March 2011: Concrete ideas

When Colleen Beights decided to renovate the kitchen of her 19th-century farmhouse on Old Trail golf course—literally, the course was built around the centuries-old structure—everyone thought she was crazy. But, for the freelance interior designer, it was hard to imagine dreaming up anything in the space, be it a family meal or a creative thought.

“I’m happiest in a calming hue of whites and soft grays,” Beights says. “A minimalist, uncluttered kitchen was always my aim.” Unfortunately, that was a far cry from the orange-red wallpaper, “shiny green” granite countertops and Asian-inspired backsplash the home’s previous owners left behind.

Vindicated by the bar she’d seen while dining out, Beights enlisted elbwrm, a custom concrete design firm, to create a chunky countertop for her new unfettered space. Together, she and owner Alexander Kitchin (formerly of Pretty Hard) conjured a sleek, modern room with a nod to elements from the kitchen’s past life: A long open shelf and crown moulding overhead, 3″-thick concrete counters and a farmhouse sink, stainless steel appliances and original cabinetry. Even the décor mixes old with new: A white vinyl banquette pairs unexpectedly with two black-lacquered Louis XIV-style chairs.

Nearly two years later, the kitchen is quickly becoming the family’s favorite gathering spot. “The kids like to watch me cook here,” says Beights, whose three children range in age from 3 to 7 years old. “It’s nice to be able to have people sit and feel comfortable.”—Caite White

“I’m not sure if the countertops were the starting point, but I knew I wanted to change the entire feel of the room, and I did know from day one that I wanted to incorporate concrete. I love its heavy, industrial yet modern and edgy feel, especially juxtaposed against the old house.

“I’d already envisioned and begun designing the kitchen when we happened upon the bar in The Clifton Inn. I was set on using concrete at that point, but seeing the heft of the concrete there underscored my vision of doing super thick, 3″ tops.

“I finally got my act together and got a dining room table I love. Before, we kind of cobbled together a farm table and a second round table. The new table is concrete, too, though in a different palette. I can’t get enough of it!

“This house is gonna OD on concrete.

“I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher more than anything, so I will stack [the built in dish-rack] up with pots and pans and the kids’ melamine plates. I love that feature. It functions really well for us.

“When we entertain, everybody always hangs out in the kitchen. I want people to feel comfortable plopping down and staying a while.

“The design of the previous kitchen wasn’t dated; it was finished tastefully in a very traditional, Virginia farmhouse style. It was just very different from what I envisioned.

“My in-laws are actually using the [discarded upper cabinets] in their own renovation right now. And the countertops went to my sister-in-law. Everything was dispersed.”


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