Written by Brad Mee | Photos by Scot Zimmerman
With its boxy shape, low-sitting hipped roof, centered front porch and strong horizontal lines, Mike and Stephanie Orfanakis’ Salt Lake City home might initially seem like many other Foursquare-style houses built in the 1920s. But take one step inside and it becomes obvious that is where the resemblance ends.
Located in Federal Heights, the Orfanakis’ brick dwelling has many traits of Foursquare architecture influenced by pared-down Prairie Style: sparse ornamentation, large windows and horizontally-oriented details that lend it a simple, modern sensibility.
These features spoke to Kristin Rocke, the interior designer hired by the Orfanakises to help transform the timeworn dwelling into a high-style family home.
“You can embrace exterior architecture holistically or come at it from the opposite direction, but you always want to consider and reflect it in the interior design,” says Rocke. She was inspired by the “progressive-for-the-period” architecture, as well as by Stephanie—a graphic artist by trade—who craved a light and bright interior with clean lines and modern aesthetics.
The Orfanakises decided to buy the home the moment they walked inside but knew it would require a complete overhaul for their family of four. Overflowing with natural light from large windows, the interior was also filled to the brim with outdated furnishings, fixtures and features, from knob and tube wiring to a décor dating back to the Nixon administration.
Rocke and Stephanie quickly agreed on a high-contrast décor and modern style for the home’s new interior and collaborated to turn their shared vision of heart-pounding living spaces into a reality. “Kristin was game to try anything, as was I, and that’s what made our working relationship so fun,” Stephanie says. “Her experience, attention to detail and great taste made the remodel such a wonderful experience.”
“Our over-arching goal was to open the house to its maximum potential,” Rocke explains. Capitalizing on the structure’s strengths, she worked with Stephanie to develop and execute a bold design, leaving room for changes along the way.
“You have to be open and receptive to opportunities and ideas throughout the process,” Rocke insists. For example, the idea of a transparent open stairwell evolved into a stunning steel structure built on-site and modified during construction.
Composed of glass railings, open rift-sawn white oak treads and a broad, floor-to-ceiling glass wall on the main level, it performs as a functional sculpture linking the interior’s three levels. “It’s like a piece of art we use every day,” Stephanie says.
The kitchen similarly originated from a simple idea, morphing from “open concept” into a spacious, room where daring design and family life thrive. “It’s truly the hub of the home, where we come together to eat, do homework, make cookies and entertain,” Stephanie says.
A medley of striking materials and features animate the dynamic space. Epoxied white floors delineate the new kitchen and adjoining family room from the front areas of the house where original oak floors, recently bleached blonde, flow throughout. Devoid of detail, the white floors provided a blank canvas for Rocke, who has a knack for masterfully mixing jaw-dropping design elements.
Multiple cabinet finishes—from the working area’s high-gloss white lacquer to the bar’s ebony oak with blonde ash accents—advance the interior’s high-contrast décor, as do the countertops ranging from white quartz to honed, black-hued granite. Sparkling pendants provide a shot of glamour, while a cloud-like ceiling structure conceals a range hood cleverly inset above the island’s cooktop, keeping the ceiling planes simple and uncluttered.
In the adjoining family room, Rocke placed striking modern furnishings in front of a broad fireplace wall for which Stephanie designed a graphic pattern executed in large tile panels and steel strips. “It performs like a huge piece of art at the end of the room,” she says. A door discreetly hidden in the tile-clad wall leads to a new mudroom and laundry space.
Elsewhere in the home, Rocke orchestrated bold design statements intended to surprise and intrigue. In the living room, for example, the fireplace features an unexpected surround. “We stripped away the old tile and loved the raw texture and grid pattern of the underlying mortar, so we left it unfinished,” she explains.
In the dining room, an ultra-modern chandelier illuminates a space punctuated by violet-tinted mirrors placed like art above twin custom cabinets. And, in the small powder room, a solid Corian pedestal sink and riotously patterned wallpaper turns the small space from cramped to amped.
The result is an audacious interior that nods to the home’s historic architecture, while delivering a fabulous and function-forward design for a young family of four.
In the living room, a firebox is clad in the texture-rich mortar that remained after old tile was removed. Interior designer Kristin Rocke bleached the red oak floors blonde to add warmth and visually tie them to the blanc walls and ceiling.
Watch the video, here.