An Open Plan NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
A sweeping interior makeover of a classic Eichler-style home on Virginia’s Lake Barcroft demonstrates how good design can reinvigorate mid-20th century architecture, converting boxy rooms into tasteful, confluent living spaces.
The owners of a circa-1950s lakeside ranch house approached Sun Design’s Katherine MacNeil about making big changes to their home, on a budget. MacNeil focused on finding well-integrated incremental solutions to meet her clients’ needs, including an upgraded kitchen visually linked to the main rooms, a revamped foyer, a newly configured master suite and an artfully conceived powder room. “My thought was to restore the original sense of the house,” MacNeil says. “This is fundamentally a style that relies on clean lines, so it made sense to pare back extraneous elements and to create more visual continuum.”
Greater cohesion was also a high priority for the homeowners. So MacNeil transformed the dated, comparatively closed-in main level rooms into interactive, well-defined activity zones configured for easy socializing. “One of our core decisions was to enhance the connectivity between the kitchen and the living room,” MacNeil recalls. “When the house was built, custom called for hiding the kitchen, which—in this case—meant blocking the view of a wooded lakeside setting. Today, there are many techniques for discreetly incorporating a kitchen into a home’s primary socializing areas.”
MacNeil achieved this spatial integration largely by implementing a handful of structural changes and developing a less obtrusive kitchen interior. She replaced the original kitchen’s “drop-down” soffit with a ceiling-flush horizontal beam supported by a single column. This innovation enabled the designer to eliminate a small window-sized pass-through and to introduce a well-defined open plan that includes a black granite countertop with stools that doubles as a serving bar.
Espresso-colored maple cabinet facings and a textured travertine backsplash tone down the original kitchen’s utilitarian feel. A sculptural stainless-steel vent creates a focal point in an effectively neutral canvas. Recessed lighting in both the kitchen and the living room reinforces the design’s understated unity.
A small adjacent home office was also upgraded and visually re-incorporated into the more open floor plan. Replacing its small hopper window with 54-by-66-inch glazing turns a dark corner into a favored sunny nook.
In the front of the house, a seldom-used guest bedroom was integrated into the new master bedroom suite. The hall was converted into the suite’s new foyer. The re-designed footprint provides space for a luxurious master bath and an adjacent walk-in closet. A new wall surface created by eliminating the door to the former bath allowed the owners to reposition their bed, gaining a recumbent view of the lake.
Comparing today’s remodeling trends to those of five years past, Sun Design principal Bob Gallagher noted that, while projects tend to be smaller-scale, “the ideas must be distinctive and really advance the home’s value in every way. Our creative challenge is to outperform the budget.”
Reston, Virginia-based John Byrd has written about residential architecture for 30 years. Greg Hadley is a photographer in Fairfax, Virginia.
DESIGN & RENOVATION: KATHERINE MACNEIL, Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Inc., Burke, Virginia.
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