Michael Nash Design, Build & Homes

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don’t confuse your countertops with your lighting

A woman I know wants to replace her kitchen countertops. She recently bought and moved into a condo and her kitchen is functional, pretty well laid out, but a bit lacking in color and light. To add some oomph to it, she’s beginning with her countertops.

I went with her to look at countertops. She had a pretty good idea of what she didn’t want but she was not very certain about what she did want. In the end, she had so many samples of what she thought she might like it was almost impossible to carry them.

It seemed as if she was an indecisive person. But that would be very unusual for her. So we started talking. Eventually, the truth came out.

“What I really want is black!”

She blurted it out. I said, “So why not get black?”

“Because my kitchen is so dark. I need something to brighten it up.”

She was right. Her kitchen was dark. But it had nothing to do with countertops. The colors in her kitchen are light. They’re cream colors. Black would add nice contrast and give it some personality. Her problem was lighting.

Her confusion was over how to brighten up her kitchen. She had a lighting problem but had confused it with the colors and shades of her kitchen. How could cream ever be dark? Adding black countertops would spice up the look, if anything.

But because the kitchen was poorly lit – a single ceiling light that didn’t fill corners well – the room had shadows and no accents. With its low wattage bulb, it created a dim effect and made the room feel dark. Where light was concerned, it was a light coloured countertop she didn’t want. It was better statement and accent lighting.

In our article on kitchen trends in 2011 we talk about lighting and what many people are doing this year with their kitchens, including how they are seeing now seeing kitchens as living spaces, not simply about food.

My friend’s situation highlights something important about remodeling and all the aspects that go into making the look and feel of a room. Don’t confuse a problem of lighting with the colors, shades and textures of your kitchen. The character of your kitchen comes through a combination of colors, textures, light, furnishings and appliances.

Countertops – there are so many choices!

In any kitchen, the countertop is a key factor to the look. It’s often the main factor. So you want to get it right.

Today, there are many materials and styles to choose from and it’s often difficult to pick one. You like them all! From laminate countertops to the stone, marble and granite options that many are now choosing, your picture of a dream kitchen, your budget and your needs help determine your choice.

Granite, marble and other stone countertops:

Granite, for example, is a low-maintenance choice that is both heat and stain resistant.  Marble is another and, like granite, is heat resistant. There are other stone choices as well like slate, limestone and soapstone. You may want to explore these options because each has unique qualities. Depending on what you are planning, you may find one of these fits the bill.

Engineered stone:

This is created by using a polymer to bond together fragments of natural stone. It is a more consistent look than other stone tops but it’s also a material where stains and scratches can be easily removed. You don’t want to put a hot pot on an engineered stone countertop, however. It can be damaged by heat.

Solid surface and stainless steel:

Other material options are solid surface countertops and stainless steel. Solid surface has advantages in that there are no seams and you can sand out (gently!) stains and scratches. Stainless steel has the advantage of not succumbing to stains, odors or germs and is easy to clean. However, it will easily show fingerprints and not easily fit with the style of many kitchens.


Of course, there is always the laminate countertop that many, if not most, homeowners have used for decades. Laminate comes in many colors and styles – it’s highly likely you can find one that suits you. They do have visible seams however and are not repaired easily. They are also not resistant to heat.


You could also consider concrete as a countertop. It’s a relatively recent concept with the advantages of durability and resistance to damage. Once sealed, it’s also non-porous. As you might imagine, it is heavy. Keep in mind when considering it that your countertop will need to be custom made.

Ceramic Tile:

Finally, there are ceramic tile countertops. You can really let your imagination go to work with ceramic with its available colors. They are heat resistant and easily cleaned. They are usually reasonably priced but they can become chipped or scratched.

As you can tell, there are many options to choose from. You are likely best off determining how much countertop you will need (they are usually measured by the square foot), looking at your budget and then seeing what materials fall within what you can afford.  You also want to be sure your choice works well with your kitchen colors and your furnishings. 

The new living room? – Kitchen trends 2011

The trend this year is toward seeing the kitchen as meaning more than just food. People are seeing kitchens as a living space and this is guiding a trend toward natural warmth. Key words this year are value, natural and function. And living.

Trends are toward a classic quality that means comfort along with a look that will stay fashionable a long time while incorporating some very contemporary ideas.


Personal taste always dictates color but this year you will likely want to think “natural and warm.” This can be bold and rich colors like shades of copper, burnt oranges, chocolate and coffee tones and yellows. If bold isn’t you, tone it down with subtler variations of these. In either case, consider warm palettes that are welcoming and complement natural materials.

Natural materials

From counters to cabinets to flooring, natural is the thing this year as people move from synthetic materials to woods and stone which are often more durable while providing the warmth that is defining this year’s trends.

Materials like granite and bamboo will be popular (and bamboo can be a better option from an environmental perspective). Bamboo and hardwood floors will be fashionable, as will materials like bamboo as an option for cabinetry.


Lighting isn’t just about being able to see. It’s also about feeling. This is why this year’s trends are emphasizing three aspects of kitchen lighting: natural lighting, statement lighting and accent lighting. Natural light means looking at enlarging your windows or adding more windows – even considering a skylight in your kitchen. It’s all about getting more sunlight in your kitchen.

Statement lighting will be equally popular with an emphasis on a touch of elegance through pendant lighting in bronze, iron and other styles. Even chandeliers will have appeal as both contribute to a brighter kitchen. 

Accent lighting will be big as people choose recessed and track lighting. The use of dimmer switches will also help in adapting kitchens to delivering lighting that can reflect mood and function as you adapt to the time of day and what you are doing – brighter as your working; softer as you relax.

Space and organization

With thinking of a kitchen as a living space rather than simply as a place to cook and eat, many are asking, “What else can be done here?” In answer, computers are finding their way to the kitchen so recipes can be stored and organized, quick Internet searches can be made for recipes or grocery lists prepared. Where space is available, some are even thinking of desks where kids can do homework while moms and dads prepare food. People are seeing their kitchen as a place for families to gather and interact.

Increasingly, the trend for kitchens is to think in terms of “more” and “what else” and “living.” They are no longer cooking spaces; they are living spaces that include cooking. This is helping to determine colors, lighting, materials and more as people search for ways to make the kitchen welcoming, warm, soothing and adaptable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home&Garden-Retirees remodel home to make room for the grandkids


Retirees remodel home to make room for the grandkids
By Merlisa Lawrence Corbett
Special to The Washington Examiner

Empty nest retirees often downsize their living space, but Lani and Norm Kass went the other direction, expanding their single-family house in McLean.
"Our family is growing now," said Norm Kass. "We have grand-kids and we like to have them over and we wanted a home that could accommodate them."

They contracted with Michael Nash Design, Build & Homes to convert their empty nest into an all-seasons retreat. The project earned Michael Nash, president of the company, the 2010 National Association of Remodeling Industry Capital Contractor of the Year Merit Award for entire house remodels under $250,000.
Located in an established McLean neighborhood near Pim-mit Run, the Colonial was built in 1983. After retiring and seeing their three adult children start their own lives, the couple considered selling — but their children live close, which means frequent visits from grandchildren.
"We decided we wanted to stay in this area and keep the house," Kass said. "We just wanted to make it more functional and more practical."

"They outgrew their living space," said Nash, who had worked with the family more than a decade ago, remodeling the kitchen and family room.
CEO Sonny Nazemian said the goal was to create a more open floor plan and enhance the flow of the main-floor space. It was important to accommodate the couple's desire to host family functions and maintain an active lifestyle.
The extensive renovation included updating the master bathroom, mud room, basement recreation room, secondary bathroom, deck, backyard, kitchen and exterior. But the primary focus was on first-floor common areas, especially the kitchen.
"The previous kitchen was [a] narrow semigalley," Nazemian said.
The kitchen gained a 4-foot bumpout and lost a 20-foot back bearing wall, which allowed the layout to be changed. Appliances were moved to create a better work triangle. A large island with cooktop and second-tier overhang was installed. The kitchen also now is viewable from the sitting room, family room and the outdoor spaces.
"We brought the kitchen out of isolation," Nazemian said.

Now the kitchen and family room space flows seamlessly through French doors that lead to a screened corridor and connect to a gazebo. The screened porch and gazebo were constructed with Trex, a low-maintenance decking material.   Beaded-cedar  ceilings add warmth to the area and complement the mahogany wood floors in the family room as well as the mahogany-stained kitchen cabinets. Stairs from the gazebo lead to a flagstone patio in the backyard..
Previously, the backyard was unusable because of runoff generated by a large hill that ran from a neighboring yard. Nazemian said they excavated the entire yard to create a level surface. A 5-by-40-foot retaining wall covered with ledger stone was built between their yards, and an underground drainage system redirects water runoff from the patio.
Sliding glass doors from the patio lead back into the lower level of the house and a remodeled basement, complete with exercise area, media room and wet bar.
The home's exterior received new shingles, gutters, down spouts and siding. "We are extremely happy," Kass said.
"They left the shell, but they did a total overhaul. We basically have a new house.
Resources michaelnashkitchens.com

Friday, March 4, 2011

Award-winning two-level addition redefines a home's facade


Greater than the sum of its parts
Award-winning two-level addition redefines a home's facade
By John Byro bytdmaix comcastnei
Changes were imminent when Mike Martin bought his two-story contemporary on five acres' in Great Falls nearly 20 years ago. The house had many features that won his heart and an enviable loca­tion. But some of the bed­rooms in the 5,400-square-foot home were too small; so, too, were the closets and mas­ter bath. And, above all, the house itself lacked the much-desired "curb appeal."
After a few years of occupancy, Martin decided to uild a two-level addition. The homeowner followed proffered advice to a T, but not long after the addition was completed, Martin's old misgivings recurred. The 600-square-foot wing hadn't improved the situation.
"Essentially, the contrac­tor created ah addition in a contemporary wood-clad style, which he attached to the original nondescript brick box," Martin said. "The prob­lem was the front door faced west, and the street view is from the south. Ascending the drive, you were looking at a side elevation that simply had no cohesive style."
Moreover, Martin still hadn't gotten the family-use program he wanted, which now included a dramatic entrance and foyer, an upgraded kitchen, a home office, a larger master bath, an upstairs laundry, a largeguest suite, a two-car garage and substantial interior upgrades.
Reflecting on long-fore­stalled plans to shift the home's front elevation, Martin acknowledges that his unsatisfactory experience made him wary. As his ideas for a second addition devel­oped, in fact, he solicited feedback from both an archi­tect and a builder, yet took no action.
"1 had stockpiled a lot of ideas, but I was intent on finding professionals ... who would allow me to be in the middle of things," he said.
It was at this juncture that he learned about Michael Nash Kitchens and Homes.
"They proposed a concep­tual oudine that nailed down the cost range, yet allowed me to make transparent line-item decisions as the project moved forward," he said.

Finding their footing
Martin's list of new and enlarged rooms called for a 2,000-square-foot addition, which he wanted to site on the existing structure's south side as a component in the home's new facade.
Complications showed up early. While previous studies had'suggested that the addi­tion would require a three- to four-foot foundation, as the project matured, Fairfax County determined that the proposed depth was inade­quate. In fact, the excavation eventually reached 15 feet below grade — a significant increase in required opera­tion costs.
"None of us expected the soils compaction problem," Martin said.
Further studies revealed the need to firm up the grade on the structure's south side to accommodate a new drive­way. A well had to be relocat­ed from the front of the house to the rear. Structural sup­ports and changes to utility lines were required.

The art of the facade
Beyond site planning, the proposed addition's foremost consideration was architec­tural: how to present the home's new multilevel block within a balanced and well-articulated new facade. 
Out of the gate, Shawn Nazemian, designer at Michael Nash, proposed changing the old addition's cladding from wood to brick. Martin had envisioned a front entrance tower as the facade's defining component; Naze­mian suggested introducing blue quarry stone that had been used in the earlier addi­tion to vary the color scheme. Stone, thus, became the defining feature of both the tower and an architecturally sympathetic stairway further down the slope.
Nazemian also designed the new facade's roof slopes, recommending that the symmetry would be improved by bringing the tower forward. This led to a decision to incorporate two porches with pillars on either side of the tower as a unifying element.
Independent architects who have assessed the recent Contractor of the Year award finalist extol the new facade since it scales down the mass of the new front elevation, preventing it from seeming too monolithic.
"The idea is to give a view­er interesting, architecturally varied components,'
Nazemian said. 'The eye lingers because there are compelling constituent parts' within a balanced whole."
Since the redesigned facade necessarily impacted the interior design, assign­ing alternate purposes to old walls inspired a whole series of innovative solutions.
The former west-facing brick wall, for instance, was incorporated into a spacious foyer that unfolds as a pro­cession as one enters the new front door under the central tower. Referencing the brick's textures, the foyer flooring consists of multi-hued flagstone panels. The large Palladian window in the tower at the entrance invites natural light and draws the eye upwards. At the opposite end of the cor­ridor, a museum-sized piece of Indonesian driftwood draws attention forward.
Recessed lights and peri­odic objects d'arte complete the appealing gallery-like ambiance. To the left, through a pair of doors, one enters Martin's home office and library; on the right, the old front door and double-hung windows have been converted into generous archways accessing, respec­tively, the living room and a hallway that leads back to the dining room and new kitchen. A west-facing two-car garage (behind the office) is accessible through a door that parallels the archway. The addition's second floor accommodates a guest suite, the laundry and a substantially enlarged master bathroom suite.
"Overall, the addition is a seamless complement to the old house, with a very func­tional first-level floorplan," Martin said.

Reconfigured and upgraded
If the addition accommo­dates activities that previ­ously had no dedicated rooms, it's the clever recon­figuration of existing space that lifts the house into the realm of luxury living. Co-opting a portion of the new addition, the Michael Nash plan allocates 270 square feet for a master bathroom suite immediately adjacent to the existing owner's quarters while converting the former bathroom to walk-in closets.
Fundamentally, the mas­ter bathroom is a luxury spa in every sense. A whirlpool bath on a raised ceramic dais is neatly tucked under a front window. A large glass shower complete with L-shaped Tuscan marble seats provides a perfect chamber for relaxing after a steamy bath. Marbleized porcelain floor tiling in diagonal pat­terns emphasizes the room's spaciousness while confer­ring unity.
"The interior design real­ly went very quickly," Martin said. The new gourmet kitchen is finished in an elegant Craftsman-style interior. Dark cherry cabinet facings in conjunction with Brazilian Verde Marinace marble surfaces lend tonal and textural contrast. Diagonally arranged mosaic backsplashes, interspersed with copper tiles embossed with a floral motif, add visual rhythm.
A dual-purpose island provides a cook's sink, dish­washer and food prepara­tion area while a slightly lower lunch counter spares diners a too-close view of the clean-up.
In all, a pleasant place to call home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Home & Design "Front & Center"-Michael Nash Design, Build and Homes

Home & Design March/April 2011

Born and bred in Alabama, Gina Jones is drawn to the stately demeanor of many traditional Southern homes. When she and her husband, Dennis Porter, purchased their Oakton, Virginia, house, however, it was sorely lacking in stateliness. "The house had great bones but not much personality," Jones recalls. One of a row of model homes belonging to an adjacent development, it was positioned sideways on its one-acre lot, without a formal front entrance. After living in the house for some years, Jones, an Internet publisher, and Porter, an Air Force officer, were ready to renovate.
They tapped Sonny Nazemian of Michael Nash Custom Kitchens & Homes, Inc., for the job, which originally entailed pushing out the back of the house to get extra space. "I drew up plans," Nazemian says, "but none of it satisfied what Gina really wanted. When we sug­gested adding onto the front instead, it all fell into place."
Jones had long been frustrated by her home's uninspired front facade. "I wanted a Southern, antebellum look like what I grew up with," she says. She requested a two-level porch, and once Nazemian and his team re-oriented the entry to the front and painted the HardiePlank siding a vivid, inviting blue, the gracious, Southern-style home Jones had always wanted began to emerge.
Inside, the two-story addition includes a spacious foyer that has been embellished with wide crown molding and pillars to commu­nicate traditional elegance. The foyer opens seamlessly into an open-plan living room/dining room that is more contemporary in style, and injects a welcome formality to the rest of the house.
Adjacent to the foyer, Nazemian added a guest suite with a private entrance and a Brazilian slate-tiled bath that boasts granite countertops and cherry cabinetry. This convenient guest suite is intended to accommodate long-term visits from Jones's aging parents.
The transformation of the front facade took the house from non-descript (center and above) to inviting yet grand (top). From the newly constructed foyer (opposite), the open-plan living and dining rooms beckon.

RENOVATION DESIGN/BUILD: SONNY NAZEMIAN, CID, CR, CKBR, Michael Nash Design Build & Homes, Inc. Fairfax, Virginia.

The brightly hued foyer (right) instills the home with a sense of formality and elegance; It opens into the adjacent guest suite. The spacious master bedroom (top) includes access to the second-floor porch and a gas fireplace that Nazemian built Into the comer (opposite, bottom). The adjoining master bath (opposite, top) includes a soaking tub (opposite, center) with a structured porcelain tile surround.

Upstairs, a new master bedroom suite more than doubled the size of the old one, and includes a roomy walk-in closet that borrowed space from the bedroom next door (which belongs to Jones's college-age daughter). The master suite opens out onto the upstairs porch, where an expansive view of the wooded property stretches ahead. In a corner of the room. Nazemian installed a gas fireplace, elevating it so that the cou­ple would be able to see it from their bed. Elaborate cornices and swags, fabricated by Nazemian's staff of interior designers, adorn the windows.

The master bath includes a double vanity and soaking tub, a walk-in shower with one hand-held and two attached showerheads, and heated floors and towel racks. Nazemian chose structured porcelain, which has a textured, rugged look, for the floors and shower and tub surrounds, along with cherry cabinets and granite countertops. Warm, cream-colored walls give the space a restful, inviting air.
Nazemian updated the home's interiors throughout by replac­ing standard oak floors on the ground floor and wall-to-wall car­peting on the stairway and second floor with richly stained Brazil­ian cherry wood. He removed a half-wall that had separated the living room area from what was formerly the entryway to impart a sense of openness, and clad wood pillars in wainscoting to formal­ize the living room space.
According to Nazemian, the main goal of the project was to cre­ate an addition that would seamlessly blend the new and existing sections of the house. "Nobody should feel that this was added," he says, pointing to the exterior expanse that now constitutes the front of the house.
In fact, this was easier said than done. "Changing the elevation and adding the porch were the most challenging aspects," Nazemian recalls. "Grading was extremely difficult because of the sloped front yard and trees. The foundation had to be deeper than we originally thought."
The results of his firm's labors have been well worth it: The proj­ect just received a 2010 Contractor of the Year Award. Meanwhile, Jones and her husband are thrilled with their transformed space. "It gave me exactly what I wanted," Jones says. "It has been enjoyed and lived in.
Photographer June Stanich is based in Fairfax, Virginia.