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Striking garden takes center stage in Fairfax renovation

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Real Estate,Susan Wittman

Dennis and Carol Koeppel like to think outside the box, and, while they were planning their recent addition, the "box" was their 1969 brick Colonial in Fairfax County's Mantua subdivision.

Its dark, sequestered rooms, narrow hallway and scant windows were a separate world from their leafy perennial garden and inviting but underused brick patio. The Koeppels love to garden, cook and entertain year-round, but their house was cramping their style.

In the small, outdated kitchen, white appliances lined the walls and a solitary window stood over the sink. To access the backyard or powder room, guests traversed the laundry room.

RESOURCES
Remodeling: RJK Consturction; 703-218-1809; rjkconstructioninc.com
Exterior: Eldorado Stone; 800-925-1491; eldoradostone.com
Gable and kitchen windows: Andersen Windows; 800-426-4261; andersenwindows.com
Kitchen cabinets: New River Cabinetry; 800-366-2971; newrivercabinetry.com
Blue Lagos kitchen counters: Caesarstone Quartz Countertops; 818-779-0999; caesarstoneus.com
Belutaire granite island: Fairfax Marble & Granite; 703-204-2222; fairfaxmarble.com
Hubbardton Forge lights: Lamp and Lighting Gallery, Fairfax; 703-352-7771

"It wasn't very convenient for entertaining," Dennis Koeppel said.

Once their children left for college, the couple decided to act on their longtime dream to integrate the interior with the outdoors by expanding the kitchen, placing large casement windows and glass doors on the back wall, and reconfiguring rooms so the backyard panorama greeted them from the foyer.

The project required a leap of imagination for the homeowners and an engineering feat for RJK Construction in Fairfax. Bumping out the kitchen required demolishing the screened back porch and about half the rear exterior wall.

"It was truly a structural feat, considering the weight of the old brick masonry plus half the roof load," said Rob Kalmin, president of RJK Construction.

Kalmin's solution was to incorporate a 19 1/2-foot custom steel I-beam into the kitchen redesign. While supporting the weight of the house, the beam was sliced in two, installed one side at a time, welded back together and plated for extra strength. The kitchen was then extended by 8 1/2 feet.

"Columns would have been easier, but they would have obstructed the flow and view," Kalmin said. The finished painted beam blends with the ceiling, and cylindrical pendant lamps over the island lead the eye outdoors, not upward.

They used the same design principle for the granite island. The 8-foot slab's wavelike pattern leads the eye toward the garden. Intimate seating on three sides and no sink or cooktop means comfortable space for food prepping and schmoozing. Polished gray-blue quartz counters and a honed glass backsplash complement the island.

Walls by windows have no upper cabinets. "We don't need window treatments or framed art. Our yard is our kitchen art," Koeppel said.

The garden's earth tones are deliberately echoed indoors with natural stone, granite, maple cabinets and red oak flooring. But the floors posed another challenge, Kalmin said. A concrete slab lay beneath the addition, while the existing home had a subfloor with joists. Hardwood can be nailed to wood floor joists, but not to slabs, so Kalmin matched engineered and real hardwoods for a seamless appearance.

What began as a kitchen renovation became a whole-house remodel. RJK expanded the narrow hall and dining room entry, and placed the powder room near the kitchen and soundproofed it. Once the rooms were moved, the view from the front entry was clear.

"They wanted to make the garden the mosaic or mural for everyone to engage in all seasons," Kalmin said. "My job was to make it structurally happen."

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