Restructured, re-styled, revitalized

A new layout makes one Juneau house lighter and more livable

Story by Mara Severin • Photography by Inua Blevins Photography


When Frank Bergstrom and Pat Bellec decided to remodel their kitchen and dining area, they needed to replace more than a room full of dated appliances – they needed to replace a dated design. "It was a closed-in design with two long, linear and narrow-feeling rooms," says Frank. The kitchen was banished behind a wall and cut off from the main living area. It was cramped and separate – a place for cooking perhaps, but not much more. "It seemed logical to put the two together," he says.

General Contractor
Thom Grogan, Forget-Me-Not Carpentry
Interior Designer
Jeremy Bauer & Jason Clifton, Bauer/Clifton Interiors
Granite, Verde Butterfly
Shaker-style in alder, Showplace Wood Products
Tech Lighting (track and pendant lighting)
Liebherr Refrigeration, Sharp Microwave Drawer, Broan Hood, KitchenAid range and trash compactor
Recycled glass, stone and pewter accents
Tile flooring
Ceramic, Parc Tile

The couple hired Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton of Bauer/Clifton Interiors to help them turn the space into an open, inviting and airy great room that brings the kitchen back into the fold and brings the whole home stunningly up to date.

Seamless structural strategy

Opening the space up was a straightforward plan but, as it turned out, not a simple one. The design team learned that the offending wall was the home's main supporting wall. Also, explains Jeremy, it supported the cantilevered walkway located above. So the design feat became an engineering feat as well. To integrate the rooms, the team added a header beam – but "recessed it into the floor joists in the second floor in order to achieve a smooth uninterrupted ceiling plane," explains Jeremy. Plus, they added a second beam to the outside of the balcony to support the walkway. "Although these large beams span the entire width of the room and may sound a bit extensive, they resulted in a seamless design that was completed in about a day," says Jeremy.

In addition, the new layout reconfigured the home's back entrance, which is the family's main entry. "The old layout had a path running through the laundry room and coming out where the new location of the stove is," he explains. "By changing this circulation path, we created a separate laundry area complete with a recycling center, plus storage for household items and outdoor gear that was off the main path." The new path became a butler's pantry that allows for groceries to be brought in and set on the counters. "The reorientation of the kitchen and changing the layout of the laundry/mudroom were what really made this project come together," says Jeremy.

"Jeremy and Jason are great engineers and really good idea-guys," says Frank. But he also credits the team they put together. "They have a close working relationship with the contractor, the painter, the electrician, and the dry-waller." After all, he says: "Someone has to execute all that good design."

Geometry meets geology

The new decor elements were chosen with an eye for integrating the newly joined living spaces, says Jason. He created a large-scale geometric floor pattern using 12" by 24" ceramic tile. "The same tile was carried throughout the main entry, hallway, kitchen and dining areas, and into the mudroom to create a better connection between the spaces," he explains.

While the house has "a slightly rustic appeal," says Jason, "the homeowners wanted to enhance some of the modern geometry found within. We were challenged to incorporate both design elements." Granite countertops in Verde Butterfly add warmth, color and a natural appeal (and also pay homage to Frank's profession as a geologist). A contemporary glass backsplash with a tumbled finish nicely marries modern flair with rustic warmth. Stainless steel appliances, hardware and faucetry lend an air of sophistication to the alder wood cabinets and wood flooring.

Developing long-term relationships

Many of the materials and appliances used are environmentally sound and energy efficient, says Jason. The backsplash is made from recycled glass, the natural stone countertops were selected with an eye to its durability, and Showplace Wood Products, a company committed to providing eco-conscious products, manufactured the cabinets. "We looked at things in terms of durability and a long-term lack of maintenance," says Frank. "We wanted good looks that will last a long time as a result of quality of materials and craftsmanship."

Saving both energy and space, the team installed a Liebherr refrigerator. "It's the most environmentally friendly refrigerator on the market, and its counter depth allowed for it to be placed in the narrow butler's pantry," explains Jason. Another space saving feature is the Sharp microwave drawer, which, Jason says, is the "ultimate placement within a kitchen for a microwave," says Jason. "It's a remarkable appliance that simply installs just below the countertop surface."

Lighting and highlighting

Frank and Pat also requested a new lighting plan – "one that offered rescue from the dark winter months," says Jason. In the kitchen, carefully placed recessed lighting serves as "great task lighting and highlights the face of the cabinetry, and the artwork," says Jason.

In the living room, additional lighting was needed that wouldn't disturb the cedar tongue and groove ceiling. "The flexible track lighting system by Tech Lighting achieved that," says Jason. "Plus, we added additional interest through the use of amber glass shades that highlight the colors found in the kitchen backsplash," he says. "The gentle arc of the track helps balance out the rectilinear lines found in the space."

Colorful illusions

Jason uses color in both subtle and bold ways to manipulate the space and to lend depth and interest. Walls of light tan provide cohesion between the ceramic tile and the wood flooring, cabinetry, and ceiling. Accent colors were used to create unity and the illusion of space, he says. "The tallest wall at the end of the living room was painted in a much darker, contrasting color to highlight the verticality. By continuing the color up into the second floor and on the far wall of the mudroom, these two walls act as a continuation of one another and create the illusion that the overall space is much larger than it is."

"Across the room," he continues, "the sage green wall in the living room/entry area balances out the green tones in the kitchen, while also giving identity and a boundary to the open area."

Surrounded by snowfall

Frank particularly likes the light that the new open layout brings into the house. "Juneau can be a dingy and dark place," he says. "You need to take advantage of all the light you can." His favorite thing to do in the remodeled space is to watch the snowfall, he says. "You can watch the snow fall on three sides of the house from one spot," he says. He admits that the project "grew beyond the original scope" of the couple's initial remodeling plans. "It looked so darned good, we had to do more," he says with a laugh. "I'm sorry we had to stop."