The Idea House
Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood is a sea of construction these days. Small brick colonials are falling like dominoes to make way for spacious new residences. Amid this metamorphosis sits a modest white brick home, easy to pass by if not for its tangerine-hued front door. There’s something about the color and the simplicity of the façade that invites a second look.
In fact, said door opens to a mood-altering interior that is at once fresh and inviting, warm but surprisingly spacious. By a stroke of luck, building codes saved this house from meeting the same fate as many of the surrounding old-timers. Yeonas & Ellis, a custom-home builder that recently completed an enclave of new homes in the neighborhood, also purchased this house—not to tear it down, but to give it a transformation of its own in stature if not in size.
The firm hired architect Sherif Erfan, AIA, president of the McLean-based S.E. Partnership, Inc., to gut the interior and devise a more open, modern layout. When the construction was complete, they also planned to stage the house with furniture to help buyers envision the home’s full potential. Partner Stephen Yeonas recalled the strength of the interior design program at his alma mater, nearby Marymount University (he also serves on the Marymount board). He made a few calls, and thus was born the “Idea House” —a home decorated by a team of Marymount seniors and furnished almost entirely with pieces from Ikea.
“The house needed to stay the same size and Steve had a tie to Marymount and got them on board with the idea that it be a design department student project,” says Yeonas & Ellis partner Stephanie Ellis.
The student renovation worked like magic. Not only was the project a crowning glory for the Marymount design seniors, but they completed the entire project in less than four months, ably met their budget and bestowed new bragging rights on Ikea. Soaring above the big-box retailer’s propensity for adorning playrooms and college dorms, this home speaks volumes about the kind of results carefully crafted design can turn out.
“Ikea just fits the younger demographic for the neighborhood. Something with a more contemporary feel and modern lines made sense,” says Marymount professor of interior design Jean Freeman, who oversaw the project. “Just because the options are affordable does not mean they can’t have a high-level design.”
Indeed, at less than 2,000 square feet, the house lives exceedingly large. An abundance of natural light, an open floor plan and amenities including an enviable four bathrooms arose after the decision was made to gut the entire original interior. This allowed for a new conception of room space and, most importantly, the relocation of the former center-hall staircase.
“The problem with these old houses is that usually the staircase is in the wrong location. It takes up a lot of space and divides the house in the wrong way and you’re left with a lot of small rooms,” says architect Sherif Erfan. “Once we moved the stairs to the back, it gave additional space in the living room and downstairs and made the master bedroom a little bigger.”
Having a blank interior slate gave rise to some inspired ideas. The students re-imagined the original coat closet, which had been lost at the back of the living room, in a corner space off the new staircase. The move made way for a small first-floor powder room and an alcove in the living room that now houses an armoire.
Once the new structure was set, the Marymount team developed an overall color scheme of whites, grays and browns with bursts of citrus orange and turquoise in such details as the living room and master bedroom curtains and the cushy lounging pillows in the downstairs family room.
“We were going for something clean and sleek, with punches of color,” notes Marymount student Dawn Galvin. To make the carefully selected pieces pop, the students designated an accent wall in almost every room that introduces a new layer of color and texture. The house also boasts its share of environmentally friendly elements, including low-flow toilets, low-voltage lighting and a generous amount of natural fabrics.
The first floor’s open plan comprises a living room, dining area and an astoundingly well-equipped kitchen that packs an island, double oven, ConServ ceiling-height refrigerator/freezer, loads of storage and an 18-inch dishwasher. Black-granite countertops, frosted glass-doored upper cabinets and a stylish hood keep the kitchen suitably sophisticated. “We wanted to keep it somewhat dressy so when you look at the spaces together, they look like they really do go together,” says Jean Freeman.
Downstairs, they transformed what had been a dark-paneled basement into an inviting family room. A white leather couch and armchair, lush tangerine accent pillows, a computer desk and workspace and a cheery all-white bathroom lend the space a decidedly un-subterranean feel. If all that’s not enough to invite fun, an oversized Warhol-like image of David Letterman presides over the room on the far wall, perhaps soliciting Top 10 reasons why neighbors in loftier tear-downs on the street may just find themselves envious of this light and airy Idea House.
Catherine Applefeld Olson is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Virginia. Angie Seckinger is a photographer in Potomac, Maryland.
Interior design students from Marymount University
furnished the space, selecting everything from color
schemes to accessories.
Yeonas & Ellis renovated the brick house, gutting
the interiors. Architect Sherif Erfan removed the
center staircase, creating an open and light-filled
A bath features a pair of modern vessel sinks and
sleek mirrored cabinetry.
The kitchen makes the most of limited space with an
island, double oven, ceiling-height refrigerator/freezer
and loads of storage.
The design team transformed what had been a
dark-paneled basement into an inviting family room.
A white leather sofa and armchair, tangerine accent
pillows from Ikea lend the space a decidedly
un-subterranean feel. The oversized Warhol-like
image of David Letterman is by former Marymount
interior design student Christopher Kavanaugh.
The students designated a colorful accent wall in
almost every room.