Breathe New Life Into an Old Home With a Kitchen Renovation

Couple remodels room for the second time to better suit their lifestyle




Jean Franz and Robert Smith, who have lived in their home for more than 25 years, recently remodeled the kitchen to better suit the way they live today. Photos by Michael Ventura

Like many empty nesters, Jean Franz and Robert Smith were planning the next phase of their lives. After briefly thinking about selling their charming 1938 Cape Cod in Silver Spring’s Woodside Park neighborhood, they decided it made more sense to stay put. “We took our daughter apartment hunting and realized that our mortgage is less than it costs to rent a one-bedroom,” Franz says. Plus, they love their neighborhood, friends and house, with its large lot, ample bedrooms and bathrooms, and plentiful closets.

The kitchen, however, needed revamping. Franz is an avid cook who enjoys entertaining, so she wanted to revitalize the well-loved, but worn-out space with an updated look and a spacious plan to accommodate the couple’s extended family.


A double wall oven (far right corner) and a three-seat island are featured in the renovated kitchen. Franz’s favorite gadget is the hands-free Grohe faucet that operates with a sensor. Photos by Michael Ventura

This wasn’t going to be the first time Franz, 62, and Smith, 63, renovated the house. In 1989, shortly after moving in, they hired Kensington-based design/build firm MGD to enlarge and modernize the original galley kitchen. “We are both focused on the details, so Jean and I hit it off right away,” says MGD President Michael Dent. “She has a great design sense and excellent taste.” Over the years, the couple used the contractor for several smaller projects—finishing the basement, enclosing a porch, adding built-ins to the dining room—and he became a trusted friend.


Architect Shawn Staples designed the new kitchen’s 15½-by-30-foot open floor plan, which provides views of the backyard and the street. Photos by Michael Ventura

For this renovation, which took place in 2015, Franz collaborated with MGD project architect Shawn Staples. Eliminating a wall between the kitchen and a front bedroom, formerly used as a den, increased the square footage, improved circulation, and flooded the space with natural light. The original coat closet became a powder room, and a new closet was built next to the front door.


The new powder room is off the entry hall and decorated in the same tones of cream, gray and black as the kitchen.
Photos by Michael Ventura

Two-thirds of the 465-square-foot space is now used for food prep and storage, the rest for eating and entertaining. The must-have list included counter seating, a large and informal dining table, and a sitting area with a television.

Because new, wider kitchen doorways connect the space to the rest of the first level, the visual transition to the sophisticated decor in the formal living and dining rooms had to be seamless. With that in mind, the kitchen incorporated random-width peg oak floors, neutral paint colors and furniture-look cabinetry in cream and matte gray.

The island countertop—a slab of blue ice Brazil granite that’s cream colored with a black splatter pattern and occasional flecks of gold—inspired the color palette and is the focal point of the room. “I envisioned it as a large piece of abstract art,” Franz says. The counters on the perimeter of the kitchen are black pearl granite.


The sitting area adjacent to the table has just enough space for an apartment sofa and a 40-inch flat-screen television (which is on a swivel, so it’s visible from the cooking area). Photos by Michael Ventura

The casual, comfortable gathering place has everything the family needs—food, music, entertainment and views outside—and has become the home’s social hub. “We live differently now, and I really didn’t expect that,” Franz says. “It has truly transformed our lives.” 

Carolyn Weber lives in Silver Spring and frequently writes about architecture and home design.

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