From the April/May 2023 Issue  

Down by the Lake

Writer Meg Fox  |  Photographer Jesse Jarrett  |  Designer Jill Jarrett, CMKBD, CAPS, and Jesse Jarrett, CKBD  |  Location Hewitt, NJ

Stylish upgrades and improved indoor/outdoor connections uplift a lower-level living area

Relocating the kitchen and creating a more open-plan layout opened up opportunities for a “gorgeous kitchenette featuring a wine column and all the conveniences of a larger kitchen,” co-designer Jill Jarrett says. The handsome bar pantry features retractable doors and a two-tone finish: “Graphite Gray” on the exterior to coordinate with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry and a lighter custom gray stain on the interior. When closed (above), the bar pantry “is all business, modestly flaunting its dashing, dark doors,” Jarrett says. “Open it and it’s party time.” Newly installed double glass doors (at right) lead to a covered porch with expansive lake views. The home’s main electrical panel (shown in before photo) had to be relocated to make way for the new kitchenette.

Magnificent water views topped a long list of things designer Jill Jarrett and her spouse loved about their new lakefront home in Hewitt, New Jersey. The property also serves as a vacation spot of sorts for their seven adult children, their grandchildren and extended family and friends.

The lower level, however, didn’t quite measure up. “It was straight out of 1960,” the year the house was built, recalls Jarrett, a Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer and co-owner of Jarrett Design in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. “Although Midcentury Modern can be well done, this was not.”

“The fireplace got a makeover, taking it from a dated brick façade to a sleek, hand-finished metal-and-concrete focal point,” Jarrett says. Note the ceiling’s structural steel beam — covered in reclaimed white oak  — which now supports the span in the open concept layout. BEFORE | The fireplace before the renovation. OFFICE | Replacing a door with a wall of windows transformed the home office and redirected traffic flow to the outdoors through the main living area. “The executive desk was designed using an exclusive door style and metal feet,” Jarrett says. The custom wall unit and desk have a custom gray stain on walnut with a deeper charcoal stain on the wood tops.
BEFORE | A former patio had been enclosed as an office space with French doors. “Its original flagstone floor had flaking yellow remnants of sealers from years past that were impossible to remove,” Jarrett says.

Among the drawbacks was the location of a tired U-shaped kitchen that blocked lake views, a wall that separated the living space from the kitchen and dining areas and a bathroom that sported its original pink and brown wall tile. Access to the outdoors was also cumbersome. “The only ways in and out were through the bedroom and office,” she says. “This was a full gut job.”

In collaboration with Jesse Jarrett, her designer son, a Certified Kitchen & Bath Designer, the duo set out to create an open-concept layout that welcomed light and waterfront views. This involved removing a wall that formerly divided the spaces. A large steel beam now supports the span. “We wrapped the beam in reclaimed white oak for rustic warmth to complement the crisp white board and batten on all the walls,” Jarrett notes.

To strengthen the lower level’s connection to the outdoors and facilitate traffic flow, the kitchen’s small window was replaced with double glass doors that lead to a covered porch with expansive lake views. Relocating the kitchen to the opposite side of the room against a long wall made the most sense. It also posed one big obstacle: the home’s main electrical panel would have to be moved, a costly and complicated process.

The designers stepped up the design of the stairway to the lower level with a new stained-wood and metal railing. Hollow slab doors were replaced with thick five-panel designs with matte black and white porcelain hardware. BEFORE | A wall previously divided the living area from the kitchen and lakefront views. The existing stairwell was plain and uninspired.

“I resisted this for months,” Jarrett says, trying instead to come up with a clever way to hide the panel in the new kitchen design. Eventually, Jesse “brought her to her senses,” she says, by designing a gorgeous kitchenette that had all the conveniences of a larger kitchen: a wine column, induction range, Galley workstation and more. “Somehow, relocating the panel [to a nearby laundry/gym area] began to make a lot of sense!”

Completing the kitchenette is a handsome, functional bar pantry with retractable doors, color-controlled lighting and adjustable shelves. “When it is closed, it’s all business, modestly flaunting its dashing, dark doors,” she says. “Open it and it’s party time.” Pocket doors expose two-tone cabinetry, a soapstone countertop and plenty of room for glasses and spirits.

To create a sense of privacy in an adjacent office, the designers replaced a door with a wall of windows that visually connect it to the lake, pool and outdoor entertaining areas. “Windows were added also to another wall that had none (not shown), creating a panoramic view from the desk,” Jarrett says. New French doors were installed to separate the office from the living area when desired, she adds.

The doorway to the bedroom was enlarged to allow room for a walker or wheelchair if needed. Space was also carved from this room to widen the adjacent bathroom. A double closet now makes efficient use of space.
BEFORE | The bedroom formerly had a small doorway and two awkwardly placed closets.

A picture light and new board-and-batten walls up the charm factor in the hallway leading to the bathroom and bedroom.

The bathroom was widened to accommodate aging-in-place needs without sacrificing style, says Jarrett, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. A roomy, curbless shower contains an attractive grab bar and convenient marble bench. Double sinks were incorporated into a furniture-style vanity made of reclaimed oak. Jarrett says: “New marble hex flooring gives a nod to Midcentury shapes coupled with white wavy subway tiles that keep the shower bright.”

Made wider to accommodate aging-in-place needs, the refurbished bathroom is fitted with a double sink, curbless steam shower and timeless touches. The custom vanity is made of reclaimed white oak.
BEFORE | A throwback to the 1960s, the existing bathroom suffered from a narrow entryway, a dated design scheme and cramped quarters.

Other improvements — such as new hardwood flooring, board-and-batten walls and thick five-panel doors — helped to elevate the once basic setting. And the dark bulky brick fireplace? It also received a modern makeover with a sleek concrete and metal façade. These and other upgrades “allowed the lower level to feel like a natural extension of the home without the basement feel,” Jarrett says, adding, “The increased lake views are wonderful. The space has become a favorite place for our family and friends to gather.”