Best Kitchen Renovation
With help from HGTV star Leanne Ford, former NFL player Gus Frerotte and his wife, Ann, created a cozy, timeless kitchen in their century-old Oakmont home.
photos by alexandra ribar
From the enormous table to the crackling fireplace, Ann and Gus Frerotte’s kitchen is surely welcoming. But what makes it the winner of the Best Kitchen Renovation award is the delicate balance it strikes: The room is designed with some of today’s most popular kitchen trends, and yet it has timeless appeal and a vintage style that will never look dated.
The Frerottes, collaborating with interior designer Leanne Ford, one of the stars of HGTV’s “Restored by the Fords,” and architect Greg Dutton of Midland Architecture, which has offices in Lawrenceville and Columbus, Ohio, chose items that are fresh and popular right now — large ceramic farmhouse sinks, classic white subway tile, a reclaimed wood table, exposed shelving and a white color palette with touches of black and wood tones.
While each of these elements are trending, their popularity stretches back to the era when the Frerottes’ century-old home originally was built. The space also is layered with modern touches — mid-century wire chairs at the reclaimed wood farmhouse table and two stunning industrial light fixtures over the table — so that it’s not pinned to any one era or style.
The result is timeless without being overly historical, according to Dutton. Ford adds the approach is a central part of her design work.
“I am very passionate about timeless design, which I think comes from mixing styles, genres and eras,” she says. “You never want to see a project of a home and be able to pinpoint exactly when that was designed. Interiors are meant to stand the test of time, especially kitchens.”
REALIZING THEIR DREAM.
After moving around the country numerous times during Gus’ NFL career — which took them everywhere from Denver to Miami to St. Louis — the family was seeking a permanent home in Pittsburgh; the Frerottes both grew up north of the city and loved the area. They wanted a place where childhood friends and family would drop in for dinner and good friends from around the country could come for long, relaxing visits.
At the heart of this vision: A warm, comfortable and down-to-earth kitchen that felt more like the downstairs servants quarters on “Downton Abbey” than anything the upstairs aristocracy would ever choose.
When the Frerottes discovered a century-old caretaker’s cottage in Oakmont, they knew it could be a perfectly cozy home base — but that it was going to require serious renovation: The original kitchen was about the size of a walk-in closet. The floorplan of the house also needed updating, according to Dutton.
The family dove in, working with Dutton, Ford and contractor Mark Patsey to realize their dream.
welcoming and inviting” Leanne Ford
PLANNING AND RECLAIMING.
Once they’d committed to a full-scale renovation, the Frerottes were able to create a space for socializing and serious cooking.
“Ann is an amazing chef,” says Ford, so the planning included plenty of counter space and ample storage, plus two full sinks. “A barebones remodel of a kitchen is such a different thing than just redecorating because you can really consider how you cook and what you need.”
One priority was saving as many materials from the original house as possible, which required some thoughtful, and creative, planning. At Gus’ suggestion, the old wooden floorboards became the ceiling, hung upside down so that the rough underside was exposed, holes and all.
While the couple used Ford’s help to buy many items, much of the kitchen was custom built.
“Annie found a table she really liked online,” which they then used as inspiration to make their own table using reclaimed wood from the house, Gus says. They also enlisted the help of Gus’ childhood friend, Ed Reitler, a woodworking teacher at the Otto-Eldred School District in McKean County near Pennsylvania’s border with New York.
“I told Ed, ‘Take our wood. Can you make us a table?’” Gus recalls.
When they couldn’t find the right metal brackets for the sturdy opened shelving they wanted, they turned to mechanic and craftsman Kenny Ellwood, owner of Krazy Kennyz Kustomz in Armstrong County, who built the brackets they needed.
The kitchen’s custom cabinets were made from alder wood with imperfections “that already feel like it has character to it,” Dutton says.
The cabinets were painted white, but they don’t have a perfect sheen or flawless finish. As the paint naturally gets worn over time, the cabinets will only look better. Like the informal subway tile and the exposed beams, those real-life imperfections only add to the beauty, according to Dutton.
Tying it all together is Ford’s luxurious, yet accessible, design sensibility.
“We used all very clean, simple and timeless elements in here,” Ford says. “But adding fun touches like the amazing double chandeliers over the kitchen table or the mid-century chairs with the farm table keeps things fresh and fun.”
Along with the stunning ceiling and large double sinks, the Frerottes also love their fireplace, which is open to both the kitchen and the living room. “When we opened the fireplace, we realized it wasn’t venting the right way,” Gus says.
The couple added specially tempered glass on the kitchen side that sends smoke up the chimney but keeps the fire visible and allows its warmth to be felt in the room.
“They wanted this kitchen and the entire home to be warm, welcoming and inviting,” says Ford. The final design is luxurious, dramatic and definitely an award winner, and yet “nothing is too precious.”
Contractor: Mark Patsey
Cabinetry: Mullet Cabinet
Appliances: Don’s Appliances
Flooring: Ceramiche Tile & Stone
Countertops: Dente Classic Stone
Countertops Installation: East Coast Countertops
Lighting: Restoration Hardware