D.C. parents find hip decor can also be child-friendly


Renee and Tyson Redpath in the second floor sun room of their recently renovated home. (Dayna Smith/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
November 30, 2012

Stylish decor can be impossible to achieve in a family home when parents of young children have to deal with safety gates, indestructible finishes and heaps of toys.

But District homeowners Renee and Tyson Redpath succeeded in bridging the gap between kid-friendly and cool design in remodeling their three-story house in the Northwest neighborhood of Wakefield.

The Redpaths renovated earlier this year to create spaces that meet the needs of their daughter Helena, 4, and son Thatcher, 2, and still reflect their hip tastes.

Their secret? Lots of storage and two family rooms: a hangout space adjoining their super-contemporary kitchen and a second-floor sunroom where the preschoolers can jump and play on a huge modular sofa.

The two family rooms are within earshot of one another and are connected by a new staircase at the back of the house. “It’s great to have both, especially when we entertain,” says Renee Redpath, 36, a part-time risk management consultant. “The adults can relax downstairs in the kitchen-family room, but we can still hear and have easy access to the kids playing upstairs.”


The Redpaths had walls knocked down to make their living space more open and provide room for their children. (Dayna Smith/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Their vision of using the space to create this dynamic was a factor in the Redpaths’ decision to purchase the 1973 brick Colonial in 2008 from its original owner. “It had no curb appeal, but we liked its large size and solidness,” says Tyson Redpath, 34, a lobbyist. “We knew our family would expand, and we wanted the room to grow.”

After moving in with toddler Helena, the homeowners replaced the old kitchen appliances and tore out carpeting to expose the parquet floors, but waited to overhaul the other rooms within the 4,500-square-foot home.

In 2010, son Thatcher was born, and two years later, the Redpaths decided to undertake a major renovation with the help of Jannsen Design, a District design-build firm discovered by Renee Redpath on the Chevy Chase community e-mail group.

“The project was ambitious from the start,” says the company’s owner, Neil Jannsen. “Most people would have just put in a new kitchen, but they changed the entire house while still living in it.”

To help Jannsen visualize her ideas, Renee compiled aspirational design photos into a digital scrapbook on the Web site houzz.com. “The beauty of renovating after living in the house for four years is that we knew what we wanted — a clean, modern look,” she says.

Topping the homeowners’ agenda was taking down walls to create a continuous flow of spaces on the main level. “The house used to be compartmentalized and super-dark,” Renee recalls. “It was a shrine to 1973.”

To make the ground-floor rooms seem more spacious, a hallway leading from the front door to the kitchen was demolished. That allowed the dining area to be enlarged by opening it to the foyer.

The kitchen, in turn, was combined with the family room and expanded into the space once occupied by the attached garage. Another part of the garage was turned into a mudroom, with an entrance leading to the backyard and the swing set.

Upstairs, in the rear sunroom that was turned into a family room, sliding glass doors were replaced with new windows and a wet bar was added along with the refrigerator, dishwasher and faucet from the homeowners’ initial kitchen remodeling. During the renovation, the room served as a temporary kitchen for the Redpaths.

The 24-by-24-foot space now provides entertaining and play areas big enough for groups of parents and children. “It’s a lot better than a basement,” Renee says. “When the kids get older, it will become a game room with a foosball table.”

By making these changes, the Redpaths shifted the heart of the house away from the living room at the front to the family spaces at the rear. “The kitchen-family room is my favorite place in the house,” says Renee. “The kids can relax on the couch while we make dinner, and it is also great for having friends over.”

In the kitchen, smooth, lacquered cabinets, chrome hardware and silvery quartzite countertops reflect her preference for modern simplicity. The adjacent family area centers on a contemporary gas fireplace set into chimney tiled in lava rock.

“I liked the fact that Renee wanted to go very minimal and pure, so everything we chose supported straight, clean lines,” says Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design in Bethesda, who was brought in to design the kitchen. “Some homeowners start that way, but they hesitate because of resale or the house being in a more traditional style. She didn’t sway from her vision.”

The island at the center of the kitchen is fitted with drawers finished in walnut veneer, which keeps the white space from looking sterile. Hanging over its long work surface are Italian-made pendant lights conceived by English designer Jasper Morrison, their rounded shades covered in a brownish color called “mud.”

While the kitchen is streamlined, it is designed to be accessible for the children. Incorporated into the sleek cabinetry are low drawers that allow them to pull out snacks, juice boxes, and plates, cups and utensils for setting the dinner table.

“You have to view things as if you’re a preschooler, as if you are 31 / 2 feet tall,” says Tyson Redpath of the renovation planning. “In doing so, we incorporated smart storage options, including cabinets and shelves within easy reach of our kids that can be utilized for years to come without any change to the design or floor plan.”

According to Jannsen, the homeowners spent $360,000 on the remodeling, which was completed earlier this month. The Redpaths say they spent an additional $5,000 for outdoor landscaping plus about $17,500 for a sound system and lighting that can be programmed from their i-Pad.

Construction costs escalated from their original budget when a structural post was discovered in the old kitchen pantry and had to be moved, along with a beam. Upgrades to the heating system and choices of high-end kitchen appliances and finishes also pushed up the tab.

A wall of patterned glass tile from Ann Sacks in the ground-floor powder room alone cost $6,689, according to Jannsen.

“We wanted to invest in quality because this is our forever home,” Tyson Redpath says.

The couple splurged on the master bathroom, which was made larger by incorporating a closet and converting a tiny bedroom into a dressing area.

Heated marble floors, a glass-tiled steam shower and a free-standing soaking tub provide all the luxuries of a spa.

Even the kids’ rooms have designer touches. Thatcher sleeps in a modern, boxy crib under a Danish pendant light from Design Within Reach. Helena plays on a bold floral rug lit by a pink chandelier hung with crystals. They share a bathroom finished in Ann Sacks tile and a tall, modern cabinet in the same wood as the vanity.

Childish clutter is confined to the upstairs family room, where a dollhouse, a miniature kitchen and colorful playthings are lined up against the windows. But most of the youngsters’ belongings are stowed away in built-in storage. A cabinet under the TV incorporates drawers for toys, books, puzzles and games, and closets are organized to hold more kid stuff.

“When your kids learn at an early age that everything has its place, it is not only possible to have a contemporary, kid-friendly design, we think it is essential,” Tyson says. “The clean lines and minimalist decor project cleanliness. It means our kids learn to keep their spaces clean and neat.”

Deborah K. Dietsch is a freelance writer.

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