Nadia Subaran says the choice of soapstone countertops and rift-cut oak veneered cabinets was inspired by the kitchen she designed for the 2011 Washington Design House. (Robert Radifera Photography)

In remodeling their 1950s Bethesda rambler, Nadia Subaran and her husband, John Schmiedigen, saved the kitchen renovation for last.

“We didn’t want to compromise, so we waited until we had the funds,” Subaran says. “The idea was to open the kitchen to the dining and living areas and emphasize the mid-century modern design of the house.”

She and Schmiedigen co-own Silver Spring-based Aidan Design, a 13-year-old firm specializing in high-end kitchens costing from $70,000 to $120,000, according to Subaran.

For their own kitchen, the two spent about $80,000 for a complete overhaul, including the removal of walls and replacement of windows. They completed that project last year after buying the house in 2009 and refreshing the bathrooms, master suite and living area.

As expected from such kitchen pros, the transformation of their cooking and dining spaces reflects the latest design trends. From an induction cooktop and freezer drawers to open shelving and a built-in sideboard, the elements are carefully selected and combined from years of experience in making over show houses and upscale residences.

Subaran acknowledges the choice of soapstone countertops and rift-cut oak veneered cabinets was inspired by the kitchen she designed for the 2011 Washington Design House. “I love the mix of textures and materials,” she says. “It’s a modern take on a classic combination of light and dark.”


Noticeably missing in Nadia S ubaran’s kitchen are cabinets mounted above the countertops. Instead, inconspicuous shelves made from reclaimed barn timbers hold glasses. (Robert Radifera Photography)

Noticeably missing in her kitchen are cabinets mounted above the countertops. Instead, inconspicuous shelves made from reclaimed barn timbers hold glasses.

“Wall cabinets have a kitcheny feel, and I didn’t want that,” Subaran says. “I wanted the kitchen to feel airy and open and more like part of the living area.”

Tall built-in cupboards and drawers in the dining area make up for the missing upper kitchen cabinets in providing storage for silverware and china.

Prominently suspended over the cooktop is an angular seven-foot-long exhaust hood. “Sculptural hoods like this one are a big trend,” says Subaran, noting its glossy paint finish.

Another trending design is the mosaic marble backsplash that covers the entire rear wall. “Taking the backsplash to the ceiling is especially important in a room with an eight-foot ceiling to give you the illusion of a taller space,” Subaran says.

Similarly, the designer extended the kitchen’s porcelain floor tiles, which resemble concrete, onto a side wall to create the impression of a larger room. The wall is fitted with a niche for a TV and a blackboard filled with chalk drawings from her daughters, Ava, 9, and Emma, 10. Subaran notes that such a message center is another popular feature in today’s kitchens.


The transformation of Bethesda kitchen designer Nadia Subaran’s cooking and dining spaces reflects the latest design trends. (Robert Radifera Photography)

While Subaran doesn’t have space for an island, that free-floating element for prepping and dining is considered a kitchen priority by other designers.

“An open kitchen with a center island as a social aspect of entertaining is still the most asked for in a new layout,” says Julia Walter, showroom manager at Boffi, a Georgetown store specializing in Italian kitchen designs.

Another trend, Subaran and other designers say, is mixing different materials and textures to add warmth and visual interest to spare, modern kitchens. “Homeowners increasingly appreciate perfectly imperfect materials. They want textured finishes, something that feels natural,” says Chevy Chase-based kitchen designer Jennifer Gilmer. “Hot-rolled steel, wood with knots, nail holes and saw marks — things that are in their natural state rather than altered to perfection are requested.”

Subaran carried the kitchen’s natural look into the dining area by applying grainy parquet wood flooring to the wall above the built-in sideboard. For the hardware on cabinets and drawers, she mixed metals, installing polished nickel pulls in the kitchen and elegant brushed brass knobs in the dining area.


Subaran carried the kitchen’s natural look into the dining area by applying grainy parquet wood flooring to the wall above the built-in sideboard. (By Robert Radifera Photography)

Walter says metallic lacquers and aluminum fronts for kitchen cabinets are sought-after, along with stone countertops “with a lot of movement.”

Granite is still popular, says Gilmer, but in rougher, rather than more polished finishes. Quartzite and wood countertops, including butcher block, she says, are on the rise.

In terms of kitchen lighting, pendants are on their way out, says Subaran, who opted for a mix of recessed and ceiling-mounted fixtures in her space.

Helping to reflect the light are appliances finished in stainless steel, which the kitchen designers agree, are still going strong. As Subaran says, “They are classic.”

Deborah K. Dietsch is a freelance writer.

What’s hot in the kitchen

Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design and other kitchen designers agree on these top trends:

●Lower cabinets only

●Wall shelves

●Backsplashes reaching the ceiling

●Sculptural range hoods

●Mixing natural materials and textures