Rob McCarthy has always had a soft spot for mid-century homes. He grew up in Worthington in a 1950s house with Midmod’s signature simple lines, geometric shapes and nature-inspired colors. As he and his wife Leslie were looking for a larger home for their growing family of five, they were delighted when their friend and interior designer Jess Bodamer spotted one near his childhood home. Together they renovated the interior, with most of the work concentrating on the kitchen. The room is now open, works better, and has been updated with some fresh twists in mid-mod vibes.
“Growing up, my parents had a lot of mid-century flair,” says Rob. “And now it’s back in fashion with our generation.” While Leslie was a fan, she was hesitant to embrace an all-encompassing, mid-century modern home.
“Jess hit the right note,” she says.
The McCarthys and Bodamer became friends while studying law together at Ohio State University 15 years ago. After starting out as a criminal defense attorney, Bodamer decided to switch careers to interior design and opened her business, Double Knot Home. In 2019, she welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with the McCarthys as they began searching for a larger home for their growing family.
“We knew we wanted a walkable historic neighborhood,” says Rob, explaining that they’ve scoured several of Central Ohio’s older neighborhoods. Bodamer eventually found a home in Medick Estates, an 80-year-old neighborhood just blocks from downtown Worthington. While they liked the location, the wooded setting, and the stone facade, the interior needed an update.
“This house hasn’t been touched in a long time, so we could envision a complete overhaul rather than undoing someone else’s work,” says Bodamer. However, the McCarthys say the project required real vision.
“We had to trust that Jess would make the project special,” says Leslie.
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During the six-month renovation, many rooms were freshly painted and new floors were laid. Other rooms, such as the kitchen, were gutted and renewed. The result is white laminate cabinets and counters, and a peninsula of cabinets blocking the view of the casual dining area.
“The U-shape might feel intimate to some, but opening up the space made it more accessible for our kids to use and make it their own,” says Leslie, explaining how they now walk through the reconfigured space and operate the microwave independently and even enjoy some baking.
Working with contractor JS Brown & Co., they opened the kitchen and casual dining areas. To the side, they widened the doorway to a more formal dining room and freed up wall space for a large pantry and Sub-Zero refrigerator.
For the new kitchen layout, the McCarthys wanted plenty of storage space, an efficient cooking area, and a family gathering place where they would eat. Leslie also craved light colored cabinets – a change from the dark ones in her previous home. Bodamer responded with an open layout featuring a central island, wraparound cabinetry, shelving and a built-in pantry.
With a better working design, the next challenge was to choose a consistent color palette for the large space.
“How do you make the two spaces feel connected and not cavernous?” asks Bodamer. She suggested a warm color palette and natural materials to make the spaces feel cohesive and reflect the home’s wooded surroundings.
“We kept the overall effect light,” says the designer, who recommended saturated accent colors to ground the space.
In the kitchen, the project began with bold Carrera marble as the focal point of the space. Next, they ordered custom, two-tone cabinets from Schaad & Sons Cabinetry of McConnelsville. Flat paneled wall units were chosen in white to keep the space bright. For the base cabinets, they chose ash with a deep blue-brown stain to bring out the grain of the wood. Cabinet handles in a dark gun metal finish were added to add warmth to the space.
“The marble brings the case colors together,” says Leslie, explaining that she had to rely on Bodamer’s expert eye to visualize the two-tone look.
For the island, they repeated the dark stain on the base and finished it with an oak tabletop finish crafted by Edgework Creative. The oak top is coordinated with the oak floors and nods to the familiarity of the hardwood in mid-century design. For functionality, they included a second sink for filling food beverages, a low-set microwave for easy access by the kids, and a dining area with five leather-covered stools. To illuminate the island and sink area, they added pendant lights handcrafted by Allied Maker of New York. The stylish look is reminiscent of Globe lights popularized by mid-mod icon Joseph Eichler, who designed many mid-century homes in California.
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Across from the island, a large kitchen sink is strategically placed under a window overlooking the wooded backyard. A sloping roof presented a design challenge here.
“There was a tricky geometry,” says Bodamer. “For example, how do rectangular cabinets fit into a triangular sloping ceiling?” Her solution was to lower the ceiling to flatten some of the angle and install open shelving on either side of the window to compensate for the remaining slope and make it less noticeable do.
Another unexpected challenge emerged when the double oven was pulled out of a brick wall, revealing a structural flaw. A support for the chimney had been removed to make room for the device.
“Definitely a curve ball,” says Leslie, explaining that a new iron beam had to be installed before the renovation could proceed.
For the range, the McCarthys chose a large Wolfe gas stove with a plain hood—again to mesh mid-mod minimalism and balance the size of the sizable range.
In the adjacent casual dining area, a dark navy wall makes a bold statement with a row of built-in bookshelves framing a large picture window to the backyard. They finished the space with a table and custom banquette along a large window. On the other side, a brick fireplace is painted white and topped with a chunky oak mantle and flat screen TV above.
“During the pandemic, we’ve sometimes cooked three meals a day, so we’re really lucky to have this open kitchen that we’re spending so much time in,” says Rob. The only challenge is accepting that family life will naturally strain the new space.
“We had to accept our children’s marks on the marble counters and dog scratches on the new hardwood floors as a sign that we live here and here [those things are] the archeological sign of our family on the house.”
This story is from the April 2022 issue of Columbus monthly.