Hearth and Soul
As a child, Rob Shaffer loved to go to his Italian uncle’s house in the morning and help him fire up the outdoor clay oven in preparation for family pizza parties. So when he had the chance to add something similar to his own home, he seized the opportunity. A built-in pizza oven is just part of a major remodel of the 1960 brick colonial Shaffer shares with his wife, Rebecca, and two children in the Wood Acres neighborhood of Bethesda.
The couple worked with the designers and contractors at Gilday Renovations in Silver Spring to overhaul the old and narrow original kitchen. They tripled the kitchen’s size by building a large rear addition with a breakfast area that connects to the existing family room and to a new screened porch. The new wing blends seamlessly with the original architecture and is great for entertaining as it improved the flow of the first floor.
“We are both foodies, so we needed space to accommodate two chefs,” Rebecca says. On one side of the 4-by-9½-foot center island is a professional 48-inch Miele range that Rebecca uses for cooking and baking, and on the opposite side is Rob’s pizza oven. At over 3,000 pounds, the Mugnaini masonry oven was quite a feat to install. “It requires a lot of space, so we were very lucky to find a spot for it,” says Tom Gilday, a partner in the remodeling company, which built a wall around it and vented it through the second floor and out the roof.
The oven takes about 45 minutes to reach 850 degrees, the optimum baking temperature for pizza. “In the meantime, we cook appetizers—olives, vegetables, shrimp—as the temperature rises,” Rebecca says. When it’s hot enough, it takes less than two minutes for the pizza. “It has really become the centerpiece of the kitchen,” Rob says.
Homemade pizza means lots of tomato products slung around, and some red wine, too. “Making pizza on a white countertop has the potential for disaster,” Rebecca says, but she says the Polarstone quartz surface is very forgiving and easy to clean. At first, she was set on marble. She later decided that marble was too delicate and opted for the low-maintenance lookalike Calacatta Vagli with an extra thick 2¼-inch mitered edge.
This new space is built for serious cooking, but it’s also a beautiful place to entertain. The warm brass tones of the door hardware, drawer pulls, Rohl faucet, Circa pendant lights and custom strapping on the exhaust hood temper the cool, pale gray-painted cabinetry and stainless steel appliances. “Rebecca really liked the look of the unlacquered brass because it will develop a patina and darken to a rich color over time,” says Tina Keppler, an architectural designer at Gilday.
The gold tones continue on the chic Parisian-style shelving above the new wet bar. The whole unit sparkles with an antiqued-mirror backdrop and unlacquered brass supports topped by glass shelves. “I love the brass,” Rebecca says. “It looks like a little bit of jewelry.”