Renovation Before & After

This Philadelphia Townhouse Is Technically Smaller Post-Reno, But It Feels Grander

Ditching the sunroom actually meant gaining a sunny room.
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wood desk

For Kevin Kaminski and Alexis Pew, cofounders of architecture and interior design studio Kaminski + Pew, the decision to make a circa-1830 Philadelphia townhouse smaller was an easy one. At some point back in the 1960s or ’70s, a previous owner had attached a sunroom of sorts to the back of the home, just off the kitchen. “I’m sure that somebody probably really enjoyed it,” says Kaminski, “but it was falling apart and the wood was starting to rot. It was a danger.”

The cedar-clad space stopped sunlight from reaching the rest of the narrow house, and it wasn’t insulated enough to be used in the wintertime. Not to mention, their clients—who learned of Kaminski + Pew after seeing their work on a neighbor’s place—rarely used the space. The goal for the kitchen became the overarching theme for the whole renovation: simplify. “We wanted to make it a bit more modern without it being at odds with itself. That’s the line we tried to walk,” says Kaminski. Find out what happened post-demo and get a look at the rest of the reno, ahead. 

Ditch the Sunroom for a Sunny Room

green tiled counters
The kitchen, before. | Courtesy of Kaminski + Pew
wood dining room table near window

Where the sunroom addition once began, now there is an enormous window with delicate mullions—a swap that makes up for all the natural light the unnecessary bonus room used to soak up. And for what the clients lost in terms of interior square footage, they gained in the form of a patio. “It made it a much more enjoyable outdoor area,” notes Pew. “It has this gracious garden now.” 

Take a Walk Back in Time

To maintain the balance of old and new, Pew and Kaminski went on the hunt for flooring that was approximately the same age as the home. Provenance, a local architectural salvage company, had just what they were looking for: heart pine, a variety of wood with a prominent grain structure. The only catch was, the designers had to send back many of the boards until the colors all appeared to match perfectly. “There can be a lot of sapwood in this type of flooring,” notes Kaminski, “so we wanted to make sure that it was taken out and there was nice, clean flooring to match the rest of the house.” 

Gather Round the Fire for a Conversation Starter

dark plastered fireplace

Revamping the brick fireplace in the kitchen was part of plan A: simplify. After covering the facade with a stuccolike material and troweling it to a smooth condition, Pew and Kiminski tasked Lauren Jensen of XOXO Plaster to swathe it in a custom colored plaster. “She’s a true artist with the kind of depth she can tease out,” says Kaminski. 

Clean Up While You Check Your Makeup

dark kitchen
The kitchen, before. | Courtesy of Kaminski + Pew
soapstone counters

Ditching the peninsula structure that bisected the kitchen and dining area instantly made the room feel bigger. But the question remained: Where should the sink go now? “It’s not an enormous space,” notes Kaminski. With the range newly positioned along the far back wall, the designers decided to tuck the sink in between two windows closer to the cooktop.

soapstone kitchen sink

Because staring at a blank wall is no fun when you’re handwashing dishes, the clients came up with the idea to hang a mirror in front of the sink. “It’s a great way to bounce around light,” Kaminski says. “And you can look over your shoulder and see people seated at the table.”

Pick Shades That Are “In Between”

mushroom colored cabinets

Shaker-style fronts might have been the obvious choice for the kitchen cabinets, and that’s exactly why the designers went with flat inset doors instead. “Shaker felt a little too stiff,” shares Kaminski. “We’re not necessarily preservationists, so taking a more moderate approach was a good way to give it a more playful feeling.” Pew describes the hue they landed on for the millwork (Sherwin-Williams’s Wool Skein) as a mushroom hue with a hint of taupe. “It’s deeper than white but not quite beige,” she explains. “We tend to gravitate toward colors that are kind of indefinable.” 

plum laundry room

Directly above the kitchen, Pew landed on another “in between” paint color for the laundry room: Borscht, a deep red that is at once both plum and maroon. “It gives a space that would normally be mundane and uninteresting some personality,” says Pew. Knowing that the homeowners usually prefer to air-dry their clothes, they hung a ceiling-mounted drying rack overhead and carved out plenty of counter space for folding. 

Build a Charming Bathroom From Nothing

fireplace
The bathroom, before. | Courtesy of Kaminski + Pew
pink bathroom

While landing on a new downstairs layout was a breeze, Kaminski admits they went back and forth on the primary en suite at least 50 times. “There wasn’t a clear path,” he recalls. In the end, they decided to build a new primary bathroom and closet where there previously was a bedroom. Luckily, the rest of the details flowed: The clients found a set of old doors on an auction site for the built-in wardrobe; the walls were painted in Cultured Pearl to pick up on the purplish tones in the Calacatta Monet marble counters; and the push-to-open butternut wood vanity drawers feature the same fluting as the glass shower door. 

fluted wood vanity
Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.

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