Byrd 10-16

Sun Design Remodeling is holding an “open house” in a recently renovated home in conjunction with the 12th Great Falls Studios Tour October 16-18. The residence owned by Joesph and Alison Lopez demonstrates how “open” floorplans are being effectively introduced into homes that previously employed a more traditional room configuration.

An artfully renovated circa 1970s Georgian Colonial will be featured in the 12th annual Great Falls Studios tour October 17-18. A comprehensive first floor makeover to the home of Joseph and Alison Lopez, the project by Sun Design Remodeling Specialists demonstrates breakthrough interior design modalities now being applied to traditional floorplans in older homes.

“There's a design revolution underway in northern Virginia,” says Sun Design founder and chairman Craig Durosko. “We find there's a lot of interest in what's being done. An open house is one way locals see what ideas may apply to their own homes.”

Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, a 30 year old design/build remodeling firm, has sponsored the Great Falls Studios tour since 2012. This year the event will feature the work of over 40 local artists in 26 locations around Great Falls. Work by fine arts painters Alicia Sommers and Karen Bateman will be on display in the Lopez home.

The Lopez renovation draws attention to space planning and design concepts that “open up” a traditional floorplan by selectively reconfiguring existing interior walls.

The original 2,700 sq ft house which the family purchased eight years ago was built around a standard center hall template with a front-facing foyer and living room that segued to a rear dining room, kitchen, and family room configuration. To gain more living space, Lopez converted a 280 sq feet screen porch to a sun room three years ago,

but the changes didn't resolve other inherent problems.

“The rear rooms were too dark and cramped, “ Joseph Lopez says. “Yet there was a lot of wasted space everywhere.”

Other shortcomings:

• With eight year old twins about the house, circulation in the kitchen was problematic. The traditional U-shaped counter space in the kitchen was as much a barrier as an asset. Storage capacity was limited. There was no place to display the children's drawings which hung from cabinets and appliances.

• The living room and formal dining room were mostly unused-- consuming a lot of first level square footage without much family benefit.

• The interior to the family room-- which included a working fireplace-- was notably dated.

• View and access to the lower-level play room from the kitchen was obstructed by a landing two steps down that required a 90 degree turn.

• Despite a beautiful setting that backs up to a 50 acre tree-filled easement, there were no clear sight lines from the kitchen to the back yard where the boys were usually at play when not in school.

“We had started thinking about making changes before we moved in,” Joseph said. “We had many ideas for improvements-- but didn't know what would work.”

Enter Sun Design's lead Designer Jon Benson and specialty designer Katie Coram.

“The first consideration was how to create a space plan that was consistent with how the family actually uses the house,” Benson recalls. “Everyone acknowledged that the dining room was too small and that the sizable living room didn't have much of a role in the family's everyday life-- so there was some useful square footage we could re-deploy.”

These observations in mind, Benson drafted a plan that deleted the wall between kitchen and dining toom to form a 30' x 14' family kitchen. The larger footprint created the space needed for a four seat food prep island and dining counter, a breakfast area and a substantially enlarged pantry.

It also allowed for direct access to the staircase leading to the lower level. With the kitchen extended, Bensen cut a new door to the downstairs and installed a straight staircase, making it easy for Alison to keep an eye on the boys from upstairs.

To improve natural light and sight lines, the designer eliminated the partial wall and sliders leading to the sun room, then designed a twelve foot opening utilizing “by-pass” sliders on a double track that telescope into the wall.

The result: Alison can easily keep an eye on the backyard from anywhere in the kitchen.

Equally appealing is a stunning indoor-outdoor continuum that brings the pretty wooded setting into visual range from every part of the renovated kitchen.

“The beautiful view is one of the main reasons we bought the house,” says Joseph. “Having it available in the rooms where we spend a lot of time is wonderfully fulfilling.”

Converting the unused living room into a spacious formal dining room with fireplace, likewise, satisfied the family's holiday entertainment requirements. As a bonus, the kids now use the dining room to start their homework just steps from Alison in the kitchen.

With space planning issues under control, Alison huddled on finish work details with Katie Coram.

“It was great bouncing ideas off of someone with her interior design skills,” Alison recalls. “There were so many details-- cabinet styles, colors and finishes; best granite options for the island counter top. Katie recommended a houndstooth pattern for the backsplash-- which really improved on the white brick-style design I had been considering.”

The stand-out inspiration, though, was Coram's suggestion that the family's “kitchen art” could be better presented in a 9' x 5 1/2” message board mounted on the wall between the kitchen and the entrance to the dining room.

A steel surface covered in porcelain, the board accommodates photos and art held by magnets, but also offers a handy place to jot down “to do” lists written in an erasible felt tip pen.

“It's a fun piece,” Alison says. “Just looking at it makes me smile.”

A guide for the Great Falls Art Studios tour can be obtained at or

Sun Design Remodeling frequently sponsors tours of recently remodeled homes as well as workshops on home remodeling topics. Headquartered in Burke, the firm also operates an office in McLean. For more information, call (703) 425-5588 or go to

John Byrd ( or has been writing about home improvement topics for 30 years.

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