Work in Progress | Phase One: Structural, Architectural, & Room Layout Challenges

I’m delighted to launch a three-part series called “Work in Progress” that provides a sneak peek at a project mid-renovation.  We design enthusiasts are often only privy to the end product of a renovation, but we all love seeing what things looked like not only before a project started, but also mid-way through.  I wanted to share some candid images of a recent home renovation – from floor plans to construction and selection of furniture and furnishings.

Our client, a young family, bought their first home on Philadelphia’s tony “Main Line.”  The house is a classic, mid-century, center-hall-colonial, with great bones and oodles of potential. It was previously owned by empty-nesters who had raised a family there.  Our charge:  update and ready it for 21st century living.  We designed and implemented a top to bottom renovation of the house, including a complete gutting of the kitchen, the addition of a small but essential mudroom, and a large bank of built-ins in the family room.

We’ll start in the entry, which had an outdated door and minimal artificial (i.e. not “natural”/outdoor) lighting.  We wanted to create a more dramatic and cheerful entrance.


We added faux wainscoting (which is much simpler and less costly than full wood paneling), painted the walls in super high gloss navy blue, and added more lighting to make this otherwise dark space feel bright, welcoming, and chic.


Foyer-2We also added a pop of red on the brand new front door, as well as beautiful new brass hardware

Front Door-inside

The kitchen posed a significant challenge.  Of course, kitchens are always complex because they have to both look amazing and function optimally – particularly due to how most people live today.  Function and form don’t always peacefully coexist, so I’m always working to ensure that both are considered carefully before we settle on a decision.  I think we handled this delicate balance very well in this space and made the most of every opportunity we could find.  Not a square inch was wasted, yet the kitchen doesn’t feel crowded or overworked.

Here are a couple of shots of the existing space –  dated and dark with traditional wood cabinetry.

Old Kitchen


We decided to start anew with a gut renovation to open and brighten the space up and make it feel more connected to the other living spaces in the house.  We knocked down a wall that separated the kitchen from what had been a library/den space.  That really got the ball rolling and immediately changed the entire character of the kitchen.

Here’s a view of the main kitchen area during renovation.  The cabinets are custom (handmade right here in PA), the countertops are honed marble carrara (note the amazing slab of honed marble on the large island), and the appliances are  top of the line – Miele, Sub-Zero, and Wolf.



Wherever possible, we took cabinetry to the ceiling and added a simple crown moulding to help elevate the room and make it feel even more spacious.  We also added recessed lighting which always makes a huge difference in how a room feels and in a kitchen is essential for functionality.


To keep things classic and simple, we used 3×6 white subway tile for the backsplash.  It’s a classic look, available at almost every price point.


While the size of the kitchen did not allow for a traditional walk-in pantry, we added a large custom pantry cabinet with plenty of room to store all of our client’s dry goods and other cooking essentials.

In the main living areas of the house, our primary challenge was the space between the family and living rooms.  The family room had to function as the family’s main hang-out space and their daughter’s playroom.  I wanted the living room to feel a bit more separate and formal and for the adjacent family room to feel cozy with it’s own character.  The previous homeowners installed heavy drapes between these two rooms, but the rooms were still very open to one another.


We decided to make the opening between the two rooms smaller and add pocket doors so the owner’s could close off the spaces entirely for entertaining or containment of curious “wee” ones.  We also created a deep, paneled “mini-hallway” between the two rooms to give the transition a sense of grandeur and architectural interest and integrity. I think the new doorway looks as if it’s always been there – it’s still much larger than the average doorway, but not so much so that the two rooms bleed entirely into one another.

FR hallway-new

In the family room we added custom wall to wall custom built-ins which allow for maximum storage and functionality. They also are versatile enough to carry the family through many years.  While the cabinets currently house baby toys, they will easily transition to a space for board games and school books.  It’s important to design-forward and think about what the next 5,10,15 years plus of a family’s life will be like in a space.  Ideally, the rooms I design will hold up so  only tweaks are required rather than complete overhauls as children grow and lives change.

FR Built-in


Stay tuned for our next post!  We’ll share details on the process behind selecting the furniture and furnishings.

categories: News