A Home Built for Entertaining

A well-built home gets a sophisticated makeover, thanks to the talents of two New Hampshire designers.

The airy kitchen—designed by Mari Woods, of Mari Woods Kitchen Bath Home in Portsmouth—is this Bedford home’s entertainment hub, a gathering place for family and friends.

When a young family relocated from Boston to Bedford, they had a list of must-haves for their new home: a contemporary yet family-oriented design, with ample space for entertaining.

The home that ticked off all the boxes is perched on a hill in Bedford with panoramic views of Manchester and the Uncanoonuc Mountains. Built in the late 1990s, the interior design of the brick house was outdated, but the homeowner, who is originally from Colorado, saw potential. “The house felt more like Colorado than the traditional homes we saw,” she says. “It’s open and light. The original owners did an incredible job with the architectural design. The home has great bones and is thoughtfully laid out, both functionally as well as to showcase the views from many interesting angles.”

To capitalize on those benefits, extensive interior renovations transformed the home—creating bright, open spaces for comfortable get-togethers, parties and easy family living. Even the bathrooms are design gems.

The fireplace, re-painted white, is the focal point of the living room, designed by Leslie Rifkin of L. Newman Associates/Paul Mansback, Inc. of Bedford.

Transforming the primary living spaces

The transformation was a team effort between the homeowner; her longtime friend Mari Woods, of Mari Woods Kitchen Bath Home in Portsmouth; and Leslie Rifkin of L. Newman Associates/Paul Mansback, Inc. of Bedford.  The designers collaborated on redesigning the interiors, with Woods taking the lead on kitchen and bath design, and Rifkin selecting colors, fixtures, furnishings, decorative details, flooring and surfaces. Woods and Rifkin already had some experience with the Bedford home: Woods had accompanied the homeowner while she was house-hunting, and Rifkin had seen the house on a kitchen tour. “It was custom-built for its residents at the time,” Rifkin says. “Now it needed to accommodate a different family with a different lifestyle.”

The first task was opening up the first floor, the heart of the entertaining space. “You couldn’t see the home’s amazing views,” Rifkin says. “There was a wall between the dining room and kitchen, and a transom ceiling separating the kitchen and family room. I suggested taking them down to make the rooms more inviting.”

Cherry floors throughout the downstairs were stained a darker brown, complementing the home’s new color palette—a mellow mix of taupe, brown, silver and soft grays, with punches of green, orange and white.

For the kitchen

The sunroom and pool kitchen, right off the kitchen and side entry, are bright spaces for seasonal entertaining, with a prep sink and counter area, ample storage, and two refrigerators and a dishwasher.

The kitchen, the hub of the primary living area, received a cosmetic update. The space is anchored by a large, u-shaped island topped with polished granite. The island’s cherry cabinetry was refreshed with charcoal gray paint and new hardware; the room’s perimeter cabinets are oyster. The appliances, except for a new gas cooktop, were purchased by the former homeowner just prior to selling the house.

“Now, the way the kitchen opens to the living and dining areas really changes how the house welcomes you,” says Woods, who helped the homeowner renovate her Boston home. “The way her Boston and Colorado homes were designed, she used the lower floors to entertain. She was going to do that again in this house, but the first-floor spaces in this house are really functional.”

The homeowner agrees. “The kitchen has a great flow, which facilitates interaction,” she says. “Friends and I can cook here while my daughter and her friends sit at the counter, eat and engage with us.”

For the living space

The dining room’s contemporary lighting from RH Modern adds sparkle to the space, also designed by Rifkin. The dining set was updated by reupholstering the chairs in a textured fabric that handles wear and tear.

Directly in front of the kitchen is the spacious family room, featuring a mixed palette of gray, taupe and brown, highlighted by green and blue accessories. Rifkin took advantage of the room’s multiple angles, creating separate areas to relax and socialize. Windows line the far wall, framing the outdoor views; cushioned window seats create a welcoming spot to read, play games or gaze outside. Rifkin and Woods redesigned the large built-in bookcase on one wall as a media center; a stone fireplace on the opposite wall received a facelift with a new raised hearth and a sleek, black stone façade.

Removing a set of doors increased access to the dining room, also off the kitchen. Rifkin transformed the space by painting a floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace on the far end white and selecting a dramatic light fixture from RH Modern to illuminate the room. The owner’s dining room set is updated with upholstered chairs by Mavrikis Upholstering & Furniture Designs of Nashua. Framed cut-paper artwork from Artefact Home|Garden in Belmont, Massachusetts, completes the space.

On the opposite side of the fireplace, a small living room welcomes visitors when they enter the home’s front entry. Comfortable seating by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams—including a fun fur ottoman from Jordan’s Furniture—and modern decorative accessories create an elegant but functional gathering space.

The home’s front entryway, just off the living room, was opened up by removing a half wall separating the entrance from the living room. A wood and cable wire staircase leads upstairs to bedrooms, an au pair suite and an office. Just past the stairs, a small, sparkling powder room reflects the home’s elegant modern design. Rifkin reinvented the space, using woven wallpaper and glass mosaic tile to complement a floating vanity (the original bathroom cabinetry was repainted and repurposed in the daughter’s bathroom upstairs).

Extending entertainment options

The home’s renovation was a collaboration between designers Mari Wood (left) and Leslie Rifkin.

The basement level extends the home’s entertainment possibilities. Originally an in-law suite,  the original kitchen space was reimagined by Woods as a bar and entertainment area. New appliances; sleek, Copenhagen granite-topped counters; and a mirrored wall are offset by a distinctive, eight-inch porcelain tile backsplash in a basket weave design.

Steps from this kitchen area is a temperature-controlled wine room (formerly a gym) with rustic granite walls, a cork floor, leathered-finish quartzite counters, and wooden wine racks and shelving from Vigilent, Inc. in Dover. Just off the bar and entertainment area is an elegant, Japanese-inspired bath—“Probably my favorite bathroom in the house,” says the homeowner—with textured porcelain tile and a floating vanity.

The outdoor spaces

A sunroom, pool kitchen and three-quarter bath are the home’s most recent additions. Overlooking the swimming pool, they’re easily accessed from the mudroom and main kitchen on the first floor. The room originally included a hot tub. “The kids loved it, so we lived with it until we had a better idea of how we wanted to use the space,” says the homeowner.

Cedar Mill Group of Webster worked with Woods to renovate the room. “The goal was to make the room tie in with the rest of the house,” says Nick Colarusso, vice president of Cedar Mill Group. “The hot tub area was really dated compared to the rest of the home.” (His crew had to cut it into pieces to remove it.)

The sparkling new space, painted white, is lined with windows and sliding doors opening to the patio and an outdoor kitchen. The space has two refrigerators—one for beverages, the other for food—as well as a prep sink and counter area, dishwasher, and lots of storage in high-gloss white cabinets and shelves. Guests can enjoy snacks at a wooden, picnic-style dining table at the opposite end of the room without having to run back to the main kitchen.

“I love having friends over in this room,” the homeowner says. “It’s a wonderful place to hang out after a swim, play games or grab a bite to eat without having to worry about the mosquitoes outside or kids in wet bathing suits running around on the hardwood floors in the rest of the house.”

Renovations to the home took nearly a year to complete. But the homeowner is thrilled with the result. “Mari and Leslie were fantastic to work with,” she says. “They helped me think through everything—bringing innovative suggestions, attention to detail and a keen sense of design to the project. They helped me balance functionality, which is my primary orientation, with style. I can’t conceive of having undertaken a project like this without their expertise.”

Categories: Architecture and Interiors