She says of the azure-blue floor, "I picked it because I wanted something happy and joyous, and in contrast to our dark winter days when you think, 'Oh, get me out of here.' "

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photos by Benjamin Benschneider

WHY IS IT that stepping into Marcie McHale’s kitchen, in her stately dowager of a home 102 years old on North Capitol Hill, brings up images of a crisp Baja beach?

Could it be the white-on-white contemporary cabinets and counters, backed by shades-of-white glass backsplash tiles? Or the large and also stark-white steamship of an island cruising down the middle of the room?

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Nope. Most certainly it’s the azure-blue floor; “Deep Ocean” is what it says on the Benjamin Moore can.

“I love blue,” McHale says. “I picked it because I wanted something happy and joyous, and in contrast to our dark winter days when you think, ‘Oh, get me out of here.’

“I go into our kitchen now and go, ‘Oh! Happy!’ “

It sure is.

McHale, a busy mom, had absolutely no trouble getting her architect and designer to go along with her happy-floor plan, because she herself is all of the above.

“We were lucky when we bought this house,” she says, “so much of it was well-maintained.”

But the kitchen wasn’t up to the task of servicing three teenagers, their friends, family dinners, parties. Too small, too old.

McHale, of McHale Design, ordered the room bumped out, swallowing a breakfast nook and a walk-in pantry. She also borrowed space from the dining room for a coat closet and wet-bar nook for the space you see here now.

“Who ever wants to get rid of a pantry?” she says, laughing. “But with the French doors to the porch it’s like we have another room, out there. The nook is outdoors, and we created a more welcoming space in here.”

McHale was fearless in her quest to plunk a contemporary kitchen prominently in her family’s home of deep box beams, chandeliers and cut-glass windows.

“I had a different take with the kitchen,” she says. “I wanted to explore the modernity of it. I’m not trying to match the style of the house. It’s neat and fresh and easy to clean.”

Counters are bring-it-on Caesarstone. Lower cabinets lacquered; uppers, glass and aluminum. “I went with a neutral palette, and the floor just pops,” McHale says.

Chris Miller of Susak Investments Building & Design crafted McHale’s plan. He even built a lockable pet door into the wall for Poppy, the family’s beloved Boston terrier (her painted portrait hangs in the family room) and Paddy, the cat.

Of course, even with an architect at the helm, the risk of scope creep is high for older-home remodels. This was no exception.

“We had to do some structural work, so we also remodeled the laundry room. And when we had to get new plumbing for the kitchen we also remodeled a bath and gutted a bath.”

In contrast to her pleasing shock of a kitchen, the exterior work blends without a seam.

“It was really important to tie into the existing exterior, so you wouldn’t know,” McHale says. “And Chris did such a great job matching the stucco and overhangs.”

Now that McHale has added her signature to their home — three floors, six bedrooms and 5,200 square feet — the kitchen has become the place to see and be seen.

“There are always a lot of kids over here,” McHale says. “I can put a lot of food out on that island, it’s 4 by 8 (feet). I didn’t put a sink in it, and I never regretted that. It’s just a lot of countertop space. Someone can be making cookies over here, and I can be over there.

“And I can just sweep everything off at the end.”

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

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