Urban Update

A dramatic downtown do-over

Story by Mara Severin

General contractor
Northup Construction
Alaska Marble & Granite
Cabinetry by Omega
Millwork trim
Alaskan Wood Moulding Inc.
Wolf Double Ovens; Sub-Zero Refrigerators; ASKO dishwasher
Electric installation
Vannoy Electric
WAC under-cabinet hockey pucks and Juno recessed cans with Clear Specular Alzak Trim from The Lighting Gallery; Crystal chandeliers by Crystorama furnished by client
Kitchen plumbing fixtures
Pilar faucet by Delta; Kohler Farmhouse sink by Rizzo & Company
Backsplash/solid surface windowsills
Alaska Marble & Granite
Granite windowsills
Alaska Marble & Granite
Paint / sheetrock
Northup Construction
Gas line extension
Moore Plumbing & Heating
Bathroom plumbing fixtures
Brizo faucet and shower valves, Toto toilet, installed by Circle Plumbing
Vanilla Travertine and Oceanside Glasstile Insert at shower, by Alaska Marble & Granite
Capitol Glass/Northerm Windows

The condominiums at the top of Peterson Tower offer a unique lifestyle for Alaskan residents: Luxurious urban living. Rising above the heart of downtown Anchorage, it boasts sweeping views and an enviable location amid the best of the city's galleries, shops and restaurants.

Karen Snead, who purchased her unit in 1993, recently decided that her home wasn't living up to its full potential. It was stuck in a time warp and needed a thorough update – especially the dark and inefficient kitchen and the too-cramped guest bathroom.

"I wanted it lighter and brighter," she says, referring to the kitchen's dark and heavy cabinetry that she'd lived with for too long. "I wanted a better workspace," she continues, "and I wanted a look that was clean and uncluttered." Karen called Valerie Rizzo of Rizzo & Company to help her achieve her vision and the results are elegant, sophisticated and warm.

Valerie had her work cut out for her. "Before, the kitchen was just so dark and plain. The wallpaper reminded me of Kraft paper," she says laughing. "It just didn't do justice to the building and the space."

The design is traditional with a strong flavor of French Country. The pale painted cabinetry creates a clean, light and open feel. Two ornate crystal chandeliers lend sparkle and panache to the room. The warm, mellow colors of the Arandis granite and its subtle, metallic gleam brings warmth to the clean white surfaces. The floor – a vanilla travertine – adds a slightly rustic earthy note to the look.

The pass-through connecting the kitchen with the living room may be the grandest element of all. Scrolled corbels, echoing the ones on the custom-made island, add elegant finishing touches – hinting of a garden at Versailles. Valerie wanted to do more than just make a space in the wall. "I wanted to make it more of a furniture piece," she explains. The pass-through brings in light, communication with the rest of the home, and access to spectacular views of the port. "The space was closed up and we wanted to bring it all together," says Valerie.

"I was so happy," says Karen. "Before, the kitchen was so isolating."

The kitchen masterfully disguises its appliances with surfaces that match the cabinetry, allowing the focus to remain on the beautiful elements of the room. "I'm all about that," says Valerie. "I want to hide everything that doesn't absolutely have to be seen."

"It's a complex, pretty dramatic and large-scale kitchen," says Dave Northup of Northup Construction, who was the contractor on the project. "It has a certain grandness."

In the bathroom: Travertine, bronze and a bit of bling

"The bathroom is all about the tile and the stone work," says Dave. "All the floor tile started from 24" by 24" squares that we re-cut for the floor's herringbone pattern and the border," he explains. "We did it all onsite," he says. "It was fun, but it took a very long time." The resulting pattern of 3" by 6" rectangles creates depth and interest in a very tight space. The team repeated this trick for the shower floor – converting 2' by 2' tiles to 2" by 2". The tile is the same vanilla travertine seen in the kitchen creating a subtle continuity throughout.

The star of the room is in the distinctive, yet whimsical glass border that travels around the room at eye level. "We wanted to add some texture," says Valerie. "The one-inch tiles have the rough slate texture and the glass weave just makes it pop."

The faucet and shower fixtures are an elegant brushed bronze and the sink faucet has a crystal stopper. To add to the sparkle, Valerie installed crystal knobs on the cabinets. "That's her bling," she says.

Planning, plotting and perfectionism

Such an extensive remodel requires great communication and detailed planning between client, designer and contractor, says Karen. "I really trusted them," she says. "Everything was done smoothly and to schedule," she says, "and they were easy to talk to and respected my ideas."

"What I liked was the collaboration," says Dave. Sometimes, he says, a contractor isn't called in until everything has been ordered, is on its way, or is already on site. "It's a good idea to do the tweaks first," he says. "To discuss how the design is going to work in the real world – is it buildable?" And that, he says, requires a "huge frontloading of planning and thought. There were cabinetry sheets, floor plans and tile layouts. We had 150 pages of specs and dimensions. That's what made it go so smoothly. We figured it all out beforehand."

Valerie agrees. "It's all about detail, detail, detail. We want everything to be perfect."