When Bill and Jennifer Gilmer bought this circa-1928 Bethesda, Maryland, house, its charm was long past and its shortcomings were undeniable. The roof leaked, the upstairs floors sagged, and the place was poorly insulated.
One day, Jennifer discovered a set of plans the former owners had left behind that had been drawn by local architect Amy Gardner. Jennifer, a kitchen and bath designer, knew good design when she saw it. "Before, I had assumed we would remodel the house in keeping with its traditional style," she says. "Instead, we called Amy, and she opened our eyes to the fact that our efforts didn't have to be so predictable. We could keep the essence of an American bungalow while adding an Asian-contemporary feel to the home."
Amy updated the traditional bungalow style on the front porch with double mahogany-clad posts edged in black-painted steel, which rest on granite-covered piers. "Craftsman homes in the Arts and Crafts period were often built using solid timbers with traditional exposed wood joinery," Amy points out. "I wanted the details of the Gilmers' home to recall the fine workmanship of the Arts and Crafts period yet use modern materials and building techniques."
"Best of all," Amy says, "I'm most proud of my home's new curb appeal when I'm on the front porch and people shout from their cars, ‘We LOVE your house!' "
Amy's plan called for totally gutting the kitchen and turning it into a butler's pantry, open staircase, and wide hall to access the addition in the back. The new kitchen shares space with a light-filled living area.
Two features in particular steal the show in the Gilmers' kitchen.
Oversized Hood above the Cooktop
"I typically recommend larger hoods to my clients," Jennifer says. "Even though some storage is lost, they create a bold statement."
Dining Table on Casters
Veneered in the same wood as the island and cabinetry, it easily rolls out for dinner parties. This innovative table also helps solve a design problem. "Because the overall length of the addition prevented us from having a permanent dining area," Jennifer says, "this solution keeps the room open when the table's not needed."
Macassar Ebony Veneer
Macassar ebony-veneered stools match the kitchen's distinctive cabinets. "Their simulated tiger-stripe grain continues the rhythm of the mullions," Jennifer says.
The living area has floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that fill the room with light. "To reinforce the Asian theme established on the exterior, Amy used horizontal mullions in the glass doors, which are reminiscent of Japanese shoji screens," says Jennifer. "They complement the space by guiding your eye around the room."
The Gilmers wanted to enlarge the upstairs of the house.
They removed the dilapidated deck and porch and created a gabled addition at the back of the house to accommodate larger bedrooms and baths upstairs. The spiral staircase leads up from the new back garden.