Gutting for Grandeur

Photo by Wells Henderson

Rita Yerby is a career graphic designer who likes to direct her knack for creative logistics into her other passion: rehabbing old houses. Although she says she “never renovates them with the intention of selling, and I always think this will be the last house I do,” once she’s finished working her magic, the itch rises again: “I start to feel the need for another project,” admits Rita. (She renovated her last house in Birmingham twice before she and her husband, Mason “Gene” Miller, moved to Asheville.) At press time, this strikingly reworked kitchen — along with all the other rooms in the 1926 Colonial-style manor that shelters it — was on the market, and the next owner will benefit from Rita’s dramatic space configuration.

One can’t significantly change the exterior of a historic-district home — this one sits prominently in Asheville’s storied Montford neighborhood — so she was obliged to go hard inside, especially in the featured wing: at various points, the interior had been chopped into apartments and fused back again, resulting in a “tiny, awkward” kitchen separated from the formal dining room by a large bathroom. Rita expanded the kitchen proper into that old dining area, taking advantage of the light and windows in the home’s front section. (She created a smaller dining area off the back of the kitchen, segueing into a 20×20’ screen-in porch for al fresco entertaining.)

Mountain Marble engineered the waterfall-edge quartz island (flanked by Mid Century Modern Paul Frankl chairs) and recessed shelving below the windows. Another major custom appointment is easy-access drawer-style lower cupboards, part of a chic, white, flat-panel cabinetry scheme by Forest Millwork that, together with subway tile and a natural oak floor, breezes all the eras together. That unlovely blueprint is a long-gone ghost, and now the kitchen looks “unique without being overdone,” notes designer Amanda James of Forest Millwork. “I love the process of taking something ugly and making it beautiful,” concludes Rita.

Resources
Kitchen/Interior Designer Joel Linn and Amanda James, Forest Millwork Inc.
Cabinetry The Cabinet Studio at Forest Millwork (Asheville)
Builder Builtwright Construction (Asheville)
Countertops Mountain Marble (Asheville)
Appliances Haywood Appliance (WNC)