Ensconced in a neighborhood with its own wooded trail leading down to the C&O Canal towpath, Marc Loev, Toni Hawley and their three young boys adored their pristine surroundings. If only their 1980s Colonial home shared a similar reverence for Mother Nature. Its windows were too few and far between to appreciate the views. Outdated mechanical systems and poor insulation made the house drafty and inefficient. It also had an outdated kitchen and disjointed floor plan.
House-hunting forays to find something better led to a simple realization: No other lot in the Metro area could hold a candle to their Potomac gem. So they decided to stay put, and commissioned architect Tom Flach of KohlMark Group to design a renovation—which eventually evolved into the design of a brand new house. “We went through a whole process of designing renovations and additions to the existing home, trying to transform and connect it to the outdoor living space and views,” Flach recalls. “Finally, we made the decision to demolish the existing home and rebuild.”
Unencumbered by the constraints of the original structure, the architect and his clients were free to explore bold new options. They set their sights on a modern home with an open floor plan that would celebrate nature, accommodate parties of all sizes, and project sophisticated style without sacrificing comfort or durability.
Faced with a limited footprint on the two-acre lot, Flach nestled the home around the existing pool without disturbing the mature river birches in the front yard. “The neighborhood was fairly traditional so I worked with traditional forms, but took them to a modern level by removing ornamentation and working with very simple stucco and glass on a stone foundation,” says the architect.
The home’s southern orientation made solar power an easy option—happily for the owners, whose determination to tread lightly on the environment drove the entire building process. Before demolition, Second Chance, a Baltimore non-profit, deconstructed the original house—and was able to recycle two-thirds of its materials. The owners selected insulated low-E, argon-filled windows; spray-foam insulation; low-voltage and LED lighting and low-flow and dual-flush plumbing fixtures for maximum efficiency. The solar system fuels electricity and hot water.
But going sustainable did not mean settling for spartan over über-chic. In fact, many of the home’s features required daring feats of engineering, from walls of glass to a three-level cantilevered, helical staircase to an open “fire pit” hearth in the living room that appears to defy gravity.
During construction, Hawley and Loev hired Baltimore interior designer Michelle Miller to furnish the home in a style that would complement the architecture. Miller painted the walls white to allow the home’s organic materials—Brazilian cherry floors, stone and glass—and the views to take center stage. She designed many custom pieces of furniture using durable fabrics. “The clients wanted to use their home for entertaining, but they also have three boys. We kept it pared down and really simple,” she explains.
Like astute apprentices, Hawley and Loev, both physicians, constantly pitched ideas to Flach and Miller. “They were passionate and very knowledgeable,” says Flach. “Everything that I proposed to them that was pushing the limits, Toni and Marc embraced. At the same time, they also pushed me to take things beyond my comfort zone.”
Miller created a sense of warmth and intimacy in the voluminous rooms on the main level, above which a second-story “bridge” connects the bedrooms. In the dining room, a dark gray wall accentuates a nude by Craig Alan while crystal pendants by Schonbek create a glamorous vibe.
The living room is oriented toward the outside with a two-story wall of glass. A custom rug mimics the line of the ceiling above, and a series of wall sculptures by John Douglas makes a bold statement. The living room leads to a loggia, where a NanaWall opens completely to face the backyard.
Public and private “zones” cater to both family and social functions. A pocket door closes off the kitchen, family room and family powder room, and a back stairway and elevator lead upstairs so the kids can use these spaces during a party—sight and sound unseen.
Hawley, an expert cook, immersed herself in the kitchen design with help from kitchen designer Patty Whitman. Double ovens, sinks, microwaves and dishwashers make the space functional, while Bianco Antico granite countertops and a white back-painted glass backsplash offset dark cabinets and wood floors. In the adjacent family room, oversized windows flank a stucco-clad fireplace.
The master suite, positioned on one side of the bridge above the loggia with the boys’ rooms on the other, is a picture of serenity. Inspired by a hotel the couple visited in Mexico, the bathroom pampers them with smooth limestone and marble tiles and a soaking tub with views of the treetops. “The site lines make it feel like you’re in a private sanctuary,” says Loev.
The second floor also features rooms with en suite baths for each son, a well-appointed guest suite and a kids’ gallery where the parents and boys gather to read and unwind before bedtime. A large third-story playroom prevents toys from straying into other areas of the house.
On the lower level, Loev and Hawley have created a sophisticated “club room.” Unlike their previously dark basement, the new space is bathed in light thanks to the open staircase and bridge near the fireplace. An indoor-outdoor bar, a modular sofa and an etched stainless-steel wall sculpture make this space perfect for large gatherings. A whole-house Lutron lighting system and wireless sound system by SONOS enable the owners to set moods with ease. “We wanted it to be a little sexy down there,” says Miller. The lower level also features an exercise room and a bathroom with a steam shower.
When the project was completed, Loev and Hawley felt “a sense of loss” because their fruitful collaboration had come to a close. “We were very involved,” recalls Loev. “Every element was a collaboration—much to our designer’s and architect’s chagrin,” he adds with a laugh.
“They were the perfect clients,” Flach responds. “There was such a great push from each of us to stretch the limits. That’s what makes great architecture.”
Photographer Greg Hadley is based in Fairfax, Virginia.
ARCHITECTURE: THOMAS FLACH, AIA, vice president, KohlMark Group – Architects and Builders, Burke, Virginia. CONSTRUCTION: THOMAS FLACH and WADE GREENE, project manager, KohlMark Group – Architects and Builders. INTERIOR DESIGN: MICHELLE MILLER, Michelle Miller Interiors, Baltimore, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Through the Garden, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.