By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
When Jaime Frittman and her husband moved into their house in 2013, there was much about it that just felt right.
There was a beautiful iron fence, a front deck and cherry trees in the front yard. There was a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace and even enough space in the dining room for the Frittmans’ rustic Ethan Allen table.
The neighborhood, in Fairfax County between Kingstowne and the Springfield Mall, is quiet, safe and unassuming, yet beautiful because of its location, Frittman said.
“It’s right off of Franconia Road and there’s this tiny road between two gas stations,” Frittman said. “A lot of people call it Roller Coaster Road. It’s got all these hills. It looks like nothing’s back here and you go up all these hills and then all of a sudden you’re in this beautiful neighborhood.”
But no house is perfect – at least at first – and Frittman and her husband immediately knew that the kitchen and master bathroom were in need of some work.
The kitchen had been sponge-painted yellow. Between the pine cabinets, black granite countertops and an oddly placed corner pantry and kitchen desk, the space just didn’t feel like home, Frittman said.
The bathroom was even worse. Although it conveniently had two vanity areas, sickly green head to toe tile and poor lighting made the space look less like a bathroom and more like a darkroom.
“You came in and the floor was emerald green, and there was a jacuzzi tub and up the case of the jacuzzi tub was emerald green, and the shower was emerald green,” Frittman said. “It was just too much. It kind of looked black almost. … It just felt ugly to be in our bathroom.”
An initial set of DIY renovations in the kitchen helped a bit, but the bathroom remained an ongoing problem. It wasn’t just an aesthetic issue; tiles were starting to fall off the wall and the room was beginning to show its age.
Eventually, Frittman told her husband enough was enough.
“I said to my husband, ‘We’ve got to do something about this bathroom. I hate our bathroom,’” Frittman said. “And he was like, ‘Bathrooms don’t really sell houses, kitchens do.’ And I said, ‘Well, great, let’s renovate the kitchen too. Sounds good to me.’”
Last year, the couple started bringing in contractors, many of whom kept on asking the same question: “What do you want?”
“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I just knew that I wanted something beautiful,” Frittman said.
After talking with a few contractors, Frittman saw the name Case Design in The Washingtonian and ended up calling the design group to see if they would be a better fit for the renovation project. Frittman knew right away that they had made the right decision, she said.
Case project manager April Case Underwood and designer Elena Eskandari began by offering the Frittmans several design options for the kitchen and master bathroom. Frittman was immediately impressed by how they had worked in creative solutions that she hadn’t even considered.
“One of the things that I had asked them to do was rework the pantry, and when I said, ‘Rework this corner pantry,’ I think I thought, ‘Make it more square and put in some wood shelves, so it’s not the wire [shelves],’” Frittman said. “They came up with these designs and in one of them they totally had ripped the pantry out of that corner, and suddenly my kitchen looked so much bigger in the digital design.”
Frittman and her husband started to nail down a design and before they knew it, Underwood and Eskandari were taking them on trips to warehouses and showrooms to pick out the right door pulls and tiles. Frittman knew she wanted the kitchen and bathroom to feel unique, like they had been designed with intention, thought and care, she said.
Once the couple started rethinking these spaces, they just couldn’t stop.
“My husband and I suffer from what’s called ‘might-as-well disease.’ ‘We’re painting the bathroom; might as well do the kitchen.’ ‘Well, we’re spending a lot on that. I might as well have this,’” Frittman said.
Now, the renovated kitchen features a new refrigerator, Thermador cooktop and, most importantly for Frittman, a spacious Bosch benchmark oven.
“[Before] we had a stove Christmas and an oven underneath it and that was fine, but I try to host Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, and I’m originally from the South, so we have to have a ham and a turkey and five casseroles even though three people are showing up,” Frittman said.
A new pasta arm is a hit with Frittman’s mother, who loves to cook whenever she visits.
“Three days later, you’re talking about something completely different, and [she’ll say,] ‘I still can’t get over that pasta arm,’” Frittman said.
A new blue patterned backsplash and hand-painted tile mosaic bring some artistic flair to the kitchen.
“Elena picked it out for me – I would have never picked it out myself – and she sent me this picture and she’s like, ‘I think you’ll love this.’ I really like patterns, but sometimes I’m afraid to put it in,’” Frittman said. “I love it. It’s one of my favorite things: this beautiful blue pattern.”
Despite the couple’s initial hesitance about some of the design choices, the kitchen redesign was such a success that the Frittmans are now shaping the rest of the house around the kitchen’s aesthetic.
“We bought a new sofa and we bought a new TV that’s mounted on our stone fireplace and have decluttered and changed some of our décor. I feel like all of that has been an inspiration from what we did in the kitchen area,” Frittman said.
Meanwhile, the design process for the master bathroom was pretty straightforward. The swirl of emerald green tile has been replaced with a bluish grey marble pattern. The floors are heated now and there’s a mosaic on the shower floor.
For Frittman, renovating the bathroom was an exercise in understanding how important the little details are, especially in a room that gets used on a daily basis.
“There’s just so many things that you don’t [think of]: A cabinet that closes so softly, that doesn’t have rough edges, or a piece of island stone that you don’t see in any other house that you go into,” Frittman said. “… I think Elena and April were a big part in helping me understand what my vision was and really were strong guides on how to manifest my style in a classy way.”
The renovation process lasted about three months, from about May to July of 2019, but the impact of that three-month process has stuck with the Frittmans. As military veterans – Frittman served in the Air Force and her husband served in the Marines – they had never really been able to make a space their own.
“My husband and I have worked very hard for a lot of years. There were a lot of deployments and this was kind of [recognition] that, OK, now that we’re retired and we’re going to stay some place, this is a way that we can really start making something our own, which we hadn’t really been able to do before,” Frittman said.
Now that they’re both retired from the military, the couple and their 5-year- old daughter feel more comfortable making their house into a home. They just have a little more work to do, Frittman said.
“There is this feeling that I feel like I have a beautiful home,” Frittman said.“Now, I have two more bathrooms that I need to renovate, but we’re saving up for that.”