Moving forward by looking back

An early 20th-century charmer in Juneau gets a makeover by looking back

Story by Mara Severin • Photography by Inua Blevins

When Heather McCarty purchased her early-20th century house with wonderful views of downtown Juneau, she knew she had her work cut out for her. The home had been remodeled once before in the 1950s, but those "updates" had simply removed the home's historical charm and left her with a dated dinosaur.

Recently, with the help of Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton of Bauer/Clifton Interiors, Heather's home took a giant step forward – by looking to the past. The kitchen – the heart of the home – received a lion's share of the makeover.

"Almost everything needed to be changed," says Jason. "We needed all modern amenities but we needed aesthetics that were in the period style of the home."

There's no such thing as 'too many chefs'

"Improving workability in the kitchen by creating work zones was a top priority to Heather," says Jeremy.

The new design nearly quadrupled the counter space and reorganized the work areas to make room for several chefs – an important aspect for Heather who loves to cook with her family.

For example, the custom-carved granite in between the clean-up sink and the prep sink is one of Heather's favorite new features. Grooves cut into the surface make it a drain board. On one side, dishes can be placed directly for drying; on the other, vegetables can be rinsed and drained. "It's designed just for me and my family."

Heather also wanted room in the kitchen for more guests. "I do a lot of entertaining," she explains. "I wanted to have a cooking area for myself, but also a place for everyone else to lean and stand. Now I can fit 25 people in my kitchen, easily."

Stepping out from the shadows

Special attention was paid to the lighting, which needed a major overhaul, says Jason. "There's task lighting, ambient lighting, and aesthetic lighting – pendants and chandeliers to give style," he says. "People often raise their eyebrows and say, 'that's a lot,' but so often you see spaces that have lighting but the people are working in shadows."

In addition to the wired lighting, the kitchen got a light transformation with the enlargement of the windows behind the sink. "The sunlight just floods in," says Jeremy. "In the darkest days of winter, it's a bright and cheery kitchen. There's a view of the spruce trees and up into the mountains. It's just gorgeous."

Cool countertops and clever carpentry

While the kitchen is outfitted with the most modern, professional-grade amenities – a Bluestar 6-burner cook top, a polished granite countertop, and a Sharp microwave drawer are among its features – great care was taken to keep the space warm and inviting.

"Heather didn't want pretentious space," says Jeremy. "She wanted something comfortable."

"I didn't want all granite and all hard surfaces," Heather explains. "They're harsh on the ear as well as the eye." The painted maple and stained cherry cabinets create a balance for the harder, more industrial textures. And the custom walnut butcher-block island, built by Thom Grogan, the contractor, is a homey anchor that keeps the kitchen comfortable and welcoming.

Perfectionists at work

The beautiful results, says Heather, are due to the combined efforts of passionate craftsmen – right down to the floorboards. The long, clear straight maple that was a highlight of the home had a black water stain on it that was too deep to be sanded out. Dan Gowdy, the floor craftsman, wanted to replace it while preserving its original beauty. "He found an old church near Seattle that was being torn down," explains Heather. "He found lumber in 16–foot lengths and replaced a third of the kitchen floor to make it look like it was original."

The original floors also had large metal vents that appealed to Heather aesthetically but had no practical value. Dan replicated them by inlaying black walnut into the floor. "He's kind of a perfectionist," says Heather.

A souvenir becomes a star in the kitchen

One of the most unique aspects of the new kitchen is the result of a happy accident. Heather had some original, glass-paned cabinets from the old kitchen that she insisted on saving, she says, "much to the designers' dismay."

Jeremy remembers it well. "It was being held together by paint and everyone thought that it would cost too much to refurbish it and make it usable." But, he says, "Heather put her foot down and said, 'I want it,' and it has turned out to be the perfect piece to accompany the design."

During the repatriation of the cabinet to its original room, Thom re-claimed a unique 1950's map that they discovered while doing some demolition. It was glued onto a piece of paneling and Thom used it as the back of the whole cabinet. They now call it the "map cabinet."

"It was refinished to dramatic results and is truly a key conversation piece of the kitchen," says Jeremy. "I really can't imagine the design without it now."

Modern amenities, a family-friendly and chef-friendly design, talented craftsmen, and an appreciation for the past combined to give Heather McCarty and her house the kitchen they deserve.