November ABODE: Matt McClellan crafts an ideal kitchen in black and white

Kitchen renovations never finish on time. For Matt McClellan, a graduate of UVA’s School of Architecture working toward his license, the process of designing a major addition onto the side of his 1949 house took five months longer than expected. He and his wife, Meredith, bought the house in 2007 and tore the existing kitchen off before they even moved in. When it became evident that things weren’t going to finish on time, the father of three knew to go with the flow in order to get exactly the space he had envisioned: a traditional, simple, stunning kitchen where his family could easily congregate and live life.

“We really wanted a place where we could sit down and eat. We find that we never really use our proper dining room; it’s not really convenient for sitting the kids down for breakfast,” he said. McClellan decided to give the kitchen a turned roof line, perpendicular to the original house. The result is a spacious, light-filled kitchen complete with a massive island, eating area, a mudroom/laundry facility, and plenty of storage and cooking space in between.

The space shows restraint on McClellan’s part. “I wanted to keep it traditional and simple. I didn’t want to try to do too much. At the same time, we wanted a really functional kitchen with materials that spoke for themselves,” McClellan said. Those include a stained cherry island, black granite countertops, custom birch cabinetry painted Dove White, and a white subway tile back-splash that has a slight crackle finish.

While the overall aesthetic is in keeping with the traditional bones of the house, it is in no way an old-fashioned kitchen. “We wanted something that wouldn’t be dated in five or 10 years. We wanted something that has some staying power,” said McClellan. Considering the fact that McClellan claims the family spends 75 percent of their life occupying some part of the kitchen “zone,” his simple, functional, durable design was worth the investment.—Cate West Zahl


“Our old kitchen was really tiny. We realized what a lot of people end up realizing, and that’s that we spend a lot more time in the kitchen, certainly more than the people who built these older houses originally occupied the kitchen. Now it’s definitely more of a family space.

“I’ve always liked stainless. I mean, if I can’t live in some cool loft outfitted with mid-century modern furniture, at least I can have stainless steel appliances! You take what you can get. It’s got a nice clean quality to it.

“The concept of the kitchen was that the black granite countertops would be a durable and attractive workspace. The black-and-white color combination is classic, without feeling too old fashioned. It’s a timeless color scheme that I knew we wouldn’t tire of.

“My only regret is that the three windows are a little too tall, because my wife has a hard time seeing outside the windows. It’s fine for me, and it is nice when you sit at the island.
“I love the light fixtures. I was looking for something round to counterbalance all the edges in the room, which is actually pretty angular and geometric. I got a consultation from designers in town, called Fifth Wall. They helped me pick out the lighting which really keeps the space up to date.

“Meredith was involved in a lot of the decision making. We agreed on almost everything, except for the faucet, which we almost got divorced over. I just had to have it, and she was like, ‘We are not spending that much money on a single fixture!’

“I scoured the Internet for deals. So I ended up buying most of the appliances at discount prices. The stove had been returned and was a floor model. The budget wasn’t going to support doing everything Viking or Wolf. We wanted nice appliances. The refrigerator was a floor model. The process was dragging out for so long, so I left my ame at Ferguson and said, ‘If anything comes in that is dented, I want it, give me a call.’”


Posted In:     Living

Previous Post

Stephan Said brings it all back home

Next Post

Small Bites: Local bird is the word, Swap-ing and gathering, and more

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of