Kathy and Gary Anderson have three kids, a dog, two careers and a large house in suburban Newark where they enjoy entertaining family and friends.
That active lifestyle is more of a pleasure than a challenge if you live in a home designed to go with the flow.
So how did the Andersons achieve a living space where the dining room table magically expands for celebrations, parents have a place to relax and the kids can grab a snack without creating a traffic jam in the kitchen? “We have a master plan,” Gary Anderson says.
When the couple bought the property 11 years ago, the house was turn-key, on a tranquil cul-de-sac in a great neighborhood. The wooded lot was adjacent to parkland.
Though there were no pressing projects on the do-to list, the Andersons knew they wanted to make improvements over time.
Their wish list gelled into a well-defined strategy when they sat down with Biff Bartron of BW Design Group to analyze their lifestyle and develop a list of priorities. He and business partner Kevin Weinstock also planned to ensure each individual project is banged out in a timely manner.
After all, it’s no fun living on a construction site.
“If you have a master plan, you can go at any speed you want to get exactly what you want from your home,” Bartron says. “If you fly by the seat of your pants, you are far more likely to get into trouble.”
A master plan for your home is just like a master plan for your life or your career. Think about how long you will stay in your home. Are you planning for a growing family or an empty nest? Do you want to focus on the public spaces of your home or is a private sanctuary your priority?
For the Andersons, the emphasis is on family and friends, so gathering spaces went to the top of their master plan. In order to achieve that goal, the couple was willing to move a master suite toward the end of the list.
“I love to cook, and we host family dinners for the holidays, usually about 18 people,” Kathy Anderson says.
At first, the couple considered bumping out the back of the house to enlarge the kitchen, which was their most recent project. Bartron came up with a design that makes better use of the existing space, saving the family the additional expense and inconvenience of taking down exterior walls.
The designer replaced an awkwardly positioned island with a peninsula that accommodates informal dining. The central work area includes a six-burner, commercial-style gas range, a pair of wall ovens, the sink and a large-capacity refrigerator.
Other elements—a coffee station, a pantry for snacks and a small, built-in buffet with an under-counter beverage fridge—are stationed just outside the work area.
“If someone wants a glass of wine, they don’t have to come into the kitchen where Kathy is cooking to get it,” Gary Anderson says.
As practical as it is, the kitchen is also glamorous, replete with custom touches. Glossy glass tiles are set vertically on the backsplash rather than horizontally. Electrical outlets are installed on the underside of the upper cabinets so as not to break up the expanse of tile. Cupboard pulls are mounted on the bottom of the door for a one-of-a-kind look. The granite counter next to the sink is routed to create a drainboard for glassware.
The designer also was responsible for researching products and materials in a marketplace teeming with choices.
“Biff took the guess work out of our projects,” Kathy Anderson says. “He would present us with several options, then we would choose.”
Bartron also came up with novel ways to maximize space. A shallow dead space in a kitchen wall was outfitted with shelves and electrical outlets to create a charging station for electronics and mobile devices. A framed picture mounted on hinges opens to access the station. The under-counter beverage fridge is recessed into the wall.
The first item on the master plan was making over the Andersons’ family room. The space already offered the benefit of a large, stone fireplace flanked by built-in cupboards. But seating was problematic. A petite sofa and love seat didn’t provide the casual comfort required for family conversations. “It was good furniture, but it was too precious for a family room,” Bartron says.
The solution was to relocate the pieces to the living room, a place far better suited to their scale and formal design.
In the family room, the Andersons brought in a big, inviting sectional sofa, slipcovered in deep tan microsuede, a fabric that is soft as a teddy bear, yet tough as a grizzly.
“We can launder the slipcovers in the washing machine and they come out looking great,” Kathy Anderson says.
A super-size coffee table provides plenty of room for snacks and games. The distressed wood finish is an ideal match for an active family.
“I can’t tell the difference between the dings from the kids and the dings that are supposed to be there,” Kathy Anderson says.
The Andersons enlarged the passageway between the family room and an adjoining sunroom to enhance the flow of natural light. A soft palette of sandy beiges and earthy browns unifies the open floor plan.
A bit more formal than the family room, the sunroom also serves as a grown-up retreat for Kathy and Gary, a place where they can relax on upholstered chaises, share a drink and take in lovely views of the woods.
Bartron designed an ottoman to serve as both an occasional table and a place for the Andersons to put their feet up. The custom piece combines the rugged good looks of leather and the refinement of dressmaker details. Antiqued brass rivets accent the pleated skirt.
An informal dining area bridges the space between the kitchen and the family room. Bench seating makes it easy to find a place at the table for impromptu guests. The rustic wood table also expands to accommodate a crowd.
In the formal dining room, there’s a round pedestal table with a solid top. It’s too small for large family gatherings, so Bartron came up with a novel solution. He designed a large, rectangular table top with fold-down legs that fits over the table, using the pedestal as a base.
“After the big dinner, we fold up the table and store it in the basement,” Gary Anderson says.
The walls in the living room and dining room are embellished with subtle, hand-painted vines and leaves, offering the pattern and texture of wallpaper with none of the hassles of replacement. Elegant crown molding is painted white, a contrast to the soft beige of the walls and ceiling.
“When the ceiling was white, I never noticed the moldings,” he notes. “Painting the ceiling really showcases the trim.”
His eye for design comes naturally. His grandfather, Norm Anderson, was a gifted illustrator who created art for print advertisements in the mid-20th century. After his death, the family discovered dozens of his works, neatly tucked away in the attic.
Today, the renderings are a hip, recurring theme, an expression of both sentiment and artistry.
“The paintings are extremely cool and very meaningful to the family,” Bartron says. “We knew immediately that we should frame them and display them throughout the house.”
A standard builder’s powder room also makes a unique statement with a dramatic vessel sink of chiseled stone. The pump-style faucet is mounted on the counter. Wrought metal sconces flank a large mirror.
“Biff showed us that even a tiny room can have an impact,” Kathy Anderson says. “It all comes down to determining what fits your style and your space.”