Kitchen Design & Renovation Clifton VA

Kitchen Design & Renovation Clifton VA

In February 2016, I received a phone call from a lovely lady who had recently moved into her home in Clifton, Virginia with her husband and teenage son.

She said she called me because she reviewed my work and client reviews online, and could tell that I was not a “cookie cutter” type designer.

We met on a February day in her outdated kitchen (see “before” photo above.) She immediately began showing me her collage of inspirational photos. “Wow”, I thought: this is definitely not our standard all-white typical kitchen project.

Aesthetic elements that inspired my client included:

  1. an old wood beam that she and her husband had purchased on a “whim” because of its beauty;
  2. copper elements — a collection of copper mugs that she wanted to display;
  3. multicolored ledgerstone, which was the surround of her fireplace in the Great Room;
  4. blackish steel beams — an industrial element that would provide the structural support required.

We had a clear starting point for the aesthetic elements. But what to do with the awkward kitchen layout?

Directly behind the kitchen was the laundry room, which awkwardly shared the kitchen sink run as you turned the corner to come into the kitchen.

If you look at the before photo below (the sink is not in view because it is on the other side of the room!), you can see that if you were cooking and needed to visit the sink (or vice versa), you would have to cross the room to the other side.

The other element that bothered my client was a single column dividing the Great Room from the kitchen. She wanted to eliminate it. She also wanted to convert the laundry room into a pantry and mudroom.

I examined the rooms’ existing configuration and proposed the following changes. (Any structural or other changes were confirmed and fine tuned by our structural engineer, Rob Fling, and Guy Brannock, Brannock Enterprises.)

  • Relocated the sink to the island;
  • Elongated the shared laundry/kitchen room wall and simultaneously pushed it back away from the kitchen
  • Because my client wanted many appliance conveniences in the kitchen — including a 48″ refrigerator/freezer — we had to shift our thinking. There was not enough room for a 48″ built-in refrigerator/freezer along with the tall micro/single oven cabinet. So I proposed the idea, which appears to be trending nowadays, of substituting a GE 36″ refrigerator in the kitchen and an 18″ Thermador freezer to be located in the pantry.
  • Elongated the main gas range top wall by eliminating the wing-wall on the right and reducing the doorway width into the Keeping Room.

The key aesthetic elements, which involved collaboration with and inspiration from my client included:

  1. Incorporating the wood beam into the hood over the GE Monogram 48″ gas range-top;
  2. Mirroring over the pantry and 18″ Thermador Freezer;
  3. Continuing with the fireplace existing multi-colored ledgerstone theme throughout the kitchen, pantry/mud/laundry mudroom and powder room;
  4. The structural beam would also serve as an aesthetic dividing the Great Room and Dining Room from the kitchen yet still allowing for an open layout concept
  5. Floating shelves and wood countertop in a similar (Oak) wood specie as the wood beam;
  6. LED lighting–strip for wall cabinets and puck for floating shelves;
  7. Copper sink, faucet, pendants, and cabinet hardware;
  8. Engineered quartz for all countertops (except for wood top area).

Products Used

Thermador 18-inch Built in Freezer Column with Ice & Water Dispenser

T18ID900LP – Innovation A touch-screen TFT display panel allows intuitive control over your entire refrigeration system. Performance SoftClose® Drawers and Product.

Monogram 48″ Professional Gas Rangetop with 6 Burners and Griddle (Natural Gas) ZGU486NDPSS

Monogram 36″ Built-In All Refrigerator

Extending across the door and wrapping beautifully around the edges; A Monogram signature, slim tubular handle enhances the overall look.

GE Ice Maker 15-Inch – Nugget Ice | UNC15NJII

High nugget ice production produces up to 56 pounds of ice per day.

Signature Hardware 30″ Kembla Copper Farmhouse Sink

A shining example of copper’s natural beauty, this farmhouse style sink features smooth texture, earthy tones, and a beautiful living finish. Made with quality craftsmanship and from solid copper, it is sure to lend both aesthetic value and functionality

Williams Sonoma – Baltimore Pendant, Polished Copper

Inspired by the fixtures that lit stairwells and shop floors in the early 20th century.

Shenandoah Furniture Gallery – Farm Tables

Beautiful handmade farmhouse tables and reclaimed wood furniture.

Brubaker Kitchens – Cabinetry

WAC Lighting

Light Silt CQ 3CM Quartz Slabs & Countertops | Cosmos Granite

Light Silt CQ 3CM Quartz is SLAB available at Cosmos Granite and Marble, Washington. Light Silt CQ 3CM is a China origin and lies in Quartz group, in Multi pattern.

Steyn Kitchen Faucet with Spring Spout

For cleanup and prep, the Steyn Kitchen Faucet moves with you, thanks to its flexible coil feature and pull-down spray. This well-designed faucet features a ceramic disc cartridge.

The Tile Shop – Copper Rust Architectural Tile

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

If you are tired of your current kitchen and looking to upgrade it to suit your current lifestyle and design preferences, give me a call.

I can save you time, money and stress by helping you define and refine your kitchen renovation ideas and your remodeling budget, assisting with the selection of cabinetry, countertops, appliances and all the other fixtures and finishes that go into a new kitchen, and coordinating the delivery and installation of your new kitchen with your contractor or builder.

You can reach me by phone or text at: (703) 801-6402; or by email at:

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

As promised, here is the second article about what I learned and observed at the Las Vegas 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Building Show (IBS).

Today, I touch upon my impressions regarding color, finishes, and form trends. All four at the show were combined in different ways perhaps described best as: the rustic with the sleek, the industrial with extremely polished, something vintage with something brand new, commercial styles morphing into residential. Of course, my blog below could never capture every impression made upon me. But all below made significant impressions on me making them all “blogworthy”.

Kitchen Color Trends

Neutrality is Still “In”
Would you be surprised if I told you that the palette of neutral colors gray, white, and brown are still going strong? And that this palette consistently appears in cabinetry, countertops, and flooring-—the three main building blocks of any kitchen?

A neutral color palette remains, at least at for now, de rigueur.

At the show, almost all kitchen (and bathroom) vignettes featured these neutral color schemes. They dominated the “canvas” and, then, on occasion, bright “pops” of color would be introduced in the space, such as a tile backsplash or a single furniture piece in a bold color such as red or orange.

The guideline followed is: fixtures that are not easily changed remain neutral in color. If color vibrancy is needed, it is found in items that are changed more easily, such as these stools:


Hardware — A Slight Surprise
For metal finishes such as decorative cabinet hardware, pulls, knobs and the like, the standard polished chrome and nickel, brushed nickel, black, oil rubbed bronze types were displayed in booths as always.

What made a bold “new” entrance was something that most have considered forever in the history books: antique and polished brass.

The pulls and knobs on display this year were not in their traditional form, but rather presented in contemporary or modern ones:
brass pullbrass hardwarebrass hardware on cabinetsSimply by changing the form, but not the finish, the whole feel is transformed. Applying this concept to almost anything sheds light on how something old can be new again.

Appliances — The Continuing “Go To” Finish

stainless refrigeratorAs for appliance finishes, if you heard a rumor that stainless is going “out”, this is not entirely true. It is true that more and more appliance manufacturers offer “panel” ready appliances — meaning you can have a matching cabinet panel made to make the appliance look like the front of a cabinet. But, outside of this option, stainless is still the most popular appliance finish. Although there continue to be a few appliance manufacturers, Viking, La Cornue and Big Chill, to name a few, seeking to distinguish themselves with bold vibrant colors, the standard “go to” is stainless. It remains so because it is neutral in color.

Engineered Quartz Finishes

raw concrete CaesarstoneCaesarstone, an engineered quartz countertop manufacturer from Israel, displayed some of its new finishes that mimic concrete: Raw Concrete, Sleek Concrete & Fresh Concrete. They also have improved their “art imitates life” with their Concetto series. If you are one who needs color, take a peek at this:

caesarstone profondo


Another “wow” at the show was revealed to me when I explored Lab Designs’ booth. Incredible samples of high pressure laminates, one after another, were displayed, and many I had ever seen before. Some of these laminates were so compelling, you wanted to touch and feel them — because they had a 3-D quality to them.

honey cayman rattan laminatelaminate sage

Tile: Art Imitates Life

If you are in the mood to stretch your creative brain even more, the tile industry is not lacking for material to help you do so. Tile has truly become “art”, and the choices are infinite for anyone wishing to expand their options to be creative. A few examples:

Kitchen wood tile floor example

Porcelain Tile with Wood Finish

In the world of porcelain tile, the wood look is exploding. These tiles actually have “grooves” that look like the characteristics of real wood.

Weathered Concrete Tile

Weathered Concrete Tile

Another hot trend: tile that looks like weathered concrete. This trend is due to the industrial/commercial look that is making its way into residential interior design.

And then, if you are tired of tiles offering repetition with 90 degree angles, you can enter the world of Ann Sacks. Below is a photo of Sakura tiles which create an Asian inspired wall.

tile mural


If I had to assign a “gender” to the type of form trends I saw at the show, I would say without hesitation: masculine.

  • Countertops—thick, simply in form in edge detail, often 6 cm thick.
  • Kitchen sinks and faucets—straight, linear, minimalistic
    Cabinetry—rustic or sleek. Less details.
  • Hardware—minimalistic with right angles. Some outright “rustic.”

Stay tuned for my next and last article on the show. This one will cover new storage solutions for the kitchen.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Getting to Know Paul, Tom and Their “New” Old Home

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Last January 2014 (just before we had that wicked polar vortex descend upon us), I was asked by Commonwealth Restorations to contact Paul and Tom about their kitchen remodel. They had just purchased a neglected Tudor home (circa 1904) in North Arlington.

My meeting with Paul, on a sunny brisk day a few days later, revealed a house possessing tremendous character: tall ceilings, unique moldings, wainscot panels on the walls, and the little quirky parts of the home that cannot be easily replicated. The entire home, including the kitchen, required restorative work to make it livable by today’s standards.

When I spoke with Tom and Paul on the phone a few days later, they told me the story about their decision to purchase the home. Paul said: “When I told Tom there was a house to look at on Glebe, he said he wasn’t going to live on that street. However, on first sight while standing in the rear garden, Tom said he wanted to buy the house having not even seen the inside.”

Obviously, the key ingredient for Tom was the mature and very carefully crafted backyard garden whose elements and style made one feel, while standing there, that one was in Old World Europe one hundred years earlier.

Unfortunately, unlike the garden, the existing kitchen lacked any style at all. It was dark with wood paneling. The floor was “busy”– laid with linoleum. The cabinets were an off white laminate. The appliances were white. A bit of a dichotomy in comparison to the garden’s class and sophistication.

The Original Kitchen

Paolini Kitchen Back Corner Before Paolini Kitchen Entry BeforeIn spite of its flaws, this “bad” kitchen had its good points. A saving grace was its fairly large rectangular footprint and access to the backyard garden. For this second reason, Paul and Tom stressed the importance of a beautiful kitchen which shared easy access to the garden below.

Kitchen Demolition and Planning

The actual kitchen demolition work commenced in February. Paul, Tom and I met several times to discuss conceptual ideas. Because the kitchen footprint was longer than it was wide, and one of the walls would house a sliding glass door onto the deck above the garden, we agreed on an L-shape perimeter footprint for the main working parts of the space. A 48” Thermador refrigerator and 48” Wolf range took up some “real estate ” on the longest part of the “L”.


Regarding cabinetry, Tom and Paul weren’t familiar with flush inset framed construction. Upon my recommendation, and to further enhance the period of the house’s style, we agreed this was the way to go with a Sherwin Williams paint “Snowbound”. The overall goal of increasing natural light in the kitchen was paramount, thus the plan included a large picture window. This would become the “anchor” for the main cleanup sink. The island would offer a prep sink across from the cooktop and near the fridge allowing efficient food prep without creating additional traffic at the clean up sink.


Initially, seating on one side of the long island was part of the plan. Further discussion created concerns as, due to the length of the island, such a layout would contribute to an unfavorable “cafeteria” feeling. I suggested creating an “L-shape” seating plan on the end closest to the refrigerator. Paul took this a step further by allowing the side opposite the fridge to be open as well to accommodate three or more people if they needed seating for informal gatherings. The stool on the refrigerator side could be easily tucked underneath that side without interference at other times.

Rohl sinks and polished-nickel faucets were mainstays for this kitchen, along with matching decorative cabinet hardware from Hardware Restorations. The floors, which were antique heart pine, were too red for Tom’s taste. The desire for darker floors seemed natural for this house—the floors were stained a dark brown.

Tile was selected in crackle porcelain finish—in Champagne and Cocoa colors hue to pick up these element in the granite tops.

Because we had a great team — meaning client, contractor, and kitchen designer — we completed the house by Memorial Day weekend. Paul and Tom continue to email me and let me know how happy they are with their kitchen.

Arlington VA Tudor Home kitchen restoration

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer, in the remodeled kitchen

Client Feedback:

Following a work assignment of two years overseas, we began living in our friends’ home last September while they were away for ten months. Their own home was expertly renovated by Commonwealth Restorations. When Paul and I bought our 110 year old home in December, we knew Commonwealth was a firm we should consider. Commonwealth’s owner Bob Strunk took on the renovation project for our home and from the outset, he suggested we would want to work with Sandra Brannock of Expert Kitchen Designs.

Paul and I had gone through many books and visited several kitchen design locations and were overwhelmed by the choices and the “cookie cutter” approach the designers offered us. We were renovating a historic property and wanted all of our ultimate selections to be integrated and cohesive in their entirety. While there were many nice components available at the design centers, it was an overwhelming decision process to achieve the “total fit” without the assistance of someone who could offer us a great deal of informed guidance. We quickly realized we needed such a knowledgeable guide who could work with us very closely throughout the entire kitchen design process.

Sandra’s first visit occurred at our house and she quickly grasped the basics of what we hoped to achieve. The size of our planned kitchen was large and Sandra guided us to the best design and function attributes from a broad perspective. She helped us to maintain proportionality so that “less really is more”.

Sandra also “spoke” the contractor’s language so it was no surprise to us that Bob had strongly suggested we use her. We learned to appreciate very much the importance of her knowledge of a contractor’s perspective. As a result, she anticipated and helped to forestall many issues before they became problems as she worked very harmoniously with Bob and his subcontractors.

Sandra guided us through the entire decision process and met with us at multiple distributors to have us see and feel the products we were deciding upon. She brought a great deal of intuitive insight to the process and worked extensively with Paul and I to bridge our often different goals.

Once the general layout, cabinets, and appliance decisions were made she developed very detailed and precise schematics. These went through several iterations and served several purposes. Sandra incorporated exact dimensions into the schematics and thereby “translated” our plans into the right language that the contractors could understand. Plus, the schematics gave us visuals into what our individual choices would look like when all combined into one cohesive product.

We would refer Sandra to anyone facing a kitchen redesign project. She was always available for to answer questions and to give gentle guidance for grey areas. She helped us make the right decisions and to pull together our dream kitchen. Sandra:

  • Worked as our guide
  • Made the difficult process easier
  • Was always ready to consult
  • Knows the industry’s standard metrics for functional kitchen design. (Space between island and adjacent counters, etc.)
  • Offered intuitive insights as to what we both sought but were unable to individually articulate.
  • Processed our goals and choices well and came back with appropriate suggestions.

We had gone through many books on our own to establish styles and concepts we both liked, but pulling those into a cohesive whole would have been very difficult on our own.

We visited several kitchen design centers where a cookie cutter approach was offered to us, which wouldn’t have amounted to much in the way of a cohesive finished product.

Sandra offered gentle guidance to steer us away from ideas that were either too big or otherwise not really good for our home. She has extensive design talent and architectural knowledge.

She asked the right questions to get us to identify our likes and dislikes and our goals. She then refined these into a workable and cohesive whole through an iterative process.

She was cognizant of the perspectives of contractors and anticipated issues that might arise. She went to bat for us as needed.

She meticulously assessed the ultimate kitchen appliance choices we made for functionality and suitability and then assessed them for their physical fit into the planned layout. She informed us where we would have to adapt space configurations, and she developed beautiful schematics that enabled us to visualize the finished kitchen in its entirety.

All decisions were made with space considerations in mind.

She worked to help identify common goals and preferences of two strong willed individuals who couldn’t always agree.

She quickly returned our calls and responded to our messages. She was a delight to wrk with throughout the process.

She is proud and knowledgable of her work and it shows in the beauty and integrity of our kitchen.

The size of our kitchen impresses on its own, but Sandra’s assistance in guiding us to suitable design features helped us to keep from choices that would have overwhelmed and exaggerated the space to the detriment of the overall effect.

She focuses on proportionality in her design which is very important. Less is more.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Reston Town Center Kitchen Remodel

Reston Town Center Kitchen Remodel

How do we get those cabinets and appliances up those very narrow stairs?

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaSeveral weeks ago I blogged about how to pick finishes for a kitchen. The kitchen referenced in that article is located in a large 4-story townhome right next to Reston Town Center in Northern Virginia. This townhome has extremely narrow staircases that do not easily accommodate the 100” tall oven and Sub Zero refrigerator cabinets the client wanted so that the kitchen could be “all that it can be”.

If you do not think ahead about entry and exit points for the delivery of new kitchen appliances, you can become quite unnerved on the day they arrive!

Thankfully, our careful advance planning prevented a panic attack.

Delivery Day

The cabinetry for this kitchen had been ordered 12 weeks earlier. Finally, the “big” day — delivery day -— arrived. I left early in the morning to drive directly to Reston, Virginia to meet the Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck and Brannock Built contracting crew.

Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck

Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck

Upon my arrival, the Pennville truck was there. It was a generous 43-foot-long tractor trailer truck equipped with “air ride” technology to ensure a safe, smooth, and secure ride for the kitchen cabinetry inside.

The first few cabinets were unloaded off of the truck. As expected, each was wrapped carefully with a its own blue quilted blanket for additional protection during transport. Nevertheless, as the cabinets were unloaded I still braced myself for possible damage just before examining them (a normal OCD trait of mine).

Thankfully there was no need to worry — after all, this was top-of-the-line Pennville Custom Cabinetry! Pennville cabinets take longer to engineer and build (right now, a 12 week lead time), but in the end, when you run your hands over the finish and view them in the sunny daylight, their exceptional high-quality construction makes them worth the wait. Pennville goes the extra mile to ensure that each cabinet is dimensionally correct and exemplary in its final form. In my experience, I have never seen a cabinet company with such high quality control standards. For discerning clients, Pennville cabinetry is always my top recommendation.



So what came next? Well we knew that most of the cabinets could fit easily into the narrow stairway up to the kitchen. For the larger cabinets and 42″ Sub Zero refrigerator, we had planned to use a different, albeit unconventional, means to transport these into the client’s home. We used a fork lift-—this exact one:

Lazy Susan transport

Lazy Susan transport

The one cabinet we did not anticipate needing a forklift delivery method was…the square corner lazy susan! Glad we were prepared.

sub zero in windowNext, we brought in the Sub Zero refrigerator. Yes, it came in through that window.

Other large cabinets making their way through the window....

Other large cabinets making their way through the window….

Plus a few other cabinets . . .

These pictures document our how our advance planning prevented last-minute delivery issues. We examined all the steps and logistics that could present a problem during delivery, and by doing so, we were able to carry out this phase of the kitchen remodel successfully and with minimal stress.

Here is the contractor, Guy Brannock who, after everything made its way into the house, is very happy that all of our preparation paid off. Bravo Guy!

Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!

Stay tuned for the next phase: the installation process.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.