Nifty Shades of Gray

Open plans, clever storage and sophisticated neutral colors transformed the kitchens of four Bethesda-area homes



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A bar-height stainless steel breakfast table doubles as a work surface, and clear acrylic counter stools don’t block the view of the garden. An invisible bookshelf from Design Within Reach creates a sculptural tower of cookbooks. Photo by Robert Radifera

Stone Tones

The 1995 real estate ad for this home touted “a little piece of Middleburg” in Chevy Chase. It was effective, as the current owners have loved the stately, sturdy 1920s home ever since. But like most vintage homes, there was less to love about the kitchen, with its original footprint, small windows, low light, and lack of views or access to the back garden. 

When the pair, now empty nesters who did not want to be named, decided to embark on a renovation, they tried to make the existing space work. Expanding it would have meant too many modifications to the first floor, jeopardizing the architectural character. “I didn’t want to blow out the back of the house,” one of the homeowners says. “I didn’t need bigger, I just needed better.”


Designer Nadia Subaran banked the tall storage cabinets on one wall, alongside the refrigerator and built-in microwave. Rollout shelves provide space for small appliances so the counters stay clear. A stretch of shallow base cabinets topped by a honed statuary marble counter provides storage space for serving pieces and is used as a buffet or bar during parties. Photo by Robert Radifera

Instead, they transformed an underused side porch into a chic new kitchen. Builder Peter Pagenstecher of the Pagenstecher Group in Kensington finished the space, adding heat and air-conditioning, plumbing and gas lines, hardwood floors, and clerestory windows. The 8-by-16-foot room is a wide galley that puts everything within reach. 

Nadia Subaran, co-owner of Aidan Design in Silver Spring, took the lead on the interior details. She pulled the color palette—slate gray cabinets, honed black soapstone countertops and linen wall paint—from the exposed stone exterior wall. “The gray is a soft transition into the living areas,” Subaran says, “and it looks gorgeous with wood and stone.” One of the homeowners is a serious cook, so she opted for a large eight-burner professional range from Viking in gray enamel to match the cabinetry.


Natural light floods the room through a wall of windows, and two dishwashers make dinner party cleanups a breeze. Photo by Robert Radifera

Eschewing wall cabinets in favor of more windows and floating shelves is a signature of Aidan Design. But fewer cabinets means fewer places for task lighting, so Subaran used sconces with dimmers to give the warm glow of a living room. “I wanted it to look good at night,” one of the homeowners says. “You don’t want to leave a softly lit dining room and feel like you’re walking into an operating room.” 

The homeowners get plenty of opportunities to create a cozy entertaining atmosphere, as they’re often busy cooking and hosting dinner parties for family or friends. 

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