Harken Back to History
authors Kacey Larsen
Repeat clients are often mentioned as a key source of business for remodelers, and it has draws for both the customer and remodeler, who have already established a rapport and knowledge base. When KohlMark Group, based in Burke, Virginia, undertook this addition for homeowners in Clifton, Virginia, this was the third “phase” of their collaboration.
“A number of years ago, we started out with a pool house, and then the next—about six months later—we re-sided and replaced all the windows in the old farmhouse,” says Mark Kohler, founder of KohlMark Group. The original section there of the house [was constructed] earlier than 1900. We discovered some things when we opened up the wall. It’s a good thing we replaced all the siding [so] we could find potential other problems. Then, phase three was the expansion/renovation.”
In addition to low ceilings and enclosed spaces in the old farmhouse, he explains that a fireplace was blocking the view completely from the family room and master bedroom above. The homeowners requested its removal, replacing it with windows that improve light levels as well as provide views of the yard and pool area from both levels.
Beyond opening up views to the home’s expansive outdoor area—which includes a pool, soccer field and a pre-existing barn—project goals for the addition included expanding the living and entertaining areas for the active family, with a more open and fluid layout. A former breezeway became a new foyer area that helps achieve a more apparent main entrance and unite the new and old spaces. Also, a space above the garage was converted into a bedroom and fit a full bathroom nearby.
KohlMark Group describes itself as “an architecture-focused design/build company,” and the company pairs its KohlMark Flach Architects branch with its KohlMark Builders to handle the entirety of projects. Kohler also explains the company works with NVS Kitchen and Bath, based in Manassas, Virginia, when it comes to the finalizing of its kitchen and bath designs. “Basically, we do the initial design with our KohlMark architectural firm, then Richard [Perkins from NVS Kitchen & Bath] takes over and he’ll make recommendations. He’ll do detailed drawings of the whole kitchen and go back and forth to fine-tune it,” he says. “My thing with them is they do all the installations for me as well, so they not only sell the cabinets but they do all the installations. They just seamlessly take care of all that.”
Richard Perkins, vice president at NVS Kitchen and Bath, had a familiarity with this home and the clients coming in; his team had been part of the pool house project, mentioned by Kohler, designing its outdoor kitchen. “Once [KohlMark] comes up with a basic plan, if you will, of a project, they send the initial set of plans for us to take it to the next level of design for the kitchen, leaving it up to us to design the space that’s best suited for that particular project and the client’s taste,” he says. “And along with that—this is why we’ve had such a good relationship with KohlMark—is it’s not just the kitchen; because we know that the rest of the design in a particular project can impact the kitchen, and what we do in the kitchen may impact the rest of the space. We kind of try to tie all that together in every aspect. The type of detail of the rest of the construction, the age of the home, the style of the home, we take all those things into consideration as well.”
Despite the home’s age, the project was not held to any historic standards, but all were sensitive to maintaining the home’s character both for the exterior and interior. The roofline of the addition mimics that of the original home. Additionally, the soffits, fascia and clapboard siding seamlessly integrate the spaces. The windows were changed throughout, which Kohler notes was a considered move away from the original.
“We tried to preserve the [home’s] character. We did change the house because we thought it should probably be a farmhouse window as opposed to a gridded window, which had the small grids in part of the old section [of the house],” he says. “We did make the conscious decision to change everything to one look, which also gave more natural light [without going] contemporary. The funny thing is the farmhouse windows likely would have cost less back in the day when they built the house than the gridded windows, because back then the more panes you had the more expensive it was.”
With the inside, first-floor addition—comprised of enclosing of an open breezeway and then the extension of the pre-existing garage space—details that nod to the home’s history appear throughout and help unite new and old spaces. Perkins notes that a historic farmhouse aesthetic wasn’t necessarily the initial plan. “We started to go through the design phase knowing the history of the home, the era in which it was built, the location. As we started going through, we realized how more and more those became a factor in the choices,” he explains. “Originally, it was just kind of open floor plan concept, and then we started pulling different elements together. OK, this is really starting to come together, in terms of really starting to fit the era of the home. So it ended up just kind of evolving to that, which is really great, but initially that wasn’t the goal.”
The breezeway turned center hall features horizontal shiplap that draws the eye from the entry straight back to the yard, visible through French doors. The new and old spaces are united with the use of wide-plank, white oak flooring used throughout the first floor. Kohler notes that floors within the older portions of the home had to be elevated and leveled before work began on the addition. Included in the addition itself are a relocated kitchen, dining room and living room. Because the clients continued living in the house throughout the project, the old kitchen remained in use while the new one was being constructed; then, the former kitchen became a study and work area for the client’s children.
Union of Ideas
The openness of the addition makes it ideal for entertaining, and a floor-to-ceiling folding door system allows for integration with the backyard. A cathedral ceiling in the space achieves a dramatic look relative to the rest of the home—and not only because of its height. Kohler notes the client’s visit to his home may have been the inspiration for the incorporation of the timber frame trusses into the addition, as he personally has an open layout and a similar truss feature. A nod to the historic barn on the property, the timber frame trusses feature visible nuts and bolts. A tongue-and-groove ceiling further offers visual interest. “[The] old farmhouse’s low ceilings and then that space—just to have the little extra height—it creates a really spectacular space in the house,” Kohler adds.
Within the kitchen area specifically, three wood tones are present, and Perkins explains that was completely by design. “We were talking about the space, how it’s open and how to bring some different finish elements to it. And they were initially thinking about changing the island counter material to a different color than the one on the perimeter and I said, ‘That’s fine; we do that all the time. But because of the floor you’re doing and the exposed beams, it might look better if we do an alternate finish on the island,’” he says. “We started looking at the different wood species. Then with the finish they chose—it was a fairly new finish for one of our suppliers, which is Dura Supreme—with the cabinetry in the space, it just happened that it was the perfect fit for a finish. And then the other element that we suggested was, knowing the era of the home and the barn they had, we came up with the concept of doing the cross buck design on the ends of the island, like the barn door effect.”
While the island selections and details are clearly aesthetic decisions, Perkins notes his design process is “function first and aesthetics second, because we can make anything look good with all the different door styles and finishes and counter materials. You put it all together, and you can make it look good. The question is can it function?” For these clients’ functional storage, because of their love of entertaining, was a must. He also notes the inclusion of a cabinet specifically designed to incorporate a water cooler, which accommodates the space needed to install or remove/replace and has an all-plywood construction that would stand up to any possible standing water.
“In any remodeling project, there are always those obstacles, and the prime example in this particular project was we knew we wanted to do a commercial range for its cooking abilities and the aesthetic appeal of it. The key thing is how are we physically going to be able to vent this commercial range? Because it requires a 10-inch duct,” Perkins says. “When designing the space, we had to consider how the 10-inch duct was going to be run since we were dealing with an existing space. And that’s where the key elements are with working with KohlMark and their architectural end of the business. Considerations [included] how long the duct run would be to make sure it was sufficient and did not create a backdraft, causing additional noise. We also had to consider the location where the vent came through the roof or wall so it would not be visible from the front of the house. Those were some of the key design elements that a lot of people don’t realize: Wow, you really have to plan for these things. In the end, if you design it and you try to go to install it, then you figure out a problem, it’s really difficult to fix.” QR