Custom homebuilder Ted Peterson and residential architect Robert Gurney regularly play basketball on the same court. But they had not collaborated on a building project until recently, when Peterson’s wife Tish urged her husband “to do something of the 21st century” in remodeling their Chevy Chase, Maryland, home. Seeking an up-to-date design, the Petersons tapped the architect to transform and expand their cramped, 1950s Colonial into a spacious contemporary.
“I knew my design would be well built,” says Gurney, noting Peterson’s skill with meticulous construction. The builder’s Washington, DC, firm, Peterson and Collins, specializes in working with top architects such as Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Stephen Muse to construct award-winning, high-end houses in the metropolitan area.
After buying their home in 1994, the Petersons remodeled a walk-in closet into a bathroom and enclosed a porch, but as their daughters Lane and Paige grew, they craved bigger, more open spaces. “Ted was never satisfied with the scale of the rooms,” says Tish, who works as the director of college counseling at the Holton-Arms School. “He is accustomed to building larger homes and wanted something more commodious for our family.” While Peterson considers Gurney “a brilliant architect who is committed to the modern movement,” the builder wasn’t completely convinced he could live in a Bauhaus-influenced home. “This kind of architecture can be harsh and sterile,” Peterson notes.
Tish, on the other hand, was all for contemporary style. “I said to Ted, ‘Let’s look forward and do something more modern’ and he eventually bought into it.”
Gurney more than doubled the size of their house while retaining a sense of the original gabled Colonial. “I wanted the additions to fit in with the rhythm of the street, so they are concentrated at the back,” says the architect. “The neighborhood has a lot of porches so we added one to the front to be consistent with that architecture.”
This steel-and-mahogany canopy extends across the front to a copper-clad addition at the side, which houses a bedroom suite for daughter Lane with a loft tucked under its vaulted roof.
Within the original Colonial, the living room became the dining area and its ground-floor windows were lengthened to provide more daylight. Behind the dining space, the kitchen was enlarged and opened to a room at the rear that centers on a round table used for everyday meals.
This informal dining area adjoins the new living room in a copper-clad addition built at the back of the house. On the upper floor of this extension, the new master bedroom is encircled by clerestory windows under a pyramidal roof.
The spaces at the back of the house now overlook an elegant garden created by Chevy Chase-based landscape architect Lila Fendrick to reflect the modern spirit of Gurney’s design. At the rear boundary, he added a simple, rustic tool shed constructed of dry-stacked stone walls that screens the view of the neighboring yard.
Inside the house, Gurney defined the threshold between the old house and the new addition with translucent windows. But it is hard to tell the difference between the structures since they are spatially well integrated. The dining room and attic guest room are simply separated from hallways by slatted mahogany screens. Built-in oak cabinets, ebony wood floors and limestone finishes repeated throughout the interiors unify the separate spaces.
Interior designer Therese Baron Gurney, who is married to the architect but maintains a separate practice, chose streamlined furnishings to complement the strong lines of the house. In the living room, sleek leather-upholstered Italian sofas and chairs amplify the colors of the veined marble surrounding the fireplace.
When she couldn’t find the perfect coffee and dining tables, Baron Gurney designed them to fit the spaces. In the casual dining room, “Bob wanted a big round table because the piece defines the identity of the room,” she says. “Ted selected the marble for the top and had it cut in his shop. There was a wonderful collaboration throughout this project.”
As a builder, Peterson ensured every detail was perfectly executed, from baseboards placed flush to the walls to seamless kitchen countertops. But even for this expert, the renovation didn’t always go smoothly. The discovery of a stream under the house delayed work on the new foundation, while a fire near the end of the project added months of construction to repair the damage.
Those setbacks, however, haven’t diminished the Petersons’ enthusiasm for their contemporary home. “As much as we knew what we wanted, Bob surprised us with something better,” says Tish. “We didn’t visualize how elegant and grand it would be.”
Washington, DC-based Deborah K. Dietsch is the author of Live/Work: Working at Home, Living at Work. Photographer Maxwell MacKenzie is based in Washington, DC.
ARCHITECTURE: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, and Claire L. Andreas (project architect), Robert M. Gurney Architect, Alexandria, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: Therese Baron Gurney, ASID, Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Lila Fendrick, Lila Fendrick Landscape Architecture & Garden Design, Chevy Chase, Maryland. BUILDER: Peterson and Collins, Inc., Washington, DC. ENGINEER: D. Anthony Beale LLC, Springfield, Virginia.