Something Old, Something New
A 1922 Bethesda house gets a face-lift as it expands to accommodate a family of six.
She selected a dark chocolate stain for the new oak flooring on the main level after the original, sagging wood floor was ripped out—a color the installer was worried would show wear and tear. Carin Collins insisted. “He kept on staining, and she kept on saying, ‘That’s not dark enough,’” her husband says. But after multiple coats, the flooring installer admitted he liked the deep brown. “He said he uses it a lot now on other projects,” Steve Collins says.
For the kitchen, Carin Collins chose white marble countertops that didn’t thrill Buick. “He had clients who took the marble out of their kitchen after they’d lived with it for a while because it stained,” she says. But “this is a kitchen. Stuff happens and things get stained. That doesn’t bother me. And I really didn’t want granite, which I think will look dated in a few years.”
She wanted a wood countertop for the kitchen’s large middle island, and selected a mahogany slab from a Georgia company run by a man who had been a shipbuilder. “I knew it would end up with imperfections from use, but that’s what I wanted—something classic that looks like it’s been used,” she says.
Today, the Collinses’ kitchen is their showpiece, with two-story vaulted ceilings and a series of arched white beams inspired by a church photograph Steve Collins ripped from a magazine. Myers, who usually doesn’t design two-story spaces, had feared the soaring ceiling would overwhelm the room or make it feel cold. But he could see in Collins’ photograph that the beams would add interesting architectural detail and warm up the space.
Myers sketched the basic shape of the beams for Buick. “The drawing wasn’t very detailed,” Myers says. Buick “had to figure it out himself.” With planks of wood laid out on the kitchen floor, Buick cut the beams with a jigsaw. “He saw them in his mind, cut them out and put them up,” Collins says. “It was amazing.” Buick admits he wasn’t really “on board” with the beams at first. “But in the end I really did like them,” he says.
As Steve Collins watched the installation, he had a parental flash. He asked Buick if he thought the beams could support the weight of a teenage boy. “We had two teenage boys living at home then,” Collins says, “and I could just picture a party and someone daring someone to ‘do the monkey bars.’” Luckily, the beams have never been tested.
Myers says his best projects incorporate ideas from everyone involved, as the Collinses’ kitchen did. “I have photos in my portfolio, and someone will say, ‘That’s so pretty. How did you design it?’ And I’ll say, ‘I didn’t, one of the owners or contractors did.’ ”
The Collinses’ new addition, which took 18 months to complete, exceeded their expectations. Though each new room is distinct, wide openings between rooms allow the Collinses to see across the entire house from many vantage points, creating a sense of space and allowing in a flood of natural light. From the family room, they can see the backyard through the large kitchen window. The entire length of the house is visible from the new side door entrance.
Even after two years of living in the renovated home, Steve Collins says, “I’m excited to come down and make coffee in the morning. I just love to stand and look around.”
For Carin Collins, a Chevy Chase native with seven siblings, 30 cousins and their families all living in the area, the new space has made her home the “go-to house” on holidays and other occasions.
“I’m not sure if that’s good or bad,” Steve Collins says. His wife says it’s good, “but it does get really loud.”
Gabriele McCormick is a frequent contributor to Bethesda Magazine.