The Warmth of Home
By Darci Smith
Morning sunlight streams into the VanErmen family’s sunroom through four huge windows, brightening the yellow walls. Olivia, 3, and Hayden, nearly 2, play on the leather-trimmed sisal rug, while their father, Steven, relaxes in a wicker chair and “plays” with his laptop computer. Theresa VanErmen sips her morning coffee and warms herself next to the fireplace.
The sunroom is just one of Theresa VanErmen’s favorite spaces in her soft contemporary home built by Raymar Homes in Ada’s Darby Farms. The 6,500-square-foot house achieves a level of hominess for which the VanErmens strived – a place where family and friends feel comfortable kicking off both their shoes and worries for dinner parties and weekends visits.
“We wanted to make sure there was enough room for out-of-town guests and holiday gatherings,” VanErmen says.
They also wanted a house they could grow into, with plenty of room for children and toys, she adds. After looking at the houses by various architects, the VanErmens were most impressed with Kevin Akey of AZD Associates in Birmingham, and his soft contemporary style and use of large windows. For them, Akey designed a home with a open floor plan and huge windows to take advantage of the spectacular views of Ada’s rolling hills and countryside.
“We do max out the glass whenever we can,” Akey notes. Windows create openness and allow in more light, and the view from the VanErmen’s windows “is just spectacular.”
The main floor of the two-story home is especially open, with both a stone column and an open atrium-like stairwell extending from the second floor down to the finished walk-out basement. Nearly of the main rooms on the first floor – the living room, dining room, expansive kitchen and adjoining sunroom – are merely a glance away.
In the kitchen, maple SieMatic cabinets from DeGiulio Kitchen & Bath in Birmingham frame the room’s three walls and are topped with granite in seagrass. A SieMatic island seats four and houses a full sink, one of the kitchen’s two Miele dishwashers and plenty of storage. The cabinetry is also placed over most of the appliances: the dishwashers, two refrigerated drawers for beverages, and the Sub-Zero refrigerator.
The stainless steel range, a Thermador Professional, has a Gaggenau hood vented to the outside of the home to eliminate excess noise. A bar sink is situated conveniently by the range for food preparation, and the cabinets’ backsplash is made of tumbled grey marble tiles from Virginia Tile Co. The family computer sits on a low counter, providing easy access to e-mail and recipes on the Internet.
The kitchen also sets the tone for the home’s color scheme. A mosaic of Pratt and Larson handcrafted tiles above the range features yellow, cranberry and two tones of green, the palette selected by VanErmen and a color specialist. The maple floors in the kitchen and throughout much of the home are slightly stained to match the chianti cabinetry.
“We gave them the color of the cabinets so that they knew the tone to go with the finish, and we went as light as we could,” VanErmen explained. All of the custom made cherry doors were also stained to match the chianti cabinets, as were much of the wood details that add warmth to the home, such as the maple veneer beams on the main floor and square ceiling accents.
At the edge of the kitchen is the family dinner table in a coordinating maple. Sliding glass doors from the kitchen lead to the home’s upper deck, which is also accessible from the sunroom.
Two columns- replicas of seven larger columns on the outside of the house- frame the living room’s wide entry from the kitchen area. The columns consist of a foam core covered with stone, and are flipped upside down. “I think that’s what makes it look really unique,” Akey says.
“The house is really traditional material, but the columns really give a contemporary flair.”
The living room features a stone fireplace designed around a Pioneer plasma television, which is mounted above the mantle and is viewable from the kitchen as well. The fireplace, from Hearthcrest Fireplace, nearly reaches the top of the 18-foot ceiling. Its metal flues are exposed, and look like smoke stacks on an impressive ship. A large white wooden square also adds detail to the room’s ceiling and is graced with a hanging white ceiling fan with propeller-like blades.
A wall of huge windows rises from floor level to nearly half of the ceiling and are topped by large square windows with very simple muntins. The furniture is inviting: a stone-colored sectional with green pillows sits atop the taupe retro shag carpeting. A custom-built table, hand –turned out of ash with an ebony finish by David Bult, sits in the center of the room, which is balanced by two yellow ultra suede chairs. A custom cabinet by Raymar Homes hugs the room’s only available corner and holds the stereo, DVD player, VCR and, of course, toys.
Because of the high ceiling, the second floor loft is visible from the living room. Three bedrooms are tucked away upstairs as well a full bath with a skylight. A traditional loft sitting area features a wall of built-in bookcases and cabinets and more huge windows. Its southern exposure often beckons the family there for sun-filled afternoons. “I love to come up here and read if the kids are napping,” VanErmen says.
The formal dining room is next to the living room, and its openness allows the adults to dine yet still keep a watchful eye on playing children. The dining room’s only two walls are faux finished to look like leather, and its three huge windows look upon the circular driveway. Three maple squares on the ceiling above the table help define the dining room, and provide space for recessed and suspended lights.
A nursery, a laundry room, a full bath and a master suite with a hand-chiseled limestone fireplace and a private balcony complete the main floor of the VanErmen home. The bathrooms feature heated limestone flooring, and the master bath has a large shower with a tubular skylight and a garden jet tub.
Stone columns flank the home’s main floor entry, and match the stone of the fireplace. The entry faces the home’s open staircase, which is surrounded by custom metal railings from Christopher Metal Fabricating with maple handles. The staircase almost appears to float between the second floor and the basement. A wavy wall softens the landing to the basement, and a slew of finished space with 9-foot ceilings: the family room, a second kitchen, a playroom, the guest room, a full bath, an office and a craft room. A heated utility room in the basement leads to the garage and serves as the nerve center for the home automation system. In addition, an entry way from the basement leads to a circular stone patio with a built-in hot tub.
Horizontal cedar siding and cedar shakes painted greenish gray cover the home, and a free-standing curved roof covers the front porch. Touches like the porch are what made the project unique, according to Mark Pung, co-owner of Raymar Homes. “The curved roof is typically returned to the house, but the architect made it free-standing with windows (behind).” He explains. “It just adds to the character and the warmth of the house.”