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Bellaire home near Texas Medical Center gets stunning modern makeover

Bellaire home near Texas Medical Center gets stunning modern makeover

Elena and Yury Potylchansky appreciated their Bellaire home for its location and proximity to the Texas Medical Center, where they work long hours as doctors. But after living in it for more than 20 years, they were ready for a change.

They decided to start with the kitchen, completely reinventing the space as a room that fit their preference for modern design.

Built in 1991, the house was finished the way most would expect, and when the Potylchanskys bought it in 1998, they painted and changed the flooring. More than two decades later, even those changes seemed dated.

White Shaker-style cabinets with black granite counters, square ceramic floor tile and an island that ended with a circle of counter space where they could eat casual meals are gone.

More canned ceiling lighting was added to the kitchen, which didn’t have enough light even though it’s connected to the breakfast nook and family room, which have large windows.

The Potylchanskys have long, stressful work days and, like most people, want to come home to a nice, relaxing home. Soviet emigres, Elena and Yury were doctors working in their residencies in Russia when the time came in 1989 that they, like many other Soviet Jews, needed to leave the country. Though she grew up in Russia, Elena is a native of Ukraine, where her father and brother still live. 

They left their hospital jobs one day to file paperwork to go to Israel. By the time they returned to work, their employers had already been informed they were trying to leave. They were fired and their citizenship revoked.

Jewish communities in the U.S. were helping Soviet Jews resettle here as refugees, so the couple – then in their 20s – first found themselves in Springfield, Ill., in 1990, before coming to Houston for work. Though they’d been through medical school in Russia, they had to retake medical exams here and complete full residencies.

Now U.S. citizens, they’ve lived here more than 30 years.

Their interior designer, Stephanie Vaughan of Design Dwell Interiors, said that while the project began with the kitchen, it grew to include changes in their breakfast nook, family and living rooms, dining room and their large foyer.

The most obvious signal of its modern design are the cabinets Vaughan created for them. Instead of the usual wooden boxes that get paint and hardware, Vaughan had custom birch cabinets finished with sheets of gorgeous laminate for doors and exterior trim. The main cabinets are covered with linen fabric that get a high-gloss finish.

Complementary cabinets that are open shelves in the kitchen and used again as bar cabinets accessed from both the family room and living room – rooms that sit back-to-back and share a two-sided fireplace – were made with darker laminate in a stunning brown-striped wood design.

A wall that used to have double doors leading to their dining room was turned into a wall of cabinets with pull-out shelves, a solution to the Potylchanskys’ complaint that the room lacked storage. The dining room didn’t get used that much anyway, so changing its access didn’t disrupt much.

Their island is more functional – it and the perimeter counters are covered in Taj Mahal quartzite, which comes in a variety of colors, ranging from white to another that’s more gray to the one they ended up with in a color that’s more tan.

Amid all of those changes, the real kitchen showstoppers are the tall table extending from the island and backsplash that’s a mosaic of small rectangles of copper with a varied patina.

The table was custom made in Houston with a heavy acrylic base and a top of light-stained ash, and it was built to a height that could sit virtually on top of the island’s edge so it looks like a extension of the island. 

And the copper backsplash is eye-catching even when the lights are off, but when the under-cabinet lights are on, it positively glows.

Vaughan credits technology for the backsplash and the wider assortment of options when shopping for remodeling materials.

It makes it possible to cut and assemble the mosaic pattern more easily, as well as creating other types of tile that combine stone and other materials into geometric patterns. 

“Companies are investing millions of dollars in machines to make anything you can imagine,” Vaughan said. “I know that’s the case with porcelain that looks like marble and the ones that look like wood. It makes it so easy to fall in love with beautiful tile and put it in your kitchen.”

Even in a modern kitchen, display cabinets come in handy for displaying special pieces of porcelain, silver and crystal. The top row of the Potylchanskys’ cabinets are glass-front display cabinets with lights inside.

“There is still big demand for display cabinets,” Vaughan said. “They pronounce the scale of the room and draw your eyes up. And they provide more lighting, which is the unsung hero of every design. Without all of that detail lighting, you don’t get half of the visual interest.”

For flooring throughout the main living area, foyer and dining room, Vaughan found large-format rectangular porcelain tile – 24 inches by 48 inches – with a marbled pattern that put big taupe veining on a white background.

In the family room, built-in cabinets flanked the fireplace that previously had a simple black surround. One set of cabinets was removed to create a doorway that better connected the space to the formal living room. The other cabinets have the new modern laminate treatment, and the fireplace has a more dramatic treatment with African Noir marble, a black stone with brown streaks.

On the other side of the wall, the fireplace in the living room got a different treatment with a combination of marble in a pattern called “Camouflage” combined with strips of metal.

Vaughan said that since the slab wasn’t large enough to run from floor to ceiling, they cut it into four pieces, inserting three strips of metal to fill out the space. 

The foyer got a big makeover, too, changing the stairs from stained wood treads with white painted trim and hand rail. Now it has iron spindles and a handrail and treads made of stained white oak. A beautiful crystal chandelier is the finishing touch.

New to the foyer are a pair of modern, barn-style doors made of the brown striped wood laminate with strips of metal that can open or cover the entrance to the main living area, a beautiful addition that makes a big statement to guests as they enter the front door.

“The stair rail has a huge impact. When you see the difference in before-and-after photos, it is huge,” Vaughan said. “From, what they were to this is enormous.”

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