Seating Options

Tip #2: The large table with banquette and chairs serves as a dining area when the couple entertains. The shorter side of the banquette has an extra-deep cushion, making the corner a cozy spot to recline and watch TV, read, or work on a laptop.

The project started with the demolition of the existing spaces—a 1970s-era kitchen that had been elevated a few steps higher than the adjoining dining area. “I’m not entirely sure why the kitchen was up a level,” muses D.C. architect Michael Rouse, who collaborated on the project with Cavin-Winfrey and kitchen designer Nadia Subaran. The new plan put the kitchen and dining area on the same level, with an island acting as a divider.

Punches of Pattern

Tip #3: Cabinets extend to the ceiling to maximize storage in the small space. Toile fabric and wire mesh inserts were added to the upper doors to lend charm and to break the monotony of a solid wall of cabinets.

Today, cream-colored cabinets brushed with a warm brown glaze introduce an elegance complementing the style of the home. “The cabinets have a nice character and depth, and they feel like they are part of the older sections of the house,” Cavin-Winfrey says.

Soft Touches

Tip #4: A toile shade with tassel trim from Robert Allen is a nod to tradition in the historic home. “The nice curve of the shade and the tassels and tails are sweet touches,” says designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.

To maximize storage in the small kitchen, she took the cabinets to the ceiling. Toile fabric and wire mesh inserts on the upper doors break the monotony of a wall of cabinets and add personal charm. “Carol loves history and toiles, so the toile was a nod to that traditional vibe,” explains the designer.

A coffered ceiling in keeping with the style of the house was added to the kitchen, lowering the 12-foot-high ceilings and creating an intimacy previously lacking in the rooms.  

Wired Zones

Tip #5: Space-efficient built-in shelves store reading materials and are wired for plugging in computers and charging handheld devices. The back of the shelves is stained to complement the chocolate hues in the space.

“The new design enabled the kitchen and dining area to communicate spatially with one another,” says Rouse. “Our challenge was to create a formal space suitable for a dinner party, while also casual enough for everyday living.” A formal dining table and chairs were replaced with a comfortable corner banquette paired with a trestle table that seats up to eight people. One side of the banquette has an extra-deep bench seat—the perfect spot for watching TV or reading. 

A dining room china cabinet was replaced with space-efficient built-in shelves above the banquette. Two swing-arm sconces are mounted on the shelves to provide good light for reading and enhance the cozy intimacy of the corner. To make the area hardworking, electrical outlets were added for charging mobile devices.

Dual Functions

Tip #6: Sconces on swing arms provide task lighting for reading at the table and can be dimmed to add intimacy to the space for dining.

Because storage is always an issue in a small kitchen, “we had to be creative in finding ways to pull in as much storage space as possible,” says kitchen designer Subaran. She placed two floor-to-ceiling cabinets on opposite walls, providing the bulk of the kitchen storage. In addition to supplies, one unit conceals a TV on a retractable arm that allows viewing from the banquette. When company comes, the TV disappears behind the cabinet door. More storage is packed into the banquette itself, with drawers beneath the bench seats and a narrow pull-out pantry tucked into the back of one side of the bench.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Tip #7: A Thermador induction cooktop is more efficient than a gas cooktop, heats up and cools down quickly, and is easy to wipe clean. The low profile doesn’t distract from the beauty of the tile and cabinetry.

When developing the kitchen plan, Subaran kept it simple, tweaking a basic galley kitchen design. “That’s the most efficient kitchen design,” she says. “We want to have a lovely pivot point so you’re just one step or arm’s reach from everything.” She recommended installing an induction cooktop for its energy efficiency, easy-clean flat surface, and low-profile look. “There is a quietness to this kitchen that we liked, and we loved the minimal quality of an induction cooktop,” Subaran says. “A big pro-style range would have been too much.”

The stunning chocolate-and-cream marble tile backsplash on the range wall anchors the kitchen. The laser-cut organic pattern breaks the rectilinear quality of the room and adds “gravity to that entire elevation,” Cavin-Winfrey says. “It’s the artwork.”

Quality Downlights

Tip #8: Pendants with custom fabric shades provide task lighting on the island and add a touch of dressiness to the kitchen. To prevent glare, choose fixtures with covers or diffusers over the bulbs.

Tough Materials

Tip #9: A vintage-style Rohl faucet in an antique bronze finish was inspired by original brass fixtures in the house. Quartzite counters have the look of vintage marble but are harder, less porous, and easier to keep stain free.

Occasionally, bonuses appear during a renovation. During demolition, an original paneled pocket door that divides the dining area from the front hall was discovered sealed into the wall. “It was so beautiful we didn’t have to do anything but clean and wax it,” says Cavin-Winfrey.

“This gorgeous rowhouse had gone through many remodels over the years and at one time was even a boardinghouse with no kitchen at all,” adds Subaran. “We wanted to bring back some of the old glory of the house by creating a kitchen that was elegant and rich in details and included all of today’s modern amenities.”

Design Team

Architect Michael Rouse, kitchen designer Nadia Subaran (standing), and interior designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.

Easy-Clean Materials

Tip #10: Upholstered swivel bar stools from Ballard offer comfortable seating in the kitchen and dining area. Leather seats are easy to clean, and the buffalo check fabric accented with nailhead trim introduces a tailored style.

Want to see more kitchen improvement ideas? Check out our presentation on Kitchen Updates That Pay Back.

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10 Steps to a Fab Kitchen

How to create a kitchen that lives like you do

Written by Amy Elbert
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Gordon Beall

Design Team

Architect Michael Rouse, kitchen designer Nadia Subaran (standing), and interior designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.


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