A stone house looks very permanent from the outside, but big changes can occur within. Though the Rugby neighborhood house that Hyam Hosny and Eric Spooner bought in 2009 was stately—and its location couldn’t be beat—it needed to be brought into the modern era.
“The kitchen was a servants’ kitchen,” said Hosny, relating that the original owner of the house had a bell mechanism rigged up so that he could ring for the cook from the dining room. This may have been more appropriate in 1930, when the house was built, but a small kitchen tucked into a rear corner of the house wasn’t going to work for a busy contemporary family.
Even before the couple and their two sons (now ages 12 and 14) moved in, they began working with architect Ruth Ellen Outlaw to reimagine the space. “There was some consideration of not moving the kitchen,” said Outlaw. “But the need for a mudroom started to become really apparent.” In the end, the best solution was to turn the existing dining room into a kitchen, making space for a mudroom in the former kitchen.
Dining space could be borrowed from the large adjacent family room. “We’re not a very formal family; we don’t entertain a lot of people,” said Hosny—meaning it was all right to lose the formal dining space.
She does love to cook, however, and the new kitchen carefully caters to that interest. There’s the commercial-grade BlueStar range (less expensive than the similar but more coveted Wolf brand). There’s the dedicated prep sink in the island. There are the pullout spice racks and pantry cabinets that pack in storage space while keeping everything accessible.
“Custom cabinetry is great for that reason—you can get so much more functionality,” said Outlaw. She added that local cabinetmaker Albion had completed this project for a third of the price quoted by a stock supplier.
Mostly what strikes a visitor, though, is not functionality but looks. This kitchen has a distinct aesthetic, combining elements of Hosny’s Egyptian heritage with her take on a local sensibility. “I wanted it to feel like a house in this neighborhood in Virginia,” she said—“nothing really shiny. I wanted a really earthy, natural look.” To that end, she chose extra-thick, matte-finish Italian marble for the countertops rather than highly polished granite.
Copper is another important thread, tying together sinks, a custom range hood and the three pendant lights over the chunky center island. It echoes, too, the pair of lanterns that Hosny found in a bazaar in Egypt and had wired as pendant lights. They hang over the main sink.
The cabinets and walls are painted in various shades of an appealing mossy green. “I like the idea of gradations of the same color,” said Hosny. The effect is calming without being dull—especially given that the same shades continue into the next room.
Variegated greens dress up the lantern tile backsplash behind the range, while two glass-front cabinets salvaged from the original dining room tie this space to what was here before. There’s enough storage for workaday supplies throughout the rest of the kitchen that Hosny can use these only to display beautiful dishes and objects.
She credits Outlaw with helping her think through the realities of how this room would function. “I was saying, ‘We need an eat-in kitchen!’” Hosny recalled. That would have meant a longer island with barstools, so Outlaw suggested taping this shape onto the floor and walking around it every day to see how it would actually function. Result: no eat-in.
Instead, Outlaw designed a wide arched doorway between kitchen and family room. This not only invites family members through to the nearby table—it effectively becomes an extension of the kitchen—but it lets light into what had been a cavelike living space.
For Hosny and her family, the whole shebang works smoothly. Said Outlaw, the design process meant “understanding that you love to cook, but the kitchen is also the center of your family life.”