The Penn Valley Pearl
“The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.” – Grace Kelly
Chapter 1: The Kitchen and Mudroom
When we first met our clients and their realtor at this stately historical residence we immediately fell in love with the home's elegant bones and the potential we could sense hidden beneath an out-of date-interior. The kitchen in particular reflected the heyday of Tuscan mania, complete with fruit-tile backsplash.
As inspections were underway we toured the house with iPhones, notebooks and tape measures in hand, reviewing the existing conditions and beginning to strategize a major renovation and redecoration.
The first rooms on our list to strategize were the large eat-in kitchen and mudroom, both of which were to get full renovations. Though dated-looking with its Tuscan flourishes, the kitchen layout was very functional and the cabinetry was relatively neutral.
We debated re-using the existing perimeter cabinets but ultimately determined that modernizing them in a more comprehensive way was of greatest value to our clients. Our GC took time to demo the old cabinets carefully so that they could be donated and re-used in another home.
New custom cabinetry shown in elevations
Though the house is spacious, ceiling heights are modest in most of the living spaces, and in the kitchen we took the bold move of adding detailed coffered ceiling moldings, embracing rather than hiding its stature. Painted a crisp white, this millwork treatment gives more dimension and an expansive feel to the previously plain drywall expanse of ceiling.
We meticulously drew out the layout for the millwork on the ceiling, as you can see in this floorplan, placing the pendant lights, recessed lights and chandelier carefully within the grid.
Above is a color rendering we created of the proposed kitchen interior. We've gotten a lot better at rendering since we produced these, but this step always helps clients visualize all the details together at one time, and feel confident making big decisions.
We began moodboarding and developing concepts for our designs, and we envisioned melding elements of midcentury design with a shimmering, pearlescent color story and an emphasis on curvilinear furnishings and lighting to contrast the more masculine Federal architecture.
Color palette inspo from botanical design. Photo by the uber talented @MattyMuskrat
"Soft soft soft" was our mantra as we reviewed each stage of design development. The design is meant to evoke a softness that doesn't stray into into the overtly feminine, and we wanted to do this without resorting to graphic flourishes to attain that masculine balance.
We selected solid unlacquered brass hardware for the cabinetry that will mellow into a beautiful patina over time. Cabinetry in this kitchen features not one, not two, but three different finishes. We love approaching kitchens in in a way that feels layered and collected, just as we do with our decor design.
The perimeter cabinets are finished in a custom-stained maple, and the island and pantry are painted an enchanting green, Ben Moore 'Backwoods'. The sink wall cabinets are painted a soft white (Sherwin Williams Incredible White) and appear to blend and disappear, increasing the sense of airiness and height in the space while still providing lots of storage.
We opted to remove the floor tile in the kitchen and install new wide oak wide plank flooring to match the existing hardwoods. We took the opportunity to sand and refinish all of the flooring on the ground floor of the house at the same time to ensure that the new flooring would be as close as possible in appearance to the original floors.
Random width Oak plank flooring at the PMA
We debated long and hard about what was appropriate to the era of the home, and whether the lighter colored stain we were leaning towards was the right choice. Happily, on a weekend inspiration trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art we noticed the lovely pale honey-colored Oak floors and how beautifully they sat with all the antiquities. We were sold.
We opted for a field of simple tumbled limestone 2x2 tile for the backsplash, allowing their character and simplicity to support the overall design scheme.
We chose Taj Mahal quartzite for the countertops, an absolute favorite of ours for its natural beauty and durability. At the end of the island we added a workstation topped in a gorgeous food-safe wood countertop by Grothouse.
On the long wall opposite the kitchen island, we installed a custom mural that hints at both the texture of old plaster walls and a far-away misty landscape, giving a hint of magic and a dose of character.
We commissioned a custom white oak dining table with a modern, cylindrical pedestal base and selected a mix of curvy bentwood Thon dining chairs in the softest blush color to accompany it.