before and after: a row house brought back to life

I'm so excited to share this project with you! 

before: row house revival 

after: row house revival

the house had great bones

Designers dream about projects like this. Or at least I do. 

My excitement about this project has nothing to do with the size of the house or even the budget. First off it was the fact that the house had great bones. I like to compare homes to models; they should look great with or without makeup, new or old.  Even when a house has been neglected and stripped down, it should still look great. That's what makes a great model.  You can put anything on them, a couture dress or a potato sack, it should have nothing to do with size or price. 

Secondly, the home was a clean slate on the inside and out, literally. Over the years anything and everything that was of value had been stolen out of the house.  

Third, the opportunity to work with a fantastic couple who not only have an immense love for their city and neighborhood but who see the value in bringing new life back to old houses. I can't leave out there willingness to tackle this massive undertaking. You probably guessed it; the house is OLD! Very Old! 

a little background on the project

My friend called me up asking me to help her with the layout of her kitchen, butlers pantry, laundry room, English basement for her mother-in-law, along with a few other spaces.  As she explained the project to me and the problems they were encountering I could hear the desperation in her voice.  To an extent, I believe my friend and her husband knew what they were getting themselves into.  However,  as a working mother of two, six months pregnant with her third child, and after months of living in a small apartment, I believe they were at their breaking point. They needed someone to help guide them in the right direction. They knew that if they didn't get the design of the kitchen right, then the house would never function for them. 

This project was a challenge because first off the house is in a historic district. What this means, is that the homeowner has to follow the rules, laid out by the city, about what interior and exterior changes they can make to the house. Normally this is not a big deal. 

before:  kitchen, powder room, laundry room

family friendly floor plan

The problem we ran into was since the house is old, the floor plan was very segmented and did not lend itself well to the open family friendly floor plans we love today.  The homeowners are young with small children, so they wanted the kitchen area to be the heart of the house on the first floor where they could have family meals along with a small sitting area that could double as a family room.  Most of these old row houses do not have huge kitchens let alone a space designated as a family room.  My clients are planning on staying in this house for many years. So they wanted to make sure that everything they planned now would work twenty years down the road. 

before: dining room fireplace

before: living room

Check out the hole in the floor!

a clean slate

Because the house had been vacant for over thirty years, we were working with a clean slate.   We were able to carve out a kitchen-family room, a butlers pantry, a half bath,  along with a laundry room/mud room in the back part of the house, without ruining the integrity of the original entry, living room, and dining room. The primary issue we ran into with the kitchen is that it has four enormous windows. The windows are fantastic because they let a lot of light into the room but challenging when trying to layout a kitchen for a growing family of five. 

I love row houses because they can be deceptively large. The primary characteristic of row houses is that they are long and narrow.  Many row houses have their kitchens and dining rooms on separate floors from their living rooms. This layout can be a challenge when you have a party since most great parties end up in the kitchen. Old row houses were built in a time when there was a distinct line between public and private spaces of a home.    

before: row house entry

In this house, you can stand at the front door and see all the way to the back door. There was no way to change the traffic pattern, so we had to design the kitchen around it. We also could not alter or relocate the massive windows in the kitchen.

Furthermore, we were not allowed to build cabinets in front of any of the windows. Not that I would have ever considered doing this! Hint, hint, another reason for my friend's phone call!

After asking my friends a million and one questions about what they wanted out of there new house, how they lived, how they entertained, what materials they liked and disliked, what furniture pieces they were planning on keeping, how many kitchen appliances they owned, how much space they thought they needed for all the kids plates, cups, lunch boxes, etc.  

after: row house kitchen 

 functional modern row house kitchen and family room

The result is a fantastic and functional modern kitchen and family room within a historic home! My clients had a wonderful builder that believed in reusing as much original material as possible but also the importance of investing in high-quality new materials. 

after: row house butler's pantry

The kitchen cabinets were custom made to fit the space. We paired the black soapstone countertops with a classic white subway tile, reminiscent of the era in which the house was originally built. 

We incorporated my client's favorite shade of green throughout the house along with pops of cobalt blue.  These fresh colors paired with a variety of furniture and art styles, help keep the house from feeling old.  By choosing to go with a more eclectic design style for furnishing and accessories the home has a modern feel while staying true to its age. 

after: row house powder room

after: second floor landing


after: row house living room

No falling through the floor now!

timeless design

The timeless design of this home will work for this family many years down the road, and hopefully, other families to come. 

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