changes can have a huge impact. The photos of the “before” and “after”
of the kitchen of this Ohlin Lane Cape prove that to be true.
The original kitchen needed updating of surfaces and appliances. (All photos by Lisa Aciukewicz)
met Bob and Margie Smetana, the owners of this home, at the Harvard
Schools Trust Gala last March. They had recently returned to Harvard
from Virginia. They lead very busy lives and needed to get the house
ready for the move quickly and simply. Before the move, they had all of
the walls and trim painted white. The family felt the home lacked
warmth and character.
We had our first meeting last
spring to first go over the Smetanas’ wish list. After I made my design
recommendations, we made a plan to implement the changes. Our plan was
to do the renovations while the family vacationed in June so as to have
the least impact upon their daily lives.
architectural design of this house gives it a very interesting floor
plan, designed for today’s casual living. Instead of the staircase to
the second floor being located in the front hall, as is traditional, it
is located in the kitchen. The kitchen, located behind double French
doors that lead from the main entry foyer, is the first thing visitors
see upon entering through the front door. Whether people enter from the
front door, garage door, second floor, or deck, all passageways lead to
the kitchen, the hub of the home. The Smetanas attest to this being the
heart of the house, the place where everyone ends up congregating
whenever there is a gathering. It was the first room that needed
change. Because the kitchen is the first thing you see upon entering
and it is so centrally located, Margie wanted it to have the appearance
of fine furnishings rather than of a typical kitchen. Ease of use,
durability, and good design were the main requirements.
kitchen has some great features. It is open, with a good traffic flow,
light and bright, with lots of windows; and it has good quality
raised-panel cherry cabinets. There is a ceramic tile floor. A
wonderful summer dining room is located just off the kitchen on the
large deck. The downside of the kitchen is that the great features were
lost behind the boring almond-colored Formica cabinets and the dated
almond-colored appliances. When walking into the home, one got the
impression that it was unfinished and uninspired .
The kitchen now has granite countertops and new appliances.
the home, one of the main color threads is black. It is a color that is
striking yet neutral, and it lends itself to the Shaker style, with a
contemporary edge that Margie loves. We carried the black into the
kitchen. The Formica countertops were replaced with
three-centimeter-thick honed Absolute Black granite. The honed granite
is polished, yet the polishing stops at the point of a matte gloss,
rather than the highly polished, reflective quality of so many of the
granites we are used to seeing. The matte finish is being used more and
more, but it is still a unique look, something the homeowners were
striving to achieve. They wanted an easy-to-live-with solution that was
also cutting edge.
Absolute Black granite is the
blackest of all the granites. It is usually mined in North Africa or
China. The granite molecules are so densely packed that the granite
appears to be all of one color until you look very closely. You can see
little specks of dark greys throughout the stone. The closely-packed
molecules of this stone also make it very heavy and hard. It is one of
the most durable of stones. Because Absolute Black is becoming
increasingly rare, care must be taken when choosing a stone dealer.
Some unethical dealers are treating their stone with chemicals to make
it appear to be black. After several months of exposure to sunlight,
the chemicals wear off and the stone turns grey and blotchy.
change that we made, which was simple but had a dramatic effect, was
the faucet and cabinet hardware. Going from brass to brushed stainless
steel gave this room a cleaner edge. The appliances were changed to
stainless steel. The stove has a stainless-steel front with a black
glass top. It is located in the center island and now offers a seamless
look. The sink, too, is black granite. The stone allows the maximum
durability with no signs of scratches or discoloration.
project has been such a success that a personal relationship has been
formed with the owners, which is a very easy thing to imagine if you
know the Smetanas. Margie and I will team up to be co-hosts for next
year’s Harvard Schools Trust Gala, in celebration of this design
project. I have the dinnerware and linens; Margie has a dining table
that seats a minimum of 14. If you want to see this design project in
person, be sure to get to request 11 Ohlin Lane for the Gala.
These candleholders were transformed into windowsill cactus planters.