Andrés Tremols, a graphic designer and fine artist, is a long-time collector of Latin American art. When he met Michael Reamy, a financial recruiter, the two began collecting together, mostly pieces by emerging local artists. Lacking adequate display space in their home, the couple sought a new environment that would combine light-filled interiors with enough room to showcase their art.
When they purchased a late-1940s ranch-style home in Arlington in 2005, they approached architect David Jameson with the challenge of transforming it into a modern, gallery-style residence. “If there was one thing I wanted to do for their collection,” Jameson recalls, “it was to give each piece its own place.” Thus began a process that would weave together the disciplines of fine art and architecture into an inextricable whole.
The awkwardly arranged house was sited lower than street level. The attached two-car garage protruded toward the sidewalk and its flat roof surpassed the height of the home’s gable.
Jameson started by building two towers. “The idea, design wise, was to celebrate the awkward form by extruding it with these two tower elements and stitch them back together, layering the house in a nice methodology,” he explains. Cement-board panels deftly emphasize the horizontal form of the ranch, linking the towers while accentuating the contrast in line and texture.
The basic footprint of the house remains the same. Yet inside, a reconfiguration of the existing first-floor bedroom spaces, coupled with a change in volume of the public spaces, transforms the 60-year-old structure into a modern home for comfortable, low-maintenance living.
A five-foot-wide pivoting door opens to the expanded entry. The terrazzo floor traces the home’s history. When Jameson widened the foyer, he borrowed space from an adjacent bathroom. New black terrazzo flooring in the entry reveals the former location of the bathtub.
Tremols and Reamy decided to retain the home’s original light terrazzo flooring—not only for its aesthetic quality but because they were determined to keep the renovation process green and salvage materials whenever possible. In addition to the bathtub “shadow,” the entry holds another humorous touch: a “secret” door leading to the kitchen, its opening apparent only at floor and ceiling level.
Upstairs, Jameson sculpted and molded interior volumes. A bridge over the kitchen leads to Reamy’s office and Tremols’s studio beyond. Born in DC to Cuban parents, Tremols spent much of his childhood in Central and South America and his art reflects this global experience. His paintings, glass works and digital media can be found in private and public collections worldwide. He is also a partner in design firm Vivo Design, Inc., and he is active in the DC art scene, serving on the Washington Project for the Arts’ board of trustees.
In Tremols’s studio, Jameson found an inventive solution to the dilemma of how to maximize light and wall space at the same time. High corner windows with not two, but three sides of glass create triple exposure to changing light. Ceiling rafters were recycled back into the house as a flooring material in the studio. Elsewhere on the second level, maple flooring complements the terrazzo floors visible from the bridge. “When you change the volume of the space, you really start to carve out the house. You create the ability of natural light to infuse and it makes the art much more ephemeral,” says Jameson. Nowhere is this more evident than in the living room. The expansive window along the bridge faces the street. As light pours in, it bounces off surfaces and casts interesting shadows without directly hitting the art.
The living room ceiling is essentially two stories high, yet walls do not extend box-like, straight up the entire distance. Carved and shaped, the space is an amalgam of forms opening upward while respecting human scale. Jameson’s affinity for the juxtaposition of geometries is reiterated in the relationship of rectangles in the windows surrounding the fireplace.
At the opposite end of the bridge from the office and studio is the master suite. The bedroom is located over the media room in the vertical, copper-clad tower. A large, to-die-for dressing room is located in the adjacent stucco tower where high, three-sided windows complement those on the studio at the opposite end of the house.
Clerestory windows are tucked into every conceivable space as natural light illuminates and casts shadows across white walls. This very livable home is a work of art for works of art, retaining the best of the old while creating an artistic legacy for the future.
Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Nic Lehoux is a photographer in Vancouver, British Columbia.
ARCHITECTURE: David Jameson, AIA, David Jameson Architect, Alexandria, Virginia
A five-foot-wide front door pivots open for an expansive
view past the entry to the glass wall at the rear of the
house. The framed terrazzo floor is original to the house.
The entry foyer was widened by taking space from an
adjacent bathroom. The black terrazzo flooring marks the
former location of the bathtub.