Vintage can be chic, even hip and desirable, but when it comes to failing ’80s kitchen appliances, nothing could be further from the truth.
“All our appliances were at the end of their lifespan and starting to fall apart,” recalls Alexandria homeowner Dora Hughes, a physician who lives with her husband Scott McLeod (operations manager for an independent school), their tween daughter, Isabella, and their chocolate Lab, Nala. “The microwave was vintage 1987! When the dishwasher finally failed, the estimated cost of repairing it was twice the price of a new one. It was clearly time for a kitchen remodel.”
Help was on the way. Nadia Subaran, principal and senior designer of Aidan Design — a firm that specializes in kitchens, bathrooms, and built-in cabinets — came on board in the summer of 2020. The old kitchen not only contained dated appliances but also had a cramped U-shaped layout, featuring disconnected cabinetry and an awkward peninsula with an integrated cooktop. The floors were checkered linoleum; the cabinets, dark wood; and the countertops, black granite. The effect was uninspiring and gloomy.
Working with Woodbridge-based builder Hernan Sales and DC metro area interior designer Iantha Carley, Subaran gutted the entire space, getting rid of the peninsula concept altogether.
“We kept the location of the sink beneath the window but made the adjacent range wall more focal and balanced,” Subaran says.
The maple cabinetry, crafted in a clean-lined Shaker style, is painted in Sherwin-Williams Moody Blue. A custom-paneled hood above the range is painted the same hue. The new countertops are Caesarstone in a white hue, which brightens the workspace.
“We added a custom island on casters that sits in the center of the space but can be moved around as needed. It creates flow between the kitchen and the adjacent breakfast area, which now has a window seat,” says Subaran.
The floating island has fun orange cabinets, both open and closed, and a thick butcher-block top. Carley, who was brought on to the project by Subaran, helped select the cabinet hardware for the kitchen and the adjacent dining room. The dining room lost a bulky corner cabinet in favor of a flush-set pair of custom storage cabinets with gold mesh grilles.
“I also came up with the reverse-painted geometric backsplash in the new coffee bar area,” says Carley. (The area formerly housed a mishmash of storage cabinets.) “Its orange-and-blue palette ties the kitchen’s palette together beautifully and was painted by artist Roberta Marovelli through Billet Collins.”
Subaran adds, “The new design really transformed this space into a more functional kitchen that teems with vibrant energy, color, and texture.”
Once the kitchen redesign was underway, the family saw the difference that good design could make and started updating other areas of their home. The foyer received a built-in closet system for coats and shoes. Drywall was added to part of the den that sits in a finished subbasement below the kitchen’s eat-in area. This allowed for a large, mounted TV opposite the sofa.
“The renovation definitely took on a domino effect with the other rooms located on the main living level,” recalls Carley, who worked on redesigning the living room, dining room, foyer, and den.
“My client wasn’t interested in anything beige. Color was of utmost interest to her, and it was critical that the spaces be livable and usable,” she says. “Nothing was for show. Creating sophisticated yet approachable living spaces became our primary mission.”
The living room, formerly an oppressive darker color, took on fresh neutral paint, while color bloomed in upholstery, curtains, and art.
“Her favorite color is blue,” adds Carley. “But we didn’t want a traditional blue-and-white, so we went with more vibrant shades of blue.”
The dining room features a distinctive wallpaper patterned in light aqua and deep teal. A spiky gold chandelier grounds the room, along with a new circular dining table surrounded by vegan leather chairs also in aqua with nailhead trim.
“With a tween in the house and friends coming over, it was important to use durable materials. The fabrics we selected for upholstered items were either performance or high-use fabrics,” says Carley.
The furniture lines, transitional and clean, tie together seamlessly throughout the main level, creating continuity along with the color palette. The homeowners have a vast art collection that was incorporated into the décor with gallery walls, propped art, and reframed pieces throughout the home.
Though the family has lived in the 1940s colonial-style house since 2013, the redesign has seen it through to the present day.
“Our home is beautiful now and I’m incredibly happy at how it turned out. The space is also more functional, both for day-to-day living and for entertaining,” says Dora.
“It’s always a pleasure to work with a client who is open to change, color, and collaboration,” says Subaran. Carley couldn’t agree more.
Feature image by Robert Radifera for Stylish Productions