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Nestled in Northern Virginia’s Falls Church area, Lake Barcroft holds the enviable position of being the only lake inside DC’s Capital Beltway. Its picturesque environs and proximity to the city have made this waterside community a big draw—and it’s definitely what attracted a pair of homeowners to the non-descript split level they purchased there.
The couple—both litigation consultants—couldn’t resist the property, with its direct, bird’s eye view of the lake. They were less enthusiastic about the residence, which had remained pretty much untouched since its only previous owner, now 92, commissioned its construction in 1960. “The house was a time capsule,” recalls one of the owners. “Everything was original!”
The couple was ready for some drastic changes, envisioning a very modern, light-filled structure that would take thorough advantage of the views. However, the house had been lovingly tended over the years and they were loath to tear it down. In fact, they rejected several architects who made this suggestion, eventually choosing Charles Moore and Jill Gilliand of Moore Architects, PC, who walked in and told them how to save the house instead. “They quickly saw a smart way to adapt it,” says the homeowner, “to create an integrated, consistent and coherent home. We wanted to respect the original structure, but turn it into something both aesthetic and functional.”
As Moore sees it, “it would have been a cop-out to tear the house down.” Instead, its original split-level structure provided inspiration and a sort of road map for the architects’ renovation. Moore and Gilliand retained the split-level design from the first layout, dividing the new structure into specific, functional areas, each with its own level. The entry hall opens to the level above, which encompasses an open-plan living room, dining room, kitchen and butler’s pantry with access to the garage. The next level up houses a floor of guest suites; above that the master suite perches like a tree house, complete with common area, bedroom and adjoining closet, and luxurious master bath. Back at entry level, a wide staircase leads down to a rec room and spacious home office.
Though distinctly contemporary in style, the front façade of the home remains in scale with the neighborhood of split-level houses around it. Retaining the inherent structure “allowed us to play with form,” Moore says. For example, the design team erected a masonry wall that bisects the front façade and continues straight back to the rear of the house; to its right, a tall window sets up a visual axis all the way through, unifying front and back and revealing the views beyond.
The original house was clad in reclaimed Baltimore brick, but both homeowners and architects preferred a mix of stucco and cedar siding on the renovated exterior. “I like the cedar siding,” Gilliand says. “It recalls the siding on the surrounding houses but with a modern attitude.”
While the front of the house has been transformed, it’s the back that packs the real dramatic effect. The homeowners were determined that the views down the 40-foot slope to the lake should be the focus of the interiors throughout, and Moore and Gilliand obliged with floor-to-ceiling windows flanking the entire back of the house. Three of the home’s four levels offer access to the outdoors and its views via decks; the lower level opens to a slate patio with a plunge pool, water feature and plenty of space for entertaining, as well as a path leading down to the lake.
“What’s really cool is how each level and space sort of clicks together,” says the homeowner. “It’s all open, yet separated. There are controlled views from space to space—there’s really no place in the house where you don’t have an amazing view.”
Both homeowners were enthusiastic participants in the design process—and with their strong aesthetic vision, did the interior decorating themselves in consultation with Moore Architects. They opted for a sleek material palette of Caesarstone, limestone and granite for such surfaces as countertops, fireplace surrounds and baths. Built-ins in the master bedroom are made of tiger wood and the kitchen boasts custom wenge cabinetry. The entry hall floors are terrazzo tile and on the main floor, a combination of porcelain tile and maple flooring delineates the spaces. Simple, open metal staircases and railings add to the sense of airiness on each floor. Furnishings from Vastu provide the clean-lined sensibility the couple was after.
The project was such a success that Moore Architects has just completed a redesign of the owners’ nearby offices. The consensus is that the group formed an effective team. “We had a lot of input,” one of the homeowners says, “but Charlie and Jill did the steering.”
Anice Hoachlander is a principal of Hoachlander/Davis Photography in Washington, DC.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: CHARLES MOORE, AIA, principal; JILL GILLIAND, AIA, principal and project architect, Moore Architects, PC, Alexandria, Virginia. CONSTRUCTION: G.N. Contracting, Inc., Falls Church, Virginia. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: JOAN HONEYMAN, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, LLC, Washington, DC.