There are the design details that you see in a home…and those that you don’t. These particular secrets of a home’s interior lie in wait behind doors, in cabinets and sometimes even in plain sight. They are an interior designer’s challenge and are often what make a gorgeous house a functional home.
BY AMY BLASTIER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DONOVAN ROBERTS WITMER
There is perhaps no better local example of the form versus function partnership than interior designer Alison McIndoe’s recent project in East Petersburg.
In this highly curated home redesign, she and her talented design team worked closely with her clients in developing an aesthetic that brings in natural light and clean lines while maximizing utilitarian behind-the-scenes spaces for practical family living. “Every inch of space was thoughtfully considered and utilized,” says McIndoe, founder and owner of AK Interiors, LLC (akinteriorsllc.com), in downtown Lancaster.
This design approach is evident in the home’s variation of a mudroom, the first room to welcome guests who enter through one of two front entryways of the brick home. Lined with flush-mounted doors built and finished by Andersen-Knudsen, the cabinetry meets the walls seamlessly. If not for the door pulls—hand-forged by Heritage Metal Works in the shape of foxes with such detail that you can see the sly in the crafty animals’ beady eyes—you might not even guess these panels are hiding something.
The first set of doors reveals a feature that busy parents can appreciate…a drop-off station for the couple’s young sons that keeps outerwear, shoes, and equipment organized and off the floors. The opening of the second set unveils an uncluttered desk space for homework. Antique leather medicine balls, collected by the homeowners, lend warmth and texture to a room dressed in neutrals. McIndoe points out that the wall hanging above the fireplace, the one you thought was a very cool piece of artwork, is actually a Frame TV. Made by Samsung, the framed flatscreen displays art of your choice, which dissolves when the TV is turned on. It’s a perfect solution for a family that very rarely picks up the remote. When design planning on the project began three years ago, Alison and her clients found that the home offered much to work with from an architectural perspective. Built in 1993 and sitting on just under seven acres of land, the property boasts a carriage house and two greenhouses. Architect Marzena Wolnikowski of Hammel Associates Architects, along with general contractor Simeral Construction, kept authenticity in mind when making two significant changes to the home’s first floor: the enclosure of the front exterior to create an interior foyer and the addition of a conservatory onto the kitchen in the rear.
In a nod to the home’s original footprint, the brick archway of the original exterior entry became a graceful doorframe into the newly enclosed foyer. A custom-made glass door with lead grilles was built by Hope Windows, Inc., to fit the brickwork and allows sunlight to bathe the mudroom in natural light. In this home, even the laundry room is a place for the unexpected. If you look past the bold floral pattern of the Ellie Cashman wall covering, you’ll find little surprises in the surface of the soapstone sink and countertop (custom-fabricated by Bucks County Soapstone), including inlaid images of Benjamin Franklin’s profile and a simple cross underneath the sink’s faucet.
McIndoe worked with the design and construction teams to remove the little rooms and obstructive angles throughout the first floor, as many homeowners are doing today to open up their spaces. In this particular design application, McIndoe and her clients recognized that changing the floor plan to eliminate walls would not only make a more cohesive space, but would also present opportunities to create dramatic visual effects with new sightlines. Sightlines are what you see when looking from one point to another, as well as all the things your eyes will overlook. If done well, they can make a space feel large and airy. Inspired in part by Monticello, the home of founding father and former president Thomas Jefferson (who was an accomplished architect in his own right), the homeowners wanted to create striking sightlines throughout the home’s first floor.
"It was a puzzle where everything had to fit perfectly, but had to function well...”
The most significant of these sightlines extends along the length of the house. As McIndoe explains, it begins with an arched doorway from the kitchen to the home’s main entry. Here, they took an existing arch and expanded it to become barrel vault in design, an arch that extends for some distance. Continuing along the sightline to a distant room is a second archway. Looking even further, you’ll see a third arch, which the team created by reframing a doorway. All together, the three archways create a long sightline that travels along the front of
the home and leads right out to a secret garden. The end result is both timeless and stunning.
The second large undertaking of the home’s design renovation is found in the kitchen and adjoining conservatory. The homeowners fell in love with a Parisian-style kitchen they saw online and looked to replicate the classic European feel while integrating modern functionality. This is the space that both thrilled and challenged McIndoe as an interior designer. “
Two large chandeliers, formed by hundreds of glass cylinders assembled in the shape of feathers and made by Visual Comfort, hang over marble countertops fabricated by Natural Stoneworks. After many test samples, McIndoe and her clients found the right stain for refinishing the original pine floors, which were then extended into the conservatory. The trick up the kitchen’s sleeve is that all appliances are concealed by paneled pocket doors, also built by Andersen-Knudsen, that match the wall paneling used throughout the kitchen.
While one panel hides a cooktop with pot filler, another panel leads to a tucked-away butler’s pantry, where wine inventory, general storage and a coffee station live. The coffee station is a perfect example of how large a role function plays in a well-designed kitchen. Under the brewing nook is a pull-out tray to rest your mugs. Beneath that, a drawer for the mugs. And a lower drawer offers all the coffee selections you’d need. It’s a simple but well-planned design choice that makes early mornings a little kinder.
The glass conservatory added on to the kitchen fills the entire space with natural light. The view to the backyard is spectacular, no matter what the season or weather. The conservatory’s roof detailing and finial was designed to mimic the roof of the nearby greenhouse, again lending a degree of authenticity to the new addition.
In all, the execution of the design plan took a year and a half to complete. As McIndoe reflects on the partnership that took the project from an idea to a reality, she says “The home already had a fantastic foundation; it merely needed to be updated and simplified. Respecting the current architecture of the home and enhancing that architecture go a long way in making a space feel more authentic." Authenticity, and a few well-planned surprises, is what happens when a great design plan comes together.