Seven years ago, well into her first pregnancy, Kirstin McGowan was getting anxious about finding the perfect house where she and her husband, Sean, could raise their family. They found it in an unlikely spot in Mechanicsville, Bucks County.
“I drove past this road a million times and always thought it was a long driveway,” said Kirstin, vice president of sales for a health-care consulting firm. “I didn’t realize there were actually 10 houses back there. We are a cute little neighborhood all on its own with a feeling of community, yet seclusion.”
The suburban location is perfect, Sean insisted, “but we also drive by farms and see cows and horses. You can get that country feel, but you’re not far from the action.”
While the neighborhood was ideal, the 2,400-square-foot Dutch Colonial home, built in 1981, needed some work. The first floor was comprised of many small, choppy rooms, lacking the flow the couple preferred.
“Like many families, the kitchen is where the action is, and we wanted to make that the focal point,” Kirstin said. “It was dark, closed off, and really hard to get everyone in the kitchen together.”
So last year, they gutted the first floor. Renovations included bumping out the front of the house, replacing the second front door with a picture window, taking out the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and adding a second sliding glass door to lead to the back patio and yard.
“We had a vision of being in the kitchen area preparing dinner while the kids are in the breakfast nook spread out on the big custom table,” Sean said. “They’re doing Legos now but it will eventually be the homework table.”
The McGowans have two daughters: Charlotte, 6, and Eleanor, 4.
To help make their concept a reality, the McGowans called in Amy Cuker, owner of down2earth Interior Design in Elkins Park. “Kirstin had all the colors and fabrics she was dead set on,” Sean said, “and Amy came in and brought that vision to life.”
Now, the open space allows a natural flow between the kitchen, dining room and breakfast nook, all white with blue accents and brass fixtures. “I wanted something with a modern French twist, but not too country,” Kirstin said.
In place of upper cabinets, glass shelves highlight Sean’s bourbon and whiskey collection, with nearby windows bathing the area in bright natural light. His crown jewel: a rare 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle.
“Some of these bottles are like pieces of artwork,” Sean said. “We worked closely with our electrician to create the right lighting, and the glass shelves allow a lot of natural light through.”
The kitchen is where the family spends much of their time, often cooking for family and friends. Their annual “Plaid Party” includes upward of 50 guests, dressed in fancy tartan and plaid.
“We realized once we had kids, we didn’t have occasions to get dressed up and do just adult stuff,” said Kirstin. “We felt like we needed to create it.”
Their organized kitchen makes cooking and entertaining easier. The couple hired a cabinetmaker to create dedicated drawers and cabinets for all their kitchenware. A custom-built area amid the island is devoted to their yellow labs: 3-year-old Milly and 7-year-old Bentley.
“The island has a place to tuck away the dog bowls because there’s nothing more annoying than tripping over them in a tight kitchen,” Kirstin said. “The kitchen is beautiful, and you walk in and see the fancy glass shelves and bourbon, and there’s something really grounding about then seeing the dog bowls. It shows the importance of the dogs in our house.”
Upstairs are four bedrooms, the parents’, one for each child, and an office for Kirstin. The blue-and-white theme continues on the second floor, though the girls’ rooms are pale pink with a unicorn theme.
Especially now during the pandemic, the family spends most of their time in the kitchen. The island has become Sean’s makeshift office, and the girls spend time reading and playing in the breakfast nook, Kirstin’s favorite spot in the house.
“The brass foot bar gives the kids a place to pop their feet so they’re super comfortable,” she said. “It’s a beautiful cozy corner.”
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