By Susan C. Ingram
The “before” pictures taken for designer Sharifa Wellman’s latest design/build project might beg the question, “What’s the problem?” The kitchen and dining area were outfitted in an all-white, modified French Country look. And while white-on-white can certainly spell “timeless” for home décor, Wellman says in this case the 1990s two-story colonial needed to be opened up, aired out and updated.
Sharifa and architect husband, Duane, of Wellman General Contracting and Home Improvements, LLC, in Gaithersburg, both have roots that run deep in the building and making spaces trades. His family were stone masons from Bermuda. And Sharifa, from New York, hails from a family in the demolition business.
They started their design/build business in 2007, followed by opening their Gaithersburg showroom in 2009. And although much of their work is bathroom, kitchen and basement remodeling, over the years Wellman says their project offerings expanded.
“We started doing windows and doors, wood flooring, drywall and painting,” Wellman says. “Just about everything: lighting, plumbing, electrical. We do it all at this point.”
Photos for the 1990s colonial project reveal a complete makeover, style- and color-wise, for the kitchen, as well as knocking walls down to open up the “compartmentalized spaces” on the first-floor level.
Everything in the formerly all-white kitchen, except for a cooktop and double stainless fridge, was replaced. Infusions of natural stone and wood, along with flooring combining complimentary colors, afford the space a warmer, less stark, feeling.
Toffee-colored maple-wood cabinets with a rich mocha glaze line the perimeter. With glass fronts and interior lighting, they reach straight to the ceiling, after removing existing soffits, allowing for more usable cabinet space.
The once-ubiquitous granite countertops, in such demand in the ’90s, are replaced with quartz, “for functionality and design,” Wellman says, adding that “practicality is a main focus.”
“We wanted to give the space a more open concept, and to modernize it, because it’s a little bit of an older home,” Wellman says. “I wanted to add some touches to bring it up into the current times, with grays, blues and taupes. And ‘greige’ is a nice new color: gray/beige.”
“It wasn’t in the dictionary,” she says and laughs, “but it is now.”
The kitchen flooring was originally wood, which has given way to a more functional luxury vinyl.
“The homeowner does a lot of cooking. So, the luxury vinyl is more practical because you don’t damage it. It’s waterproof,” Wellman says. “And it looks like tile, but it’s still warm.”
Wellman chose the flooring color as a unifying element in the overall design.
“The flooring is a mixture of colors and tones,” she says. “You get your gray, your beige, your browns. That’s one of the marrying pieces that brings the whole look together, because it’s got some of the color of the adjacent wood flooring. Some of the colors of everything are represented in that flooring, even a bluish-gray, which is the color of the new kitchen island.”
Meanwhile, removing a wall between the kitchen and family room and reconfiguring some doorways opened up the space, once broken into many, into a more contiguous, flowing design. And incorporating the color palette into elements in each room brings the whole redesign together, including in the first-floor powder room, where shades of caramel and blue are picked up in the stylish, new vessel sink.
For Wellman, beyond her own satisfaction with her work after a successful design/build, she said the most satisfying part “is giving people that final product, from where you started to where you finished, and their being really happy about it,” she said. “But the other nice thing is just meeting people, from all around the world, and getting to know their story.”