What do you get when you cross a 1950s Hollywood-style ranch house with unbridled imagination? If you’re Dial and Clif Kitchens, you end up with a nearly perfect home.
Dial and Clif Kitchens hadn’t planned to move. Still happy in the Heathwood home they’d renovated several years earlier, the couple thought that their days of construction projects were over. But when the perfectly-preserved, low-slung ranch appeared on their radar, they couldn’t help but take a look.
Characterized by terra cotta roof tiles, access to outdoor living spaces, wrought iron details and visible wooden rafter tails on the exterior, the home’s flowing style matched not just the existing foundation, but Dial and Clif’s less formal style as well. Photography by Robert Clark.
Like a scene from the movie “Back to the Future,” the house was filled with well-maintained 1950s touches, like a working intercom system, a rock garden in the hallway and a blender permanently installed on the kitchen countertop. “It was really progressive for its day,” says Clif. “It had hardly been changed since the 50s.” But once they got past the details, what struck the couple was the house’s potential. “It sits on a huge lot, and something about it gave us the feeling that it could be transformed into exactly the house we wanted. And it’s on the street where I grew up – it’s a location I understand,” he says.
Although Dial and Clif had renovated a number of residences over the years — one to live in, and several as high-end spec houses — this house presented an interesting challenge: since they’d be basically starting from scratch, they had no starting point to direct them to a certain style. In the end, it was the house’s rather random footprint that gave them their answer: Spanish Colonial. Characterized by terra cotta roof tiles, access to outdoor living spaces, wrought iron details and visible wooden rafter tails on the exterior, the flowing style matched not just the existing foundation, but the family’s less formal style as well. “We’ve definitely gotten more casual as we’ve gotten older,” says Dial. “With four children, you almost have to be!”
In the den, an ingenious mix of patterns and textures works together to create a snug, sophisticated sanctuary. Photography by Robert Clark.
Once they had the style set, the couple set to work on the design. “We used Spanish Colonial architecture as a starting point, but we modified it a bit to give ourselves some freedom,” explains Clif. “By using old brick instead of the typical stucco, we were less true to the architectural style – this took away some pressure to be pure with the details.” Although the home would remain on its existing foundation, nearly everything else would be changed, from the windows to the location of the front entrance. Old tile floors and carpeting were ripped out and replaced with wood; walls were moved, a second story added and brick salvaged from a mill in the Upstate was installed on the exterior. Three years after taking their first walk-through, the Kitchenses moved into their new home.
Stepping into the large foyer, the first thing you notice is the light. Even on a cloudy day, light somehow finds a way to spill into the living and dining rooms, which flank the front hall. One reason is the paint: instead of using the usual low-wattage latex, Dial chose a high-gloss oil in soft linen white. The resulting sheen infuses the room with radiance and, by cleverly mimicking plaster, adds a dose of old-world style. To maintain the couple’s more relaxed style, crown moulding was replaced with exposed cypress beams, which provide a rustic counterpoint to the glossy wooden ceiling and connect the interior to the exterior. The hardwood floors, hand-scraped and oil-rubbed, add a rough-hewn glow while four sets of French doors bring the outside in.
Dial Kitchens’s decorative touches, like the seagrass rug she chose for the floor, the sky-blue wood ceiling and the skirted chairs, work together to relax the dining room’s setting without taking away any of its “special occasion” status. Photography by Robert Clark.
With its built-in display cabinets — where the Kitchenses display an old collection of silver vases, goblets, platters and pitchers — glossy antique dining table and crystal chandelier, the dining room has the bones for a formal setting. Dial’s decorative touches, like the seagrass rug she chose for the floor, the sky-blue wood ceiling and the skirted chairs, work together to relax the setting without taking away any of the room’s “special occasion” status. “The neutral rugs really tone down the formalness and let you add in pattern,” says Dial. The former dining room was transformed into a bookcase-lined den that overlooks the pool. Here, an ingenious mix of patterns and textures — there’s leopard-print fabric on one chair, velvet on the sofa, oriental rugs and the soft satin glow of drapes — works together to create a snug, sophisticated sanctuary.
Large and lofty, yet warm and welcoming, the kitchen is a spacious area divided subtly into distinct areas for relaxing, entertaining, cooking and eating. Photography by Robert Clark.
Large and lofty, yet warm and welcoming, the kitchen is a spacious area divided subtly into distinct areas for relaxing, entertaining, cooking and eating. “No matter where you want people to go during a party, they always end up in the kitchen, so we decided to go with it and build a kitchen where everyone could be comfortable,” says Clif. “Now, when everyone’s in here, there’s plenty of room.” Although the space is expansive, details keep it from looking too big or out of balance. Mexican tiles, with their handcrafted warmth, cover the floor, and the vaulted ceiling was constructed from natural cypress. The layout of the room is also well planned. At one end, adjacent to the dining room, the large kitchen table offers seating for the family as well as an easy way for Dial and Clif to accommodate large dinner parties at two tables without anyone feeling relegated to the proverbial kid’s table. Across the way, a grouping of furniture around a low coffee table and facing a minimalist wood-burning fireplace creates a cozy nook that invites relaxing. Delineating the work area from the living area is a set of massive light fixtures that are at once rustic and refined. Just beyond, in the business end of the room, hand-made subway tiles on the backsplash and granite on the counters and the island offer up contemporary counterpoints that also are happily low maintenance.
The outside is as inviting as the inside, from the open-air pool house filled with details like a beamed cypress ceiling, fireplace and ornate masonry that allows air to flow into the space without giving up privacy to a grassy courtyard that’s a perfect emerald rectangle. “We’re so pleased with the way the whole house came together,” says Dial. “We’re a lot more laid-back now than we used to be. This house is perfect for our way of living.”