When a Virginia couple bought a 1960s contemporary split-level home a stone’s throw from Lake Barcroft in late 2006, they had a few improvements in mind. The structure had small windows placed high on walls that barely revealed the waterfront panorama unfolding just steps away. “The house itself was functionally obsolete,” says the wife. “None of the systems were worth keeping.” In short, it was boxy, dark, dingy—and ripe for renovation.
So instead of moving in, the couple hired KohlMark Group (formerly Kohler Homes) to design and build an updated version of this diamond in the rough. They envisioned a dramatic, light-filled structure with a two-story living area, a modern kitchen, an enlarged master suite and a two-car garage. They also wanted to create a strong connection between the house and the lake, where they keep a small pontoon boat.
Mark Kohler, president of KohlMark Group, and architect Bill Fletcher of KohlMark Architects faced many a challenge formulating their plan. For one, the homeowners had a limited budget and hoped to retain as much of the original structure as possible. They were equally motivated to create an eco-friendly home that would have minimal impact on the environment during—and after—construction. Complicating the process even further, the home is sited on land protected under strict Chesapeake Bay watershed regulations.
Kohler and Fletcher set out to enlarge and reshape the home within the parameters of setbacks and other limitations. “The lake,” says Kohler, “was the driver of the design. But ordinances only allowed us to add on so many square feet. We played with the shape a little bit to maximize the views but regulations dictated what we could do. We tried to be as creative as we could within all those constraints.”
The architects raised and angled the roofline from front to back to provide visual interest and create passive solar gain through new second-story clerestory windows. They designed a spacious foyer with open-tread stairs leading to an angular rear addition that delivers the airy, light-filled living space and lakefront views the clients desired. The plan also included an addition on the north side of the home with a kitchen at ground level and an enlarged master suite above. Unlike the previous kitchen, which was located in the front of the house with a street view, the much larger new kitchen would offer panoramic water views, with glass doors opening to the backyard and lake. The ground level would also feature a new powder room, media room and guest bedroom suite while on the upper level, the design called for two bedrooms with en suite baths for the couple’s children, an open office space overlooking the vaulted living room, and rear decks that gaze out over the lake.
When construction began, Kohler and his team soon discovered the house was in worse shape than they had anticipated. After they uncovered rusted and perforated heating ducts, sub-standard floor sheathing and worn insulation, they decided to pull out all of the floors and interior walls and build from scratch. “It is basically a new house in an old shell,” says Kohler.
Throughout the process, the team took measures to reduce waste and minimize the home’s environmental impact. The homeowners donated the old appliances, bathroom fixtures and cabinets to Habitat for Humanity. They preserved the home’s original two-story fireplace; its old masonry is now clad in beautiful stacked-stone tile. And they re-used the concrete slab and roof of the carport in the construction of the new two-car garage. They also chose Benjamin Moore’s low-VOC Aura paints, formaldehyde-free insulation and energy-efficient windows and HVAC systems.
Details throughout the home reflect its mid-century modern origins, from the stacked stone on the fireplace to the open-tread stairs. The owners selected transparent glass panels on the floating stairs and landing and stainless-steel rails on the exterior teak decks to reinforce the home’s sense of openness. “We spent more than we wanted,” says the wife, “but the things we spent money on—the deck rails and the stone and the glass rails—are so much a part of the house now that I just can’t imagine it without them.”
Since moving into the home in January 2009, the owners have enjoyed their refurbished vantage point on the lake—which won KohlMark Homes and Kleppinger Design Group 2009 Contractor of the Year awards for whole-house renovation.
Though the homeowner has lived in the Lake Barcroft community for 23 years, this is her first house on the lake. “It’s so peaceful to live on the water,” she says. “It was a real dream for us. There’s always something going on out there: birdlife, wildlife, fishermen, ice skaters, swimmers. In the summer, neighbors come by on their boats and stop in for a drink.
“My son put it best,” she adds. “He said, ‘Being here is like being on vacation.’”
Photographer Greg Hadley is based in Fairfax, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: Mark Kohler AIA, and Bill Fletcher, KohlMark Architects, Burke, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: Mark Kohler, AIA, KohlMark Builders, Burke, Virginia. KITCHEN DESIGN: Patty Whitman, Kleppinger Design Group, Inc., Fairfax, Virginia.
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