Chris and Bob are homeowners who had recently moved to Ann Arbor from Boston. Their beautiful Colonial house has a classic charm that is evident from the street. The house incorporates several unique features that you don’t see in houses anymore, including a true butler’s pantry and a dumbwaiter. The kitchen opens out to a second-story deck that overlooks a spacious yard, and well-placed windows invite natural lighting throughout the house.

However, some of the frequently used living spaces had functional and design issues that needed attention. The smallish kitchen was the focus of the project. The kitchen’s work area was spread out, interrupting the flow of traffic, and the layout of the space wasn’t friendly to entertaining guests. The pantry, powder room and two upstairs bathrooms needed refreshed finishes that would marry a modern touch with classic sensibilities.

The homeowners wanted to introduce finishes to the house that were relevant to the neighborhood and respected the overall aesthetic of the home’s architectural style. It was important to honor the classic lines of their traditional kitchen while adding refreshingly modern twists of organic inspiration.

Designing a New Space

Chris had already done many renovations in other homes, and she had a very clear vision for this project. Our role was to implement to her vision and solve their circulation problems in a way that made the most sense.

Because the homeowner was a veteran with remodels, the process was very collaborative. Many design build companies shy away from that kind of partnership, but it isn’t unusual for us. Our clients are often very much a part of the design process, as well as the final product. While we have the experience and confidence to take the lead on design when homeowners need it, we also love being their creative partners when it makes sense.

We avoided trendy design decisions in favor of classic choices. The finishes needed to fit the aesthetic of the house itself, as well as the context of the neighborhood. While we wanted the final result to be distinct, attractive and compelling, we also wanted it to sit gracefully in the neighborhood.

To accomplish the project goals, we opened up the kitchen to improve traffic flow and create more space for people who entertain. We introduced built-in banquette seating to the area and customized a built-in desk space, which was unique to the house.

Gilman kitchen - desk and banquette seating

We also expanded the pantry and cleaned up the transition between the kitchen and the powder room. Upstairs, we expanded the space a bit in the master bathroom and updated the finishings.

Addressing the Challenges

Every project has its unique challenges and constraints, and this one was no different. At Giraffe, we take a lot of pride in the personalized way we address them. It isn’t enough to merely fix an issue—the integrity of the project demands that we find the best solution that delights our customers and rises to the level of inspired design.

Because the homeowner had her own vision, it was on our shoulders to find ways to incorporate them into the overall design in a way that honored the aesthetic of the home. For example, she had picked a moth-pattern wallpaper for one of the bathrooms. It was a challenging design to work with, but she loved the wallpaper. So our designer said, “Okay, let’s make this work,” and it turned out absolutely beautiful.

The client had also purchased light fixtures from Maine, but we needed to coordinate those fixtures with the others in the home. After some searching, we found ceiling-mount light fixtures that were the same style and mimicked the ones from Maine.

Gilman kitchen - island with lighting fixtures

Giraffe does whatever is necessary to make sure that the final product works seamlessly with everything the client brings to the table. We don’t shop at just one store, because our clients—and the build environment—deserve an elegant and graceful work of beauty. So we source from everywhere—local stores, out-of-state suppliers and all over the internet. There’s never just one go-to place.

During the project, we noticed that the house had settled, which made the trim uneven along the cabinetry. So we took care with the trim work at the top and bottom of cabinetry, to ensure that everything fit and aligned perfectly. We took great care to hide inconsistencies in the home to provide a very finished, tight look.

Our goal for every project is to deliver inspired design with excellent craftsmanship that delights our clients with a final result that they will show off to friends and family for years. That means we pay attention to the smallest details with an artist’s touch.

Delivering Delight

The final result was a reimagined kitchen, pantry and bathrooms with delightful patterns and textures. The kitchen space invigorates while remaining clean, soothing and inviting. Conscientious material selections connect classic designs to a modern aesthetic in a clean, spacious backdrop.

Gilman kitchen

The final product features inspired design solutions, including:

  • Silver granite counters
  • European fired clay tile backsplash, which reflects outside foliage for a vibrant splash of color
  • Salvaged red oak flooring
  • Custom seat cushions and eclectic moss wall paper that add whimsy and charm
  • New pantry that affords functional storage space
  • Powder room that incorporates charming furniture selections
  • Chrome fixtures and antique vintage lights
  • Local Michigan custom hardwood cabinetry

It’s a privilege to create a better sense of harmony within a house and to leave a project that feels seamless with the context of the home and surrounding environment. The design consistency throughout the house is much improved, and the homeowner was delighted with the result.

Your Own Inspired Living Space

Dreaming of your own inspired living space? Giraffe Design Build is a client-centric, design-driven company motivated by the belief that the built environment profoundly affects people’s lives. Together with our clients, our collaborative team of designers and craftsmen transform existing spaces into healthy, joyful sanctuaries where families celebrate daily life.

Call us today to start a conversation about your dream renovations.