An Expansive Kitchen Makeover in Time for the New Year

When does the kitchen become dated? The answer may be subjective, yet 18 years is a generation in the life-cycle of a style preference, and it’s not simply because the surfaces have become dull.

Rather, it becomes all too clear that the home’s best assets are not being brought forward in bold relief. What you have you have seen so often that it’s invisible. The impulse is to bring it all back to life, to renew—and not just the kitchen, but one’s enjoyment of it. It’s a situation that calls for a new lease on life, and a new era.

Such are the motivations behind many a modern makeover, according to Roger Lataille, senior design consultant at Sun Design Remodeling and the professional who recently guided a 4,700 square foot Clifton residence from a vague set of options to a crisply defined interior plan newly completed in time for the New Year.

KitchenBeforeAndAfterOwned by Tom and Mary Beth Healy who have occupied since 1997, the home is situated on a spacious one acre lot that includes a pool and pool house.

“This is really an exceptional transformation,” Lataille says, pointing to the expansive French country style kitchen and re-invigorated family room. “It really shows what you can do with an open floor plan in a larger home surrounded by beautiful views.”

Looking back, the 22×20-foot kitchen Tom Healy had a hand in designing in 1997 had its charms. Surrounded by a course of divided light windows on two sides, the breakfast room featured views of the well-landscaped backyard. Morning light was usually available—if not as abundantly so. The pine-facing cabinets, while dark, exuded a kind of rustic American ambiance.

On the other hand, the cook top island and dining counter didn’t work well. There was a range oven on one side; stools and place settings on two opposite corners. Now that the kids are away at school, this layout could clearly be improved upon.

Ditto the L-shaped counter configuration separating the kitchen from the large family room. Technically, the family room was a “step down”—a sunken affair set off by an interior colonnade and a coffered ceiling. But sequestering the space only closed it off visually from the kitchen, a plan which no longer held much allure to the Healys as they looked ahead. 

Better Unity, Visual Continuum

“What really made sense was better unity between a re-designed gourmet kitchen and the family room,” Lataille explains. “To do this, we would need to raise the family room floor eight inches to level with the kitchen, and delete an interior kitchen elevation—which was also a bearing wall.”

FamilyRoomBeforeAndAfterTo hold up the home’s second floor,  Sun Design employed an I-beam bolstered by three vertical supports which would be wrapped in wooden facings that match the existing colonnade.  Installing a sub floor, in turn, raises the family room floor to level with the kitchen. With existing kitchen tile removed, both rooms are re-floored in fine hickory stained to suit the Healy’s aesthetic preferences.

To augment natural light availability, the original slider is replaced with a divided light door bordered by sidelights and transom.  There’s a sympathetic glazing presentation behind the new wine bar. There are even transom windows above the cabinets on either side of the gas range.

“The light effects are pretty impressive throughout,” Lataille notes.

In all, the nearly 800 sq ft expanse from kitchen to family room opens up vigorous sight lines in all directions. From the cook’s station behind the new granite-surfaced food preparation island one gazes forward into the living room with its blazing hearth, or outside to the lushly landscaped surroundings.

To better rationalize nearby amenities, Sun Design enlarged and re-organized the pantry,  re-tiled the mudroom, powder room and laundry, and upgraded powder room fixtures and cabinet facings.

Better yet, the interior finishwork scheme by Sun Design’s Katie Coram is a study in soft textural contrasts. The corner gas-powered fireplace in the former breakfast zone is now set off by a stacked stone hearth; smaller format stones of the same type were used to build the back splash behind the range oven.

IslandBeforeAndAfterThe African granite food prep island surface—a rare strain known as Namibia— was cut to emphasize the natural veins that runs through the middle of a slab. The slab was selected to complement the custom-designed base. The base itself is equipped with an antique copper farm sink, a microwave and a dishwasher.

The island parallels the gas-powered cook top and convenient roll-out spice racks, warming drawers and wine cooler, yet the gracefully-arching slope extending past the base is perfectly situated for service to the new breakfast table aligned for a direct view to pool and gardens.

Shaker cabinet facings painted in bright Eggshell hues provide a neutral mid-tone that nicely balances the contrast between the darker hardwood floor and white hues on the ceiling and other surfaces.   

Columns, molding and other trim work provide formal accents that give an open space its playful sense of boundaries. In all, a transitional style execution with lots of visual continuum perfectly expressed.

Sun Design Remodeling frequently sponsors tours of recently remodeled homes as well as workshops on home remodeling topics. Headquartered in Burke, the firm recently opened a second office in McLean. For information call 703.425.5588 or visit

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