A renovated, circa-1970s Georgian Colonial will be featured in the 12th annual Great Falls Studios tour Oct. 16-18. A comprehensive first floor makeover to the home of Joseph and Alison Lopez, the project by Sun Design Remodeling Specialists demonstrates new interior design modalities now being applied to traditional floorplans in older homes.
“There's a design revolution underway in northern Virginia,” said Sun Design founder and chairman Craig Durosko. “We find there's a lot of interest in what's being done. An open house is one way locals see what ideas may apply to their own homes.”
Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, a 30-year-old design/build remodeling firm, has sponsored the Great Falls Studios tour since 2012. This year, the event will feature the work of more than 40 local artists in 26 locations around Great Falls. Work by fine arts painters Alicia Sommers and Karen Bateman will be on display in the Lopez home.
The Lopez renovation draws attention to space planning and design concepts that “open up” a traditional floorplan by selectively reconfiguring existing interior walls.
The original 2,700-square-foot house, which the family purchased eight years ago, was built around a standard center hall template with a front-facing foyer and living room that segued to a rear dining room, kitchen, and family room configuration. To gain more living space, Lopez converted a 280-square-foot screen porch to a sunroom three years ago, but the changes didn't resolve other inherent problems.
“The rear rooms were too dark and cramped,” Joseph Lopez said. “Yet there was a lot of wasted space everywhere.”
With 8-year-old twins about the house, circulation in the kitchen was problematic. The traditional U-shaped counter space in the kitchen was as much a barrier as an asset. Storage capacity was limited. There was no place to display the children's drawings which hung from cabinets and appliances.
The living room and formal dining room were mostly unused — consuming a lot of first level square footage without much family benefit.
The interior to the family room — which included a working fireplace — was notably dated.
View and access to the lower-level playroom from the kitchen was obstructed by a landing two steps down that required a 90 degree turn.
Despite a setting that backs up to a 50-acre, tree-filled easement, there were no clear sight lines from the kitchen to the back yard where the boys were usually at play when not in school.
“WE HAD STARTED thinking about making changes before we moved in,” Joseph Lopez said. “We had many ideas for improvements — but didn't know what would work.”
Enter Sun Design's lead designer Jon Benson and specialty designer Katie Coram.
“The first consideration was how to create a space plan that was consistent with how the family actually uses the house,” Benson said. “Everyone acknowledged that the dining room was too small and that the sizable living room didn't have much of a role in the family's everyday life — so there was some useful square footage we could re-deploy.”
These observations in mind, Benson drafted a plan that deleted the wall between kitchen and dining room to form a 30-foot-by-14-foot family kitchen. The larger footprint created the space needed for a four-seat food prep island and dining counter, a breakfast area and a substantially enlarged pantry.
It also allowed for direct access to the staircase leading to the lower level. With the kitchen extended, Bensen cut a new door to the downstairs and installed a straight staircase, making it easy for Alison to keep an eye on the boys from upstairs.
To improve natural light and sight lines, the designer eliminated the partial wall and sliders leading to the sun room, then designed a 12-foot opening utilizing “by-pass” sliders on a double track that telescope into the wall.
The result: Alison can easily keep an eye on the backyard from anywhere in the kitchen. Equally appealing: an indoor-outdoor continuum that brings the wooded setting into visual range from every part of the renovated kitchen.
“The beautiful view is one of the main reasons we bought the house,” said Joseph Lopez. “Having it available in the rooms where we spend a lot of time is wonderfully fulfilling.”
CONVERTING THE UNUSED unused living room into a spacious formal dining room with fireplace, likewise, satisfied the family's holiday entertainment requirements. As a bonus, the children now use the dining room to start their homework just steps from their mom in the kitchen.
With space planning issues under control, Alison Lopez huddled on finish work details with Coram.
“It was great bouncing ideas off of someone with her interior design skills,” Alison Lopez said. “There were so many details — cabinet styles, colors and finishes; best granite options for the island counter top. Katie recommended a houndstooth pattern for the backsplash — which really improved on the white brick-style design I had been considering.”
The stand-out inspiration, though, was Coram's suggestion that the family's “kitchen art” could be better presented in a 9-foot-by-5.5-foot message board mounted on the wall between the kitchen and the entrance to the dining room.
A steel surface covered in porcelain, the board accommodates photos and art held by magnets, but also offers a handy place to jot down “to do” lists written in an erasable felt tip pen.
“It's a fun piece,” Alison Lopez says. “Just looking at it makes me smile.”
John Byrd (firstname.lastname@example.org or www.HomeFrontsNews.com) has been writing about home improvement topics for 30 years.