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Kitchen Renovation in a Historic District Home

Washington D.C. has over 30 designated neighborhood historic districts spread over all four quadrants of the city including Capitol Hill. Architect Bruce Wentworth, AIA of Wentworth Inc. based in Chevy Chase, Maryland has designed kitchen renovation projects throughout the metro area including a recent upgrade to a vintage 1909 Colonial Revival style home on the northern edge of the Cleveland Park Historic District.

“The couple are empty nesters and they felt the kitchen wasn’t working for them. They don’t go to restaurants very much and they both like to cook,” says Wentworth. A previous owner had remodeled the kitchen 15 years ago, but the homeowners wanted a more functional layout that personalized the space.

Kitchen renovations are typically unaffected by historic preservation standards unless changes are made to the exterior – which includes replacing doors and windows. Changes can be made to the home’s exterior – including additions if you are willing to jump through the approval hoops.

Wentworth says, “You can bump out or up if the zoning will allow it and if the historic preservation office reviews it and approves it. If you’re on Capitol Hill for example, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society will also review the project. If the changes are not dramatic, it usually gets approved.”

The kitchen in question didn’t need more space but it did need a better floor plan for the space it occupied. The design team reconfigured an exterior triple set French door so that the circulation path was away from the table space and removed an underused built-in desk, replacing it with a bespoke wet bar complete with a beverage fridge.

Storage space was increased through the use of roll out shelving, a turn-out Lazy Susan, a pullout spice rack hidden in the upper cabinet, and a concealed lift in the base cabinet to accommodate a mixer. Upper cabinets were extended to the ceiling and a peninsula provides space for casual dining.

The design team agreed on the concept of keeping the existing historic character of the home intact while doing a tasteful upgrade. Wentworth says, “We tell our clients – let’s respect the envelope of the house while dropping in a modern kitchen and design the space to work with the modern, casual lifestyle.”

To give the kitchen an updated transitional aesthetic with a nod to the traditional feel of the house, the design team picked Woodharbor cabinets with shaker-style doors finished in “Designer White.” Counter tops were specified in “Virginia Mist” granite, a dark gray interspersed with wispy veins of white. Drain board grooves were cut into the granite to help drain dishes into the sink. “Ambrosia Maple,” was used for the wet bar countertop and backsplash with cabinetry painted a contrasting “Gentleman’s Gray.”

Wentworth says, “The light colors make the room look larger and more timeless by reflecting more light. We used darker colors to provide contrast to the white cabinets, accentuate the wet bar, and the shallow custom cabinets on the west side.”

“Savoy Rice Paper,” an Ann Sacks rendition of subway tile, was selected for the backsplash. The dishwasher, refrigerator, gas range and microwave all came from Thermador which offers a package deal on pricing. The range hood is from Elica and the beverage fridge is ULine.

As with many historic district renovation projects, maximizing space is often the biggest challenge. Wentworth says, “In this project there was an 8 inches x 7 feet of dead space behind the wall where the refrigerator was placed that the previous remodeling had covered over. We were able to recapture that to get more floor space in the kitchen.” In small kitchens, every inch counts.

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is a licensed architect and contractor. He is president of Wentworth, Inc., a design/build firm based in Chevy Chase, Maryland known for fine home remodeling projects in the Washington, D.C. region.

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