painted scarlet to offset a super-realistic painting of a glass of whiskey on the rocks. Fitzgerald installed museum-quality lighting in the space not only to highlight the art, but also to show off the large dollhouse Kaplan has treasured since she was a child.
Both the Shiraz room and the reconfigured foyer lead to the bright and airy kitchen, which now offers Kaplan plenty of space to spread out, whether she’s baking cookies or preparing dinner for 20 friends. On the left side of the kitchen there is a beverage center with a wine refrigerator, storage for recycling and plenty of work surfaces near the dual ovens. The center of the kitchen focuses on a wide island with arched openings to the family room; it houses a sit-up bar on one side and double dishwasher drawers on the other. A glass-tile backsplash, stainless-steel appliances and dark cabinets create a clean, modern backdrop for punches of color and art.
In the breakfast area, leather dining chairs and an upholstered armchair were selected in lime green—Kaplan’s favorite color. A cheerful citrus motif on the custom banquette’s cranberry, orange and lime-green fabric reinforces the circle theme. Shimmery glass tiles mask the old brick fireplace, now flanked by shelves that display colorful pottery and other craft-show finds.
The spacious family room centers around a custom Roche Bobois sectional, where Kaplan and her kids can watch TV and movies together. Since the renovation was completed, Kaplan and her daughter Abby have started a jewelry business, Kala Jewels, and the room now doubles as a workspace where they create their designs on a large table behind the sofa. A wall of glass doors in the newly bumped-out area, which opens to the rear deck and yard, pours natural light into the space.
Adjacent to the family room, a new mudroom provides storage cubbies for all five members of the family. Its bright, lime green accent wall echoes the cheery color scheme.
Now that the work is complete, Kaplan couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “If I’m cooking—and I’m always cooking—some people are at the bar, some people are at the kitchen table. My kids are big now and they bring their friends home. Everybody can be in the same place,” she says. “It worked out so great.”
Photographer Lydia Cutter is based in McLean, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: Jay Davies, Architects at Work, Bethesda, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: Joanne Fitzgerald, Gatéga Interior Design, Rockville, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: Miller McIntyre, Frederick, Maryland. KITCHEN DESIGN: Joanne Fitzgerald and Bertin Radifera, Aidan Design, Bethesda, Maryland.