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The New Modern

Written by Karen Marley
Imagery by Shaw Photography Co.

Modern, like any other design genre, has evolved. And yet, so often, requests for it deliver a stark, high gloss, minimalistic style that evokes the innovative designs of 20 to 30 years ago.
    “Modern is stuck in the 1980s. It has its merits, but that period is its own thing,” says Raelyn Woltz, Principal Designer with West End Interiors.
    It was this elusive new version of modern — one that is warmer and enduring — that homeowner Amity Grant sought for her kitchen remodel. Grant had an especially interesting project and it was her search for a designer who could respond to the space in a way that was both forward-thinking and a departure from the region’s typical style interpretations, that led her to Woltz.

An Upside-Down Home
Grant is the third owner of a home built in 1980 by architect Samuel Wang. With basement level bedrooms and a second-floor kitchen, the floor plan is inverted from traditional layouts. A loft, accessed by a vertical ladder near the entry foyer, was positioned near the upper-level kitchen.
    “Architecturally, there was a lot of thought put into the home. There are elements that are way beyond a typical development home,” says Grant.  “It was a good use of space, just not practical for our stage in life.”
    Grant’s kids and their friends used the loft as a jungle gym, jumping onto the couch below in the living room. When she had first purchased the home, a friend of hers suggested removing the loft to open everything up. Five years later, with Woltz and West Elm, that became reality.
    “I loved the loft, but it served no purpose except to give me a heart attack!” exclaims Grant.

Reinvented Interior
With the loft gone, even though they are separated with stairs, the kitchen, dining and family areas occupy the same room and needed to work together visually.
    Overhead, one large window replaced two smaller ones. Two oversized, hand-fabricated black pendant lights with an industrial vibe fill the soaring ceilings. The pendants hold high visual impact. You see them when walking into the house, through the windows from outside, and of course, in the kitchen, dining, living area.

Exceptional Elements
A long wall extends along the kitchen and dining area. To avoid monotony of upper and lower cabinets, Amish Kitchen Gallery fabricated a bold oak curio cabinet painted with Benjamin Moore® paint in deep blue-black. Flanked with large, natural-colored oak cabinets, the textures, depths and colors make the wall interesting but not busy. Amish Kitchen Gallery also made a matching entertainment console for the living area to visually connect the spaces.
    In a twist of unexpected, backsplash tiles are used in the curio cabinet. Rough and textured, the gray-green tiles resemble a thin brick material. Woltz talked the contractor into dry stacking the tile. With the absence of grout, the natural appearance of the hand cut, uneven lines are accentuated.
    The floor is also a natural oak color as is the quarter sawn dining room table. Instead of using a rug to break up the oak on oak on oak area, oversized and textured black tiles achieve the same thing while providing more elegance and practical functionality.
    The island is seductive with a granite waterfall design whose granite carries a striking resemblance to marble. But because the kitchen is exposed above the living area the first view of the island is its underside. A slab of wood painted in the same color as the curio cabinet was placed underneath giving its belly an attractive design detail.

Timeless Modernity
Ultimately, the re-design kept the architecture but added warmth and functionality.
    “I did not pigeonhole the project based on a style preference. The unexpected use of materials and textures makes this space warm, inviting and timeless,” says Woltz.
    That is exactly what Grant wanted and now loves about her home.
                                   

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