The Kitchen is the Heart of the Holidays

The Kitchen is the Heart of the Holidays

During a recent weekend, my family and old friends gathered around my parents’ kitchen and blessed the food for the first Christmas party they have hosted since before the pandemic. My parents’ kitchen has always been more than just a place to feed the body. The conversations and laughter that have been shared while my mom whips up medal-worthy meals and my dad whips up his delicacies, like beanie weenie, are some of my favorite memories from growing up. For as long as I can remember, the kitchen has been the central part of the house I grew up in, and during the holidays the warmth I feel there extends to the many people we welcome in from the cold

Kitchen Addition wide angle

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that the hearth was the psychological center of the home. In the past the hearth was where families would gather around for warmth and cook their meals. But, as times have changed, it has become a bit obsolete as the anchor of the home. Central heating takes care of warmth, and the kitchen is now where meals are prepared and shared with loved ones. Someone, who I am sure was equally as wise as Frank Lloyd Wright, once claimed that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. So, as the location of where we make meals has shifted, so has the path to our hearts. 

kitchen, looking into the living room

Coming home for the holiday season means spending time with family, sharing meals, and catching up on life’s big and little events. The kitchen is often the busiest room in a home and because food is such an important part of familial culture and heritage, the kitchen becomes the most treasured room during the holidays. It is where recipes are passed onto the next generation and family history is made more vibrant amidst delicious smells and tastes. Opening the kitchen to the rest of the home not only increases functionality of the room, but it can also nurture greater interaction among family and friends.

wide-view of open floor plan. kitchen and second floor hill top house

The heart of your home may look very different from mine. We have designed kitchens that double as gathering spaces by using methods like opening them up to other living areas or adding large islands that can still conceal the mess that comes along with holiday cooking. Our work as designers is to ask you specific questions to figure out what would make your kitchen gathering space the dream you have always wanted. From renovation to new construction, we have seen so many different options and know what questions to ask to uncover just the right solution. In the gallery below, you can view a few of the kitchens that we have designed, each for a specific client’s needs.

So, as you gather together this year – if you find yourself thinking, “What if we made this little change?” give us a call to talk about your dream. We would love to help you figure out what is possible and what works best. We would love to help you enhance the heart of your home for future holiday seasons.

Mind Behind the Design: Adrienne Stronge

Mind Behind the Design: Adrienne Stronge

Adrienne with her husband Andrew and son Alister

If there is one thing we know to be certain, it’s that Adrienne Stronge is no stranger to hard work and setting big goals. As a licensed architect with 16 years of experience under her belt, Adrienne is a respected professional in our industry who credits her entry into architecture to small seeds that were planted throughout her life beginning as early as middle school.

Originally from West Point, Virginia, Adrienne grew up loving to read and research. Her first engagement with the world of architecture came when she participated in a governor’s school program that focused on researching historical regional houses. This experience of researching and building a house model planted a seed as she moved into high school and started paying more attention to the built environment. Also during this time, her family began buying and renovating houses which gave Adrienne a front-row seat to the ways small changes could dramatically affect the way a residence functioned. It was also during Adrienne’s high school career someone told her architecture was a “male profession” and that architecture school would be “too challenging” to get into. To that point, Adrienne fully accepted the challenge and earned early acceptance to one of the top architecture schools, the University of Virginia. Like all new challenges, doubt crept in and Adrienne recalls driving to UVA for the first time second-guessing her decision and the path ahead of her. Once she arrived, Adrienne immediately recalls a feeling of reassurance and an understanding that she was exactly where she needed to be.

Fast forward to her senior year at UVA, Adrienne was busier than she could have ever imagined. While taking a full course load, working four part-time jobs (you read that correctly, four!); she was also in the ecoMOD studio where her team built a modular house in an aircraft hangar. The house was built to be transported to Mississippi to aid in Hurricane Katrina relief and Adrienne traveled to the Gulf Coast three separate times to do relief aid and prep work for the Habitat House. Finding time for interviews was challenging and after talking to a few firms in the area, nothing was feeling like a good fit. That changed when, quite out of the blue, Ray Gaines reached out and asked her to interview at the Gaines Group. As it turns out, a former Gaines Group client who interacted with Adrienne referred her to the firm knowing she would be a good fit. Adrienne recalls the funny experience of not being able to find an interview time amongst all of her commitments and Ray asking her to spontaneously stop by on her way to work on the Habitat House. Ray said he didn’t expect her in interview attire and he wouldn’t hold it against her if and when she showed up in jeans with holes and liquid nail stains, and an old t-shirt. Although Ray was not expecting formal attire, he hadn’t mentioned it to Charles and Paul who questioned why the firm would be interested in hiring someone who showed up in a questionable outfit.

Adrienne officially became a Licensed Architect in 2022

Sixteen years into working at the Gaines Group and Adrienne is a licensed architect with a great depth of experience and a specialization in multi-family design. Her favorite part of being an architect is having an impact on the way people interact with the built environment. She has a special passion for designing environments that ensure accessibility for people of all abilities. This passion stems from a close relationship she had with a family member whose progressive disease confined him to a wheelchair. Adrienne was a first-hand witness to the challenges he navigated interacting with his built environment and the frustrations that came when his opportunities were limited due to accessibility limitations. For this reason, she especially loves working on multifamily projects where she gets to create whole communities with access for everyone throughout the site. These projects create unique challenges when considering accessibility, but Adrienne finds it extra rewarding to solve these design dilemmas. One of her favorite elements to design is accessible pools for people with all abilities to be able to safely enjoy. Additionally, she enjoys focusing on multifamily design as she gets to create smaller, efficient spaces that comfortably fit into an overall design goal while meeting budget constraints.

Outside of being an architect, Adrienne is busy with her family and hobbies. She has been married to her husband Andrew since 2007. Andrew is an artist and an illustrator known for live-printing and local comic-cons and together they travel to many of these local events. In 2020, they welcomed their son Alister to their family and the trips to comic shows have slowed down since having a toddler in tow. Their 16-year-old pug-mix Spudnik is also a beloved family member and together they love traveling and exploring new places. Adrienne has no shortage of hobbies and likes to unwind by reading from her large book collection and doing jigsaw puzzles. She and Andrew have a vintage robot and space toy collection that they enjoy “hunting” for at flea markets, antique stores, and yard sales. Andrew runs their small business buying and selling vintage toys, games, and books, both online and in their booths at a store in Richmond, VA (Odd Balls Collectibles).

Remembering Trevor Jones

Remembering Trevor Jones

It is with very heavy hearts we share that our team member and friend, Trevor Roman Jones passed suddenly on October 31, 2022. At the age of 31, his passing has left our team with a deep sadness and it has been difficult to find the words to express our grief. Below, Charles shares a few words in regards to the legacy Trevor leaves behind.

Trevor just celebrated 6 years with Gaines Group Architects. He was a member of New Store Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia where he shared his musical talents in their choir. After graduating from Buckingham County schools, he continued his education at Hampton University to study architecture. His love of architecture grew out of Legos and his passion for listening, discerning, and then designing viable solutions to the problems faced in the world. He traveled an hour to work each day to the Charlottesville office working on a wide variety of project types. He also volunteered with VA NOMA (National Association of Minority Architects) helping to start the VA NOMA Project Pipeline project in 2021 and continuing with the program in 2022. This year, I participated with him and was able to see him in action as a featured speaker and mentor. Project Pipeline is a week-long mentorship program for middle and high school students that are interested in architecture. 

Trevor was recognized at a statewide architectural conference, Architectural Exchange, in Richmond this past week on Friday for his efforts along with VA NOMA to create the project pipeline program in Virginia. Trevor, young in his architectural career, was recognized not for his design work but rather for his love of others and dedication to helping young people explore a career in architecture. 

At the funeral, it struck me that almost everyone who spoke told us they felt like Trevor’s brother or sister. He treated us all like family. He did not care about who we were or the baggage we arrived with at his door. He opened his heart to anyone that he encountered with a big smile on his face. Trevor was the epitome of a southern gentleman, a man of style and grace. He was a Christian man who loved everyone who knew him. Our team and I are devastated at the loss of our friend and coworker. 

Trevor’s legacy will live on in the lives of all those he befriended, called his brother or sister, laughed with, and loved with his big heart. I will miss you dearly, friend. Tell Ms. Jones hello for me and if you see my mom, tell her I will be there once my work here is done.

First Friday Christmas: December 3rd, 2021

First Friday Christmas: December 3rd, 2021

It is that time of year again and we are beyond excited to dive into another First Friday Christmas at the Chesapeake Western Depot. We are thrilled to get back to engaging with our community and getting back to what matters, building community. Santa once again returns to the R.S. Monger & Sons Window and Door Showroom and will be available for visits and pictures until 6:30 pm, First Friday Christmas will last until 7:00 pm there will also be drinks and cookies provided!

december first friday

We will also be featuring a pop-up art gallery in the upstairs offices, featuring Tony Distefano, Nicole Clatterbuck, and Lorie Mier! Please come enjoy the music of Red Wing Academy students upstairs at the Depot and purchase some presents from our artists! You can learn more about this event and RSVP to attend here!

Small Business Week: Restless Moons

Small Business Week: Restless Moons

Today we will be discussing a favorite small business Restless Moons! Restless Moons is a one-of-a-kind brewery that opened in February of 2018, located in downtown Harrisonburg. Customers often come for the limited edition experimental brews and stay for the exceptional staff. The bartenders that work at Restless Moons make an effort to not only be friendly with customers but to build friendships beyond the bar. Aside from the people who work to keep this brewery running smoothly, the location itself provides a cozy open atmosphere, with floor-to-ceiling windows and an open backyard (now featuring igloos!).

Aside from the inviting people and atmosphere, the hand-crafted beers are something to rave about. This dream has been in the making since almost 2008 and began with an at-home beer kit and a creative brewer. Their team also features custom flavors that have been inspired by their own family members and life events/occasions. You have to be sure to keep an eye on the rotation because as soon as these experimental brews are here they’re gone and replaced with a whole new batch of flavors!

You can learn more about the history of Restless Moons here, and keep up with what they have on tap.

Rocktown Turkey Trot: 2021

Rocktown Turkey Trot: 2021

It is that time of year again and we could not be more thrilled for the 2021 Rocktown Turkey Trot! The signup deadline for this race is November 15th for a guaranteed shirt, but online sign-up closes on November 23rd at 12:00 pm. You don’t need to be a seasoned marathon runner to participate in this event! Racers are welcome to run, walk or jog, in the Rocktown Turkey Trot and pumpkin pie cups will even be provided along the way! This event is not only an excellent opportunity for the community to come together, but also a great way to support the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank! The race will begin promptly at 8:30 am after the mayor pardons the Turkey Trot Turkey (yes you read that correctly).

You can also sign up your kids for the children’s dash that starts at 8:00 am, a great way to wear them out before Thanksgiving dinner! Our very own Charles Hendricks will be participating in this year’s dash and we hope to see some familiar faces out and about this year to support their community and enjoy getting back to being together!

For more information on this event or to see the route maps and check placing go to Momentum VA’s website here:

Signing up for this event is not just fun, VA Momentum that organizing countless events is a local company that needs your support as we continue to figure out how to navigate the pandemic. Alan and Kevin have worked hard to keep their events safe and evolve and change to survive.