Stylish to a Tea | Page 2 of 2

Stylish to a Tea

A kitchen-and-bath designer commissions a makeover for her Bethesda bungalow-and gets a Japanese teahouse for two

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The Gilmers were in sync with Gardner on the design direction. She showed them how the bungalow look was inspired by Asian architecture. Using a Japanese teahouse as a reference, the architect convinced them they could improve the bungalow with a design rooted in traditional forms but filtered through a modern lens.

With the renovation, the house grew from 2,000 square feet to about 4,000. The architect preserved the front rooms of the house but removed the entire roof and attic. She reconfigured the front porch with wood-and-steel columns that sit on granite bases and added a full second floor with dormers, as well as a screened-in porch at the back of the house. Fiber cement siding and a faux slate roof cover the exterior.

Visitors to the house enter into a large living room. To the left, double doors lead to a piano room/parlor, while a formal dining room lies straight ahead beyond the living room. A door in the corner of the dining room leads to a small hall and entrances to the powder room, first-floor bedroom and the basement.

Beyond the formal dining room is the pantry, “the place where the real transition happens from the very faithful Craftsman to the modern/Asian,” Gardner says.

The butler’s pantry is located in the hallway that leads to the kitchen/family room. It contains a microwave and convection/steam oven hidden behind bifold doors. It also features a prep sink and a copper countertop.

The large kitchen located at the back of the house is where Gilmer experimented with new ideas, using dark-toned copper, exotic veneer, wenge (a dark, African hardwood) and glass.

“My original idea for the kitchen was that it had to be traditional,” Gilmer says, “but after seeing how Amy made the addition on the back so contemporary, I was inspired to create a more contemporary kitchen.”

Gardner set the stage with a coffered ceiling, a wall of glass doors leading to the screened-in porch and terrace, and clerestory windows that wash the space in light. Gilmer, in turn, used Macassar ebony veneer cabinets and an island with a wenge butcher-block countertop to anchor the space. A green/yellow glass tile backsplash adds a pop of color.

“Having the sink in the island is great because I can socialize or watch TV while cooking and doing the dishes,” Gilmer says. “I designed a butcher-block top that can slide over most of the sink and expand the counter space.”

Gilmer did her best to minimize appliances, painting the refrigerator black to reduce its visibility and hiding smaller gadgets behind bifold doors. The kitchen lacked the space for a freestanding breakfast table, so she designed one that slides under the island and can be pulled out to seat eight.

The Gilmers now have a proper second level, as well, complete with a large master suite, two guest bedrooms and a complete in-law suite with a balcony and circular stairs for access to the back porch.

Extending the house made the backyard smaller, but it’s now a much more enjoyable space. To create a roomlike feel, Gardner designed a raised terrace that’s almost level with the interior and the porch.

“When you open up all those doors, the spaces feel like they are connected,” the architect says.

Located on a lot that’s about 75 feet wide by 175 feet long, the house retains the spirit of a traditional bungalow even as it appears dramatically different, with materials such as resin panels, steel, mahogany and copper lending a modern edge.

“We used a broad palette of things that can be used in either a modern or traditional setting,” Gardner says. “It’s about how we put things together.”

Eight months after construction began in November 2005, the couple moved into their new digs, though the master bath and hall bath wouldn’t be completed until a year later.

Married for 24 years, the Gilmers share the house with Maggie, an Airedale terrier and German shepherd mix, and Nibbles, a coonhound mix. They love the entire house, but mostly use the kitchen/family room area and the screened-in porch.

A place for family and friends to visit, the home also has become an auxiliary showroom that Gilmer uses for clients interested in some of the kitchen, wet bar and bathroom features. Renovating the house provided Gilmer with a lab to experiment.

“It was great fun,” she says. “I tried out new ideas so that I could make sure they worked. I have since incorporated these ideas into my clients’ kitchens.”

More than anything, the Gilmers appreciate the home’s design ingenuity.

“We really wanted a much more modern house, but we thought that we’d have to keep with the traditional American bungalow look,” Jennifer Gilmer says.

“Not only did Amy find a way to honor the traditional house from the front elevation, but she also found a way to add a much more modern, contemporary feel to the back. The transition from the old to the new melds so well that it’s uncanny.”

Nigel F. Maynard is a Hyattsville-based editor and freelancer who writes about architecture and design. To comment on this story, email comments@bethesda magazine.com.

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