Lydia Pelliccia and Craig Schumpert have a standing lunch date. Around noon, one of them messages the other. Lydia walks downstairs from her office, and Craig comes upstairs from his. They meet at the large white marble island in their Mount Pleasant rowhouse, the spot that became the hub of their home after a renovation three years ago.
Lunch and all family meals have become a lot more enjoyable since they gutted the narrow, dark galley kitchen.
“We cook a lot for ourselves and entertain fairly regularly, and we wanted stuff within reach,” says Schumpert. “We wanted to be able to minimize clutter and didn’t want to bump into each other all the time when cooking.” He and Pelliccia wanted to be able to prepare dinner while having their daughter, Lola, 9, sitting nearby doing homework.
The kitchen upgrade was part of a total house remodel by Washington architect and interior designer Carmel Greer of District Design. Greer’s plan removed the interior walls on the main floor, expanding the kitchen to the full width of the house and placing the living area in front and the dining area in back. The kitchen is now the centerpiece of this house, and light floods in from both directions. Two walls of gray cabinetry minimize clutter, and racks of wine bottles and glasses are both functional and decorative. A long oak farm table anchors the back of the 1923 house, and anyone sitting there can chat with whoever is stirring a pot.
Pelliccia, 47, and Schumpert, 46, had lived in Mount Pleasant since 1999 and moved to their current three-floor brick rowhouse in 2005. Like many rowhouse dwellers, they didn’t like the way their small kitchen was so closed in. There wasn’t much storage, and they had to keep large pieces such as serving bowls and paella pans in the basement. In 2012, they debated whether to move elsewhere to get more living space. But they loved the neighborhood. So they decided with some improvements, they could carve out more room and stay in the house. They both were working at home, she as a marketing and communications consultant, he as head of sales for Alation software.
The 2,400-square-foot house needed lots of updating, so they decided on a total renovation. The main and top floors were opened up by taking out as many interior walls as they could. The lower level, where Schumpert’s office is, got a new bathroom and minor updates. One of the main goals was a much bigger kitchen.
“We do a lot of entertaining,” Pelliccia says. “Not huge parties, but we like to cook and have people over. Everyone always gathers in the kitchen. When you have a tiny galley kitchen, that makes it hard to cook.”
They hired Greer, 34, an architect whose work they had admired at a neighbor’s house. The plan for the main floor was to take down walls and integrate the living room, kitchen, breakfast nook and dining room. The family moved out for four months so the work could be completed most efficiently.
“Lydia is very neat and organized, and she wanted a kitchen that facilitated that,” Greer says. “They wanted the kitchen to be the center of the house and center of the action.”
Pelliccia and Schumpert wanted to keep the cozy feeling of the rowhouse while updating it for a modern lifestyle. Greer says, “The goal was to keep the character of the house but give it a modern floor plan. We exposed the old structure of the house. When you walk into the house now, you see light at the back. There’s a mix of open and closed storage, visually attractive things such as wines, stemware and cookbooks are left out, while the dining table fits into the back in front of doors that open onto a small deck.”
The couple wanted a large island but also didn’t want to crowd the space. Greer came up with a dramatic solution: a huge slab of marble supported by a raw steel frame. In discussing the design, Pelliccia told Greer she didn’t want a sink to be part of the island, which is common in many kitchens these days. Instead they came up with a plan to install their existing Thermador stove there, facing a line of bar stools. “A sink splatters water everywhere. I decided having the stove there was perfect so we could cook at the island facing our family or guests,” Pelliccia says.
Cabinetry was designed to fit the family’s needs: Greer crafted floor-to-ceiling cabinets for a broom closet as well as a food pantry. Drawers were custom-fitted to hold table linens, knives, utensils, pots and water bottles. One wall of the kitchen, affectionately called the “fun zone,” is a showstopper. It has a rack that can hold up to 44 bottles of wine, a wine fridge, racks for storing six dozen stemmed glasses, a TV, a stereo and a charging station. “I think the bottles and the glasses make the wall sparkling and pretty,” Greer says.
Pelliccia is thrilled to walk into her kitchen and see counters totally uncluttered. “I’ve never liked leaving a lot of things out,” she says. “The beauty of this kitchen is that it feels open and fresh and clean, and everything has a place.”
Says Schumpert, “This kitchen has been a huge quality-of-life change.”