It took a flood to inspire the owner of a DC home overlooking Rock Creek Park to renovate his kitchen. With help from interior designer Therese Baron Gurney, he had already decorated his Colonial home with decidedly modern furniture and art. But his kitchen lagged behind—until a pipe burst while he was out of town and left the home’s lower level beyond repair. It was time to renovate.
The owner had visited a modern kitchen designed by Therese’s husband, architect Robert M. Gurney, and liked the way the sleek space blended with the traditional language of its Craftsman-style home. So he asked Gurney to redesign his own kitchen in a distinctly modern style.
The architect proposed a plan that would combine the former kitchen’s compartmentalized rooms—the main kitchen, a walk-in pantry, a butler’s pantry and a breakfast room—into a single, open space. It would be clean-lined and devoid of the traditional moldings and trim found in other rooms of the house.
Gurney’s first task was to establish a clean slate, eliminating bulkheads and trim. “The challenge was to get past the structural stuff and make sure we could open the space up so that it didn’t have drop beams and bulkheads,” he explains. “I wanted a continuous ceiling. There’s some steel work up there to hold the masonry above.”
Once the divisions were gone in the newly enlarged space, Gurney accentuated its spare lines to create a sense of drama. He placed cabinets, countertops and appliances along the two long walls of the kitchen and a 20-foot-long island that cuts through the room on an axis with a new wall of windows, drawing the eye toward a dining area with a dazzling view of Rock Creek Park.
He and Therese selected a palette of simple, timeless materials that would complement the home’s traditional vernacular. Limestone floors, Calcutta Gold marble on the island and quarter-sawn white oak cabinets by Bulthaup are paired with aluminum wall panels, also by Bulthaup, that add a quiet sheen.
The minimalist space maximizes functionality and precision. A stainless-steel countertop along one wall with twin sinks is a convenient workspace. The island does double duty as a cook center and hub for serving. Guests can watch the chef at work from a built-in, raised oak bar with stools.
Gurney went to extremes to establish a sense of lightness: All of the cabinetry and appliances appear to hover in the space. Even the twin Gaggenau ovens are virtually suspended on one wall. “Everything sort of floats off the floor, even the refrigerators,” says the architect. “We just felt that it would be a lot more open and spacious, and we wanted to do something a bit unexpected.”
ARCHITECTURE: ROBERT M. GURNEY, FAIA, Robert M. Gurney Architect, Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: THERESE BARON GURNEY, ASID, Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, DC.
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