Hiring an award-winning architecture firm for a home renovation may strike some as a bold move. Hiring them twice? That’s simply audacious. But for Upper Arlington residents David and Susanne Grumman, design matters. And keeping their modern home modern was paramount. So they enlisted the talents of Lincoln Street Studio to create an indoor-outdoor space that would let in some light and expand upon their dining area. And then they called them back for a kitchen revamp.
“I don’t know if most people decide to hire an architect for a home renovation,” says David, who comes from a family of architects. “But I think my [family] background influenced my desire to work with one instead of a builder. I felt we wouldn’t get something interesting if we didn’t.”
Renovation No. 1: The Porch
The Grummans moved into their Frank Lloyd Wright-esque home in 1999 after living for several years in an Arts and Crafts house in the University District. They saw potential in the handsome 1952 build, but the home didn’t allow for the type of open, communal living experience they envisioned.
In 2005—after visiting the home of Lincoln Street Studio managing principal Ruth Gless during a Victorian Village home tour—they entreated the firm (and architect Joe Moss) for the desired renovations. Lincoln Street Studio, an architecture and planning firm known for ultra-modern builds (think Ohio State’s Science Village), obliged.
Up first was a screened porch addition that brought a bit of the outdoors into the home. To do so, they removed a deck that “looked a bit like a bandstand,” David says. “It was silly and extended too far off the house.”
The Grummans had two demands during the planning stage: They didn’t want the addition to darken the dining room or eat up too much of the yard. They had a vision for something different, although they weren’t sure initially what “different” would entail. They gave Lincoln Street Studio the freedom to “design something interesting.”
The results surpass interesting. An ipe wood exposed ceiling is supported by raw concrete, and a glass roof and skylight let in light year-round. A double-sided fireplace is a favorite of the Grumman’s two children during s’more-making season, while an adjacent water feature and a minimalist garden, also designed by Lincoln Street Studio, give the space some additional serenity. The natural materials and clean lines complement the home’s mid-century modern vibe, as do the industrial door’s asymmetrical panes of glass.
“We could give [Moss] very general ideas about what we wanted, and he was able to come up with something great,” Susanne says. “I guess if you’re not used to looking at blueprints, you’re really taking a leap of faith. And we did. We trusted [Lincoln Street] to come up with something that would work. And they did.”
Renovation No. 2: The Kitchen
The Grummans now had the additional space and some serious natural light, but their kitchen still lacked complete functionality, and the dining area lacked impact. The original kitchen was a U-shaped room characteristic of homes in the 1950s. A wall divided it from the rest of the living and dining space.
“[This area] has to accommodate a lot of traffic. It’s the highway to the rest of the house,” David says. “There’s a lot of interaction in here … a back and forth between the kitchen area and our eating space. We had to figure out how to make this more functional.”
Lincoln Street Studio’s solution was to knock down walls and open up the entire space into one seamless room, from kitchen sink to porch door.
In the kitchen, all upper cabinets were removed, giving the family new views of the front yard. A massive steel support beam was installed in the ceiling—“That was quite the operation,” notes Susanne—while a new island (with sleek, one-touch-to-open drawers) gives the cook a place to work without feeling confined.
“When I was in the old kitchen, there was no connection between me and the rest of the people in the room,” Susanne says. “My back was always to them. It didn’t feel social.”
In the dining area, floor-to-ceiling Brazilian wood lockers act as a contemporary mud room and give the family the storage they lacked. Above the table—the “family hearth,” as the Grummans call it—is a “bento-box” ceiling, featuring individual handmade lights. This lends a touch of whimsy to the space while still complementing the overall modern style.
“We love the ceiling. These lights are so neat at night,” Susanne says. “It makes the space feel modern, yet not cold.”
“One of my favorite things is the way the sunlight reflects off the pond and onto the lights,” David adds.
The finishing touches offer their own impact: Neutral walls (save for an orange showcase wall) let the glimpses of nature take center stage. A chalk wall in the kitchen is used for notes and to-do lists, while Royal Mosa tiles give the floor a weathered, leathery look. Brightly colored chairs (purchased from Hive Modern) are tidily arranged around a grand table that once sat in the architecture office of David’s grandfather.
For the Grummans, hiring Lincoln Street Studio was as much about design as it was lifestyle—and bringing in a team of talented architects was the right choice for a family that favors both functionality and style.
“For many [renovations], you can sketch something up for a contractor and say, ‘Do it.’ And they will,” David says. “But we worked with Lincoln Street because we wanted something different and exciting … it was more than just functionality. I love coming down and looking at this space. It’s actually quite interesting.”
As for Lincoln Street Studio, which designs only a few residential projects each year, the firm looks at each project for its own value, Moss says. The goal is to make each space sing.
“It’s not very often that we do out-of-the-ground work,” Moss says. “And we’re Modernists … so anytime we get a chance to do something that makes the Modernists proud, so to speak, is great.”
Adds Susanne: “Even if it is, fundamentally, a suburban home.”