Artfully Done

A Hillside couple’s art collection inspires a transformation that goes beyond their kitchen

Story by Jamey Bradbury • Photography by Photo Arts by Janna

When Joe and Susan Franklin hired Grayling Construction to replace the floors and countertops in their kitchen, they didn’t expect the project to have a ripple effect that would transform much of the second floor of their home.

General Contractor:
Cody Lee, Grayling Construction
Interior Designer:
Stacey Dean, Grayling Construction
WAC Lighting Co., Pat Tomlinson, Brown's Electric
Valor, NortHeat Hearth & Home
Granite countertop & fireplace surround:
Kozmus Granite (fireplace) & Nuovlato Granite (counters); Fabrication & install by Mountain Tops, Ltd.
Island top:
The Grothouse Lumber Company, installed by Grayling Construction
Crystal Cabinets, installed by Grayling Construction
Teragren Bamboo, Curtis & Campbell
Rangetop, electric & steam wall ovens, 30" trim kit & dishwasher:
Kenmore, Sears
Range hood:
Venezia Wall, Zephyr
Brizo Brand Vuelo Collection, Central Plumbing & Heating

“We mentioned that, later on, we’d want to do the living room, too,” recalls Susan. “And the folks at Grayling said, You really don’t want to do it in pieces.”

Undertaking a larger remodel would result in a more cohesive look, Grayling designers advised – and so, after some budgeting, what was once just a kitchen makeover, suddenly became a project that now makes the Franklins feel as if they’ve moved into a whole new, modern home that’s exactly their taste.

Lost in the Past

Like a lot of Anchorage homes, the Franklins had a kitchen that was “a little stuck in the ’70s,” says Justin Anders, a designer with Grayling Construction.

Though the couple liked the room, there were upgrades they’d been longing to make. Formica countertops were replaced with granite that the couple made a special trip to Seattle to pick out. Grayling put in bamboo floors and frameless carbonite bamboo cabinetry, with stainless steel appliances and fixtures, including a touch-operated sink faucet. A double-basin Kohler kitchen sink give the granite a “seamless” look, says Justin.

“Frankly, Susan and I had some opinions that ended up not being great ideas,” Joe recalls – like the fireplace, a dark, brick wood-burning fireplace with a large firebox that took up too much living room space. The Franklins wanted to replace it. In Seattle, they chose a large granite slab flecked with mica for the wall that would surround the fireplace.

“When they went to cut into the granite, my idea was that the fireplace would be low,” Joe says. “No, no, they told me – you want it up at eye level so when you’re in the kitchen you’ll be able to see and enjoy it. They knew exactly what they were doing.”

No Cause for Concern

Joe had two concerns when it came to the kitchen floor plan and lighting. As the household cook, he enjoyed the privacy, freedom and the “separateness” the floor plan of his original kitchen gave him. Joe worried that a more open design would invite crowding into the space. And, when he realized a window he loved would have to be covered, he feared the kitchen would seem too dark.

“But Grayling worked with us to understand what we wanted and how they could accommodate that,” Joe explains.

The counters that had given the kitchen a traditional “L” shape were replaced with two granite-topped peninsulas that lend an openness to the room – but, to allow Joe to close the space off whenever he likes, Justin added casters to a butcher’s block island that can be wheeled wherever he chooses.

Justin also replaced a “funky” light fixture with canned lighting on dimmer switches. He chose blown glass pendant lights designed with a pattern that reflects the bamboo strand design of the cabinets and floors. The lighting, combined with the natural light that emanates from the windows of adjoining rooms, makes the kitchen one of Joe’s favorite rooms in the house.

Storage Solutions

“There’s no wasted space,” Joe points out as he lifts a garage-type cabinet door in the kitchen to reveal the kinds of appliances that would typically devour counter space – an espresso machine, a microwave. “Grayling looked at what we had and asked, How can we make the best use of every space? It’s a really smart design.”

Justin will tell you that Grayling’s designers are inspired by their clients’ ideas and lifestyles, and the Franklins supplied a wealth of inspiration through their extensive art collection.

“We love to travel all over the world,” explains Susan. “Our art comes from here and there, and from Alaska, too.” The main influence, though, is Asian art, the simplicity and elegance of which is reflected in the clean lines and uncluttered surfaces of the kitchen.

To showcase the couple’s collection, Justin installed small spotlights throughout the living room to illuminate the paintings that adorn the walls. Sculptural pieces and glasswork found a home on unique glass shelving hung from the area beneath the staircase with aircraft wire. When lit from above, the shelves appear almost to be floating.

“The staircase itself is a piece of art,” says Justin. “It’s very dramatic.”

The floating glass shelves, the flickering flames in the fireplace, the afternoon sunlight pouring through the windows by the staircase and the warm tones of the kitchen’s bamboo – it all creates the impression of a thoughtful, well-planned space. “Every room, every angle, is just so nice and so modern,” says Susan. “We feel like we have a whole new house, without the hassle of moving or losing any of what we love about this place.”

*The homeowners’ names were changed.