Home & Design

A Modern Acceleration

A 1960s contemporary takes on a visionary new form with strong connections to its natural surroundings

A Modern Acceleration

The brick on the original house was painted a dark
forest green to blend in with the HardiePanel siding
that clads the new volume on one side. The finished
exterior also utilizes cedar, shown on the entry trellis
and the addition.

Part of the beauty—and the challenge—of renovating a home is preserving the spirit of the original structure while creating a new whole. This was the task facing Yuri Sagatov of Sagatov Associates, Inc., when he embarked on a plan to overhaul and expand the 1960s Arlington contemporary that he and his wife Michelle purchased in 2003.

Built on a quiet cul-de-sac, the home is perched on the edge of a wooded ravine. A meandering creek below flows into the Potomac River nearby. Wooded properties located a few minutes from Washington, DC, don’t get much better than this one.

Despite the home’s shortcomings, Sagatov envisioned the full potential of the residence, whose previous owner was the architect who designed it. Like most homes of its era, it contained a series of small rooms, including an outdated kitchen, and had little connection with the surrounding landscape. But its clean lines and dramatic positioning had strong appeal. “The idea was obviously to make the house a lot different,” says Sagatov. “The previous house had really no windows across the back. The goal was to open up the back of the property and leverage the view.”

Sagatov approached the design carefully, taking time to get to know the house and the lay of the land. He devised a plan that would double the size of the original 2,500-square-foot structure with a four-story addition. The finished project would include a spacious new kitchen and great room, an airy loft, two new bedrooms and two new baths plus a lower level complete with an office, a rec room with a home theater and a bar and an exercise room. Careful massing would create a “dialog with the landscape” and conceal much of the new volume from the front of the property, where the façade would in many aspects remain true to its original form.

“I worked on the plans for about two years before we actually started,” says Sagatov. “A lot changes over two years. What you think you want changes. One of the advantages to living in a house prior to renovating is that I got to go through the seasons and got very familiar and intimate with the lot. Having that time to let the plans kind of gestate in the long run allowed me to best leverage the views and the orientation.”

Sagatov cites one of his greatest challenges as “trying to integrate the house so it architecturally looked like one, as opposed to an addition.” He selected exterior materials that would help blend the original structure with the new. The addition is clad in cedar and HardiePanel siding, while the brick on the original façade was painted a complementary dark forest green. Inside and out, natural surfaces and finishes reinforce a well-honed modern aesthetic.

In the foyer, an ascending staircase was removed to make way for a new bedroom on the second floor. To create a smooth transition from the foyer into the new volume, Sagatov concealed a 20-foot steel support beam in the floor system above. “The general idea was to create kind of an acceleration when you walk in. You come through the door and into this view,” he says.

The entry leads through the original part of the home, where the living room and dining room are still located, into the dramatic new space beyond, housing a gleaming kitchen and a great room with 24-foot-high ceilings ascending to an airy loft. By skewing the great room seven and a half degrees from the main bias of the home, Sagatov diverted the view away from the neighboring property. Massive windows frame nature’s glory all year round.

Designed with entertaining in mind, the kitchen features a 48-inch professional range, two full-sized sinks and dishwashers, a built-in espresso machine and wine cooler, and a large U-shaped island with bar seating. The kitchen/great room opens to a large screened porch perched over the ravine.

Throughout the home, natural materials echo its surroundings. “The goal was to create an organic contemporary, to blend a lot of exterior materials and bring them inside the house,” says Sagatov. “We used a lot of slate, Carrera marble and dark woods to create a blending with the forest.”

With no formal training in design or architecture, the “self-taught” Sagatov, 31, learned his trade on the job, working for the family-owned company his father Lou Sagatov started in 1985. “I grew up in the family business,” Yuri says. His experience paid off when the firm was awarded a 2007 Contractor of the Year award for his home in the category of entire house over $1 million.

Ready for the next challenge, Sagatov put this award-winning property on the market late last year. Construction is almost complete on his family’s new home in Arlington, built to be environmentally friendly from the ground up. “It’s extremely green. It will be the first house in Arlington with a full green ‘living roof,’” he says. “We think it will be the greenest house built in Arlington from the systems involved to the insulation to the green roof. It’s going to be a pretty cool house.”

Photographer Randy Hill is based in Washington, DC.

The renovation preserves the low profile of the original
home as seen from the street, while the side and rear
reveal the four-story addition that doubled its size.
Wrap-around porches enjoy views of the surrounding

The wall housing the built-in TV/entertainment center
delineates what was the rear exterior wall of the house.
Now a voluminous kitchen/great room extends from the
foyer in a smooth transition that Sagatov likens to an

A floating stair leads to the second floor and, above
that, a loft that seems to float in the treetops.

The kitchen features a built-in espresso machine and
entertainment center, a Carrera marble countertop and
two full-sized sinks and dishwashers. Sagatov painted
accent cabinets a bright green to pay homage to the
green masonite panels on the original home’s façade.

Designed with entertaining in mind, the renovated home
offers plenty of space to accommodate circulating guests.
The dining room and living room of the original home
were updated with wide-plank white oak floors. Slate
paves the entry floor.

Upstairs, the new master bath, with porcelain tiles,
custom-built cabinetry and a frosted-glass shower,
was designed to be a calming, spa-like retreat.

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