Nestled on a gently rolling, tree-lined block in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the Tudor-style house Susan Liss and her husband purchased in 1998 remains as warm and inviting as it did when it was first built in 1931. However, the home has seen its share of changes—beginning with a 1950s porch addition that was later enclosed to create a family room. When the Lisses moved in, they redid the kitchen. Though they discussed remodeling other rooms, Susan’s husband unfortunately became ill and it was not until after he passed away in 2005 that she could focus on a real overhaul. She hired Gilday Renovations for the job, which—like so many remodeling projects—grew incrementally as it progressed.
It all started with the family room, which Liss describes as drafty and uncomfortable. “I wanted to put in new windows everywhere, and redo the bathrooms,” she recalls. “The only truly functioning tub was the hot tub outside!” Ultimately, rotting wood and poor insulation caused builder Tom Gilday to gut the family room and start from scratch, enclosing part of the adjoining deck to create a screened-in porch. He installed a spacious new master bedroom suite above the family room, renovated most of the home’s four full and four half-baths, and transformed a musty, unpleasant storage area above the garage into a roomy closet lined with built-in shelving and cabinetry.
According to Gilday, the home’s footprint did not change. “We even built the deck and porch above the existing, irregular footprint,” he explains. The builder did encounter some zoning issues, however. A massive elm in the backyard could not be removed, so the current deck was designed to wrap around it.
Additionally, the original plan was to add a Tudor-style overhang on the second floor, which would have increased the size of the master bedroom. But setbacks prohibited the overhang from being built, so Gilday architect Dan Morales settled instead for what turns out to be a striking, two-story bay window.
“We made it a bay in order to get a 180-degree view from the back of the house,” says Morales. A vista of trees and slate-roofed homes stretches out behind the house, which occupies a triangle-shaped corner lot on a downward slope. This airy panorama—lush and green in summer—is visible from both the family room and the master bedroom.
The generous master suite encompasses a large walk-in closet and a spacious master bath. Both occupy what used to be a smaller bedroom and are accessible from a short hallway that connects the master bedroom to the rest of the second floor.
Liss adores her new bedroom suite. “It’s very much an oasis,” she says. “I take a deep breath whenever I walk in.” The bay window, flanked on both sides by built-in bookshelves, offers plenty of light along with the views. In fact, Liss installed room-darkening shades for early morning comfort.
The home was also updated to reflect a more modern sensibility. “Susan has a contemporary eye,” Morales says. “She wanted a cleaner, crisper look to the house.” Gilday removed many of the home’s Tudor elements and added crown moldings, recessed lighting and, in the living room, a new mantel and granite fireplace surround. The idea was to create a transitional style that would meld the classic lines of the home with Liss’s more contemporary furniture. To create better flow, they widened the doorway between the family room and dining room and borrowed three feet from the deck to increase the dining room’s length. French doors now open directly from the dining room onto the deck. The wood-paneled doorway between the living and family rooms features a new set of pocket doors, replacing original clunky bi-folds.
For her newly refurbished home, Susan Liss chose soothing neutral paint colors, bright, vivid artwork and a clean, uncluttered look. She couldn’t be happier with the results of her renovation, which landed Gilday a Contractor of the Year award in the residential addition category. “It was a great house,” she says. “It’s a four-billion-percent better house now!”
Kenneth M. Wyner is a photographer in Takoma Park, Maryland.
RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Tom Gilday, principal, CR, CKD, GAC; ARCHITECTURE: Dan Morales; PROJECT MANAGER: John Lowe; FOREMAN: Mike Gindlesperger; RENOVATION INTERIOR DESIGN: Ellen Gilday-Witts, Gilday Renovations, Silver Spring, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: Karen Westreich, Karen Westreich Interiors, Gaithersburg, Maryland.