November 6, 2023
When a D.C.-area couple wanted to renovate their kitchen, they were drawn to Meghan Browne’s portfolio of clean, contemporary designs. Once she showed them examples of what their kitchen could be, they knew she could accomplish their goal of a social kitchen in spades.
The main item on the wish list was for the kitchen to be a space that would hold up well to the heavy traffic of the teenage son and his friends, as well as a feline family member. Browne, a designer with Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath in Chevy Chase, Md., took the project several steps further and transformed it into the kitchen of their dreams.
Out with the Old, In with the New
The former space was closed off from the rest of the home, and it felt tight with the peninsula and wall between the kitchen and living room. Browne took out both elements and borrowed two feet from what was an unusually large dining room. This allowed for a more open space with more storage and better proportion between cabinets.
The peninsula was replaced with an island, which is connected to the eat-in table the couple desired. Both feature different heights and materials, but combining the two was more efficient than having two separate entities, which would have required more walkway space.
Color Palette & Cabinetry
The new floor plan called for including the original windows and door leading to the recently renovated patio outside, but even with all that natural light, the former kitchen was dark with ample wood elements and inadequate lighting.
The client wanted a brighter palette, and as such chose high-gloss white laminate cabinets, which are reflective and bring in ample light. To add some contrast and warmth to the space, Browne chose a darker shade for the base cabinets in a matte finish.
The homeowners use many countertop appliances they wanted to keep hidden when not in use, so Browne incorporated two appliance garages – one on each side of the cooktop. She measured all the smaller appliances to ensure an accurate fit and incorporated the necessary outlets in the garages.
For the base cabinetry, the designer used ample drawers, which she feels are easier to access, with various dividers, as well as breathable pullout bins for vegetables. Rollout shelves ensure nothing gets lost in the back of a cabinet.
The waterfall tabletop material is a matte-finished walnut, which also adds warmth and contrast. For the perimeter countertops and island, Browne selected a Calacatta marble-look porcelain, which she says resembles the real thing without the additional maintenance. She chose porcelain instead of quartz because she feels the material does a better job of replicating marble.
“Porcelain fabricators are getting much better at working with the material, which is thin and can be easily broken,” said the designer. “They now know to miter it to a standard countertop thickness, and I am getting a lot less pushback from them when I specify porcelain.”
The flooring is the original red oak, but the Jennifer Gilmer design team added some white and gray, so it looks more like white oak and better complements the rest of the color palette.
The backsplash was originally going to include purple, the wife’s favorite color. Eventually, Browne found the Ann Sacks tile they ended up using in her files, and when she added it to the 3D model, it fit into the whole scheme perfectly. The mosaic backsplash, which is made up round and half-round stone shapes, is the designer’s favorite element in this new social kitchen.
Everything Else & the Kitchen Sink
The homeowners wanted quality appliances that would stand the test of time. Browne chose a Bosch induction cooktop – switched from gas – and wall ovens from Miele, a brand she feels is intuitive and reliable. Since the existing refrigerator was fairly new, it was reused in the new space, with the idea that it could be swapped out for a fully integrated model down the line.
The former faucet was also reused, but the sink is a brand-new workstation unit in the island. This new fixture featured tiered accessory options, allowing an area for drying dishes and a colander for draining pasta – a perfect option for multiple uses.
Challenges Overcome & Lessons Learned
In terms of the size issues of the former kitchen, those were quickly resolved with the addition of two feet from the dining room and removing a partial wall. Since the project took place during a time when product availability was questionable, the design team chose realistic timelines, ordered as much ahead of time as possible, and kept the clients informed. Although there were cabinet and countertop delays, those did not change any of the original product and material selections.
“We had to adjust our expectations as far as when things would be finished, but we did our best to mediate the process,” said Browne.
At the last minute, the designer reversed her decision as to where the range wall and refrigeration/oven wall would be located. Since the range wall with the dynamic backsplash is really the focal point of the space, she wanted to have it facing the family room, where the homeowners spend most of their time.
“Sometimes it is easy to get stuck designing based only on function or on an original thought process, but it is important to always reflect on the design and final decisions to ensure it also makes sense with the full environment,” said Browne.
The designer said she loved working with these clients because the project was a truly collaborative effort. The wife asked questions and provided feedback, and they love their new social kitchen.
“The new design has transformed how they operate in the kitchen,” said Browne. “Everything has its place, which really creates an exhale moment.”
—By Chelsie Butler
Designer: Meghan Browne, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath
Contractor: Llaveroes Services LLC
Photographer: John Cole Photography
Backsplash: Ann Sacks
Beverage Cooler: Uline
Cabinets: Hans Krug
Countertops: Atlas Plan, fabricated by Classic Granite and Marble (porcelain) & Walnut oiled by Grothouse
Pendants: Y Lighting
Seating: West Elm