In a tough situation, designer Sharon Kleinman and her client proved to be a dynamic team. After redecorating and selling two major Florida properties, the wife was refurbishing her family’s home in Georgetown and gearing up for a renovation of the farmhouse near Mount Airy, Maryland, where they spend vacations and holidays. Architectural plans for the home’s expansion were done and the roof was scheduled to be raised in a matter of months. A superlative cook of Italian heritage, the wife would finally get a kitchen big enough to accommodate the pasta-making parties she hosts with her two kids as well as a new pool out back and, most important of all, more space for entertaining extended family.
Then the unexpected happened. The real estate market crashed, and almost overnight her dream for the farmhouse expansion was no longer feasible. Budgets for both houses were impacted, and she and her husband had to make a choice. As major work was already underway on the family’s primary Washington residence, they decided to focus on its completion. Unwilling to relinquish their dream for the farmhouse entirely, however, they instead scaled back their plans.
Sharon Kleinman, who was working on both projects when the budget crunch hit, remembers how she and the wife determined to craft the farmhouse’s revision. “We focused on how to get the most out of the existing footprint,” Kleinman says. “We got creative and maximized every inch of space.”
They started in the kitchen by scrapping an architectural plan to engulf an exterior brick-walled patio. Instead, they worked within the room’s existing 1970’s-era parameters to devise a new layout and select new finishes, appliances and storage options. Paramount was the need to replace the old-fashioned table and chairs with a substantial central island and bar stools. They explored every practicality, from the addition of light-enhancing colors on the dark side of the house to the cost-cutting elimination of such details as a decorative inset for the travertine backsplash. Their efforts to scale back turned out to be just what was needed. “The simplicity we gained is right for this country house,” says the wife. Her only splurge was Cyan Design pendant lights, which were altered to fit the ceiling height over the new island.
Kleinman worked her reductive magic on the family’s main gathering room by calling in Suz Podrasky Stafford to faux-whitewash each of the fireplace’s brash red bricks. “Before that, we were going to replace the fireplace,” Kleinman says. The artist’s glazes on the room’s diagonal cedar paneling mimic weathered pasture fencing to further soften the surface. Little touches—such as a spindle-frame loveseat from Hickory Chair positioned to be seen from the back entrance—add to the spare country charm Kleinman orchestrated throughout the house.
Replacing laminate flooring with wide-oak planks maximized the effect of natural woods already in place. The previous owner, who was also the home’s builder, had incorporated an antique mantel and coat tree into two rooms for character; hardy wood surfaces on tables and antiques are their natural complement. A palette of autumnal tones offsets artwork that highlights the husband’s involvement in the local fox hunting community.
Furnishing the house proved that economizing didn’t have a down side. “Sharon helped me spend carefully so I could still bring in a ‘wow’ factor,” says the wife, who was comfortable buying the dining room’s starburst mirror if she spent less for such items as “seat cushions the kids will stain anyway.” Working with a mandate to make judicious choices gave the owners more than they believed possible. “And having a great designer,” says the wife, “was one of our wisest choices.”
Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Gwin Hunt is a photographer in Annapolis. Gwin Hunt is an Annapolis photographer.
INTERIOR DESIGN: SHARON KLEINMAN, Transitions, Potomac, Maryland. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Cabin John Builders, Cabin John, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Steve Wlodarczyk, Botanical Decorators, Olney, Maryland.