This designer turned a Berwyn Colonial into her dream home
Photos of John Friedrich
Interior designer Larina Kates has transformed a little colonial brick that needed a little work into a property with charm and flair.
Designate, Larina Kase, was looking for her dream home – and dream kitchen – when she visited a two-story brick colonial building on a leafy street in Berwyn. Most visitors would not have been impressed with the house. At 2,200 square feet, it wasn’t big enough for Kase, her husband, and their three active boys. Built in 1959, the establishment showed signs of wear. And the layout was completely wrong – choppy and lacking in flow.
So the interior designer took a pen from her bag and started drawing on the back of her agent’s brochure. Within minutes, she had drawn up plans for a two-story addition that would include a master suite on the second floor and a family room on the first floor, a veranda and an office. The centerpiece is a large kitchen brimming with natural light and a cheerful vibe.
Today the house is double its original size. The hub is a large, open plan gathering area where the family cooks, dines, plays games, and chats. Sunlight streams through skylights and large windows. Kase’s home office has the artistic vibe of a literary living room, while her doctor husband has his own contemporary workspace.
What about Kase’s original design? “I haven’t changed anything at all,” she says.
Vintage meets modern
To turn the sketches into blueprints, the Kases hired architect Liz Springer from Dames Design in Bryn Mawr. Chadds Ford’s DiPasquale Construction executed the plan. And although the design has a sober and modern edge, it retains a vintage charm. “Liz loves old houses and immediately understood my vision,” says Kase.
Kase naturally comes from his appreciation for older homes. Her father, an antique dealer, restored a house in Rochester, New York, built in 1911. “I watched my dad strip paint for years,” she says. “That’s why I always ask clients if they are absolutely sure they want to paint on natural wood.”
Kase’s mother is an artist and an educator in a gallery, her grandmother was a painter, an aunt is an interior designer and an uncle works in fashion. At Cornell University, Kase studied interior design and the impact of environments on people’s emotions and behavior. She obtained a master’s degree in commerce and a doctorate in psychology, ultimately specializing in the reduction of anxiety and stress at work.
As a designer, she designs interiors that reflect one overriding goal: to make people happy.
Part of Kase’s strategy for bringing joy to the family home is to involve children ages 12, 10, and 8. “My boys make a lot of design decisions, and I always run things through them,” she says. “They also helped demonstrate the wall near the foyer staircase, working with their little hammers.”
Right next to the cloakroom, the bathroom is the boys’ area. They chose a bright blue wallpaper, inspired by the changing rooms of the Philadelphia Union professional football team. The brothers also selected a coordinating tile in deep teal tones. The result is a practical, attractive space entirely reserved for boys.
A second bathroom is exuberantly feminine, with vibrant floral wallpaper in coral and gold tones. The curtains are trimmed with tassel fringes. “It’s as feminine as I wanted it to be,” says Kase. “Even my husband does not go in.”
The two home offices make life easier and more organized for two busy professionals. “During a pandemic, this is invaluable,” says the designer.
Her husband came up with the idea of placing travel and sporting event tickets under the glass on his desk. Meanwhile, her office is a nice mix of workspace and veranda, where she can comfortably sit with her laptop, surrounded by a wall of windows. “I don’t see clients at home too often,” she says. “But when I do, it’s a great place to meet them.”
When undertaking a whole home renovation and extension, it is important to plan the project as effectively as possible. The first order of the day: the construction of the addition of two floors and a basement with nine foot ceilings. Alas, the existing red oak floors in the original house were beyond repair.
Kase’s design required new white oak floors with six-inch planks, which collapsed after the original house was gutted, creating a seamless connection between the old and the new on the expanded first floor. The planks laid in a herringbone pattern create an impression of formality in the lobby. This formed the aesthetic basis for an airy and relaxed interior. “I’m influenced by the California coastal look – a feeling of calm, all neutral and soft blues and greens,” she says.
A “magical” cuisine
In this expansive space, a vaulted ceiling is defined by wooden beams and a massive island is topped with Danby marble quarried in Vermont. The stone was chosen for both its beauty and its practicality. “It’s denser than other marbles, so it’s less likely to stain,” she says. “And it’s perfected so you don’t have to pay for it.”
“I’m influenced by the California coastal look – a feeling of calm, all neutral and soft blues and greens,” she says.
The white Shaker-style kitchen cabinets were from Beyond Stock, a custom furniture maker in Ephrata. The simplicity of the design does not compete with the verdant view of the woods framed by three large windows over the kitchen sink. A commercial-style eight-burner range is crowned with an arched range hood accented by metal strapping.
Vertical sliding cabinets are ideal for storing spices, baking sheets, cutting boards and place mats. Drawers provide the essentials of under counter storage in a style imported from European kitchens. “It’s so peaceful – nothing too bright, nothing too bright,” Kase says.
Table for seven
The kitchen opens up to a relaxed gathering area. At lunchtime, they meet at a large round table made from maple by Amish artisans. “It can accommodate seven people – our family of five, plus my parents,” Kase says.
A formal dining room with a pedestal table and two balloon style chandeliers is positioned between the foyer and the gathering area, providing special space for vacations and entertaining. On a daily basis, it refreshes the eye, serving as a transition between the entrance to the house and the main living room. “It’s like sherbet between dishes in a restaurant,” says Kase.
Upstairs, the main bathroom reflects this same light and sober atmosphere. The counters, walls, and floors are all made from the same species of pale gray-veined marble, which is cut into slabs, tiles, and mosaics to create classic patterns. An oversized shower is equipped with an electronic starter that memorizes the user’s preferred water temperature.
Seamless glass doors visually expand the space “and are much easier to clean”.
To stay on budget, Kase used an age-old designer’s trick of combining high-end touches with cheaper choices. Polished chrome fixtures that complement the nickel hardware of the above sink sconces cost 25% less “and still look good.” The small antique glass crystal chandelier that hangs above the tub was designed for a nursery. “Half the fun of designing a home is knowing how to make it all work,” she says. “At the end of the day, we have everything our families need – and more.”