From the December/January 2013 Issue:

To Add On or Not to Add On

    Writer: Robin Amster | Photographer: Marisa Pellegrini | Designer/Builder/Contractor: John Bolling |

A Princeton-area renovation creates more open and usable space without an addition

Article Photo
enlarge | The Abrahamsens’ kitchen renovation, designed by builder/contractor John Bolling, tripled their storage and countertop space and added a new center island without needing to bump out the back wall for an addition.
It pays to reconsider. It certainly did for Jill and Glenn Abrahamsen, who wound up getting virtually everything they wanted for their renovated kitchen without undertaking a costly addition to their home near Princeton in Montgomery Township.

Their original idea involved knocking out a kitchen wall at the back of the home and building an addition to allow a larger kitchen. Enter John Bolling, the couple’s friend, then-neighbor and owner of Synergy Remodeling in Montgomery.

Bolling, who spent 11 years in the banking industry, had always enjoyed building things. He began helping two business associates renovate and flip properties and, with the economic downturn, decided to embark on a new career in remodeling. He founded his company seven years ago.

After a lengthy consultation with the Abrahamsens on their needs and desires—including more space in the kitchen and a larger laundry/mud room—Bolling says, “I told them I’m happy to do the addition but I can accomplish everything you want, with the exception of a larger laundry/mud room, and save you a lot of money. Would you want to do that?”

The answer was yes. By taking down the wall between the kitchen and family room, Bolling created a large, airy space with a bar/counter between the two areas and an island in the kitchen.

A year before the couple launched the kitchen renovation, they improved their family room by adding built-ins around the fireplace.

Article Photo
enlarge | John Bolling removed the wall between the kitchen and family room and in its place designed a bar/counter with ample cabinet storage and counter space for eating and entertaining.
A Better Option
Bolling’s plan did not add any square footage but his design tripled the cabinet and countertop space. The wall he removed had housed pantry cabinets and the refrigerator. He situated a new refrigerator on another wall and added storage in the new bar and island.

“I gave up a typical pantry with roll-out drawers, but I now use the cabinets in the bar as the pantry and this works much better—the food doesn’t get lost at the back of the pantry,” says Jill Abrahamsen, a former art director for Design NJ. “I also used to have to store serving platters in the basement. Now I have room for them in the kitchen.”

Bolling also brought in natural light and better views of the backyard by replacing one small window over the sink on the back wall with three large windows.

The only feature the design did not provide was an enlarged laundry/mud room. The money saved by not constructing an addition, however, made it easier for the Abrahamsens to purchase high-end appliances—a priority for a couple, who both love to cook and entertain—and cabinetry. A 48-inch, six-burner Wolf range, for instance, replaced “my dinky stove,” Abra­hamsen says. The couple received a tax credit for donating the old cabinetry and appliances to Green Demolitions, which removes and sells items to support addiction recovery programs.

In keeping with her casual style sense, the Abrahamsens chose cherry cabinetry; granite countertops with shades of black, brown and gold; a tumbled marble backsplash; gold pendant lights; and a brownish Roman shade with flecks of taupe and beige to pick up the colors of the family room rug. They replaced the kitchen’s tile floor with hardwood to provide continuity between it and the family room.

“Before, we had a tiny kitchen and a tiny family room with a wall between them” Abrahamsen says. “These are two rooms we live in, and we love to cook and entertain. Now it’s wonderful. I love being able to prep food on the island while the kids do their homework at the bar,” she says.” And when friends are over I don’t feel like I’m trapped in the kitchen.”

Robin Amster is a Madison-based freelance writer and editor.


Design/builder/contractor, John Bolling of Synergy Remodeling in Montgomery; kitchen design fine tuning, Gail Bolling of The Kitchen Co. in North Haven, Connecticut; cabinets, Brookhaven by Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry in Kreamer, Pennsylvania; countertops, Marble & Granite Fabricators in Trenton; backsplash, Daltile in Cranbury; window treatments, Calico Corners/Calico Home in Princeton; pendant lighting,; bar stools,; appliances, Sub-Zero refrigerator, Wolf range and hood, Miele dishwasher, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; family room built-ins, Damian Rozycki of A-1 Trim in Trenton; demolition, Green?Demolitions in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Fairfield.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)