It all started with a plan to expand a garage and add a guest room onto a Colonial-style home in Potomac, Maryland. But as such plans tend to do, this small-scale project soon morphed into something much bigger: a massive, whole-house renovation that added to the 40-year old residence some 4,500 square feet of living space. The owners tapped BOWA for the job, and the result is a stately, welcoming home flanked on one side by a three-car garage and spacious guest quarters (complete with private entrance and dramatic two-story foyer), and on the other by a multi-level addition that includes a library and office on the main level, with a master retreat above and a media room on the lower level.
Fortunately, this expansion in scope occurred before construction began—a chronology that everyone involved agrees contributed to the ultimate success of the project. “When things are in the rough stage, that’s the time to be opportunistic,” says the homeowner, who was very much involved in the decision-making process. “Once things become buttoned up, they become much harder to change.”
One of the project’s main goals was to ensure that the additions to the house would look as if they were part of the original construction. According to BOWA principal and project leader Steve Kirstein, this seamless connection between old and new was possible because he and his team attended to the details in every room in the house. This enabled them to create the structural and design connections between old and new that pulled the whole project together.
“Magnificent, custom-turned walnut stair rails were installed on the main staircase, and are replicated throughout the home to provide continuity,” says Kirstein, who—along with a team that included project manager Geoff Kuck, architect Mark Buchanan and designer Pamela Ryder—reviewed each detail to ensure all selections would match the style of the home. For example, they designed seven different picket sizes before hitting on the one that would look just right on the staircase.
One of the biggest challenges was matching the hand-fired bricks that clad the home’s original exterior. “We had to match texture and shape and adjust the coursing on every single row so that they lined up perfectly,” recalls Kirstein.
Throughout the project, replicating existing design elements helped create authenticity. The arch of the portico inspired the arched garage bays, the graceful entryways in the formal foyer and the doors leading from the media room to the pool area.
The team also aimed to lighten the interiors. Prior to the renovation, the main staircase led to a dark, narrow hallway on the upper level. By demolishing an existing bathroom and using the space to connect the new master retreat with the original hallway, they were able to create an inviting sitting room with large windows that overlook the beautifully landscaped backyard.
An upper-level laundry room was added for convenience. Though utilitarian, it is lined with furniture-like painted cabinetry designed to make the space pleasant. “No detail was missed in this room,” says Kirstein, who is especially fond of the reclaimed heart pine beams—remnants from a barn project at the homeowner’s farm in Poolesville—that were milled and finished to create the top of an expansive folding table.
To maintain the integrity of the home’s Colonial style, designer Pamela Ryder selected a variety of traditional damask patterns throughout the home, from the golden-hued wallpaper installed along the second-floor landing to the large-scale patterned upholstery that covers the couch in the media room.
For a “breath of fresh air,” she adds, unexpected punches of color were tossed into an otherwise neutral palette. The pair of coral, English-style club chairs in the main-level family room, for example, is inspired by a hue found in the hand-embroidered window treatments. Ryder also veered from a strict traditional sensibility by prioritizing comfort, especially in areas where she knew the family planned to spend quality time together. To soften the masculine feel of the new hickory-paneled library, Ryder commissioned upholstered sofas with carved frames that resemble an old-fashioned Chesterfield couch but are also cozy and comfortable.
While the project turned out greater in scope than was originally planned, the homeowner reports both a seamless process and complete satisfaction with the renovation. “As a totality, this project went very much according to plan,” he says. “Good planning and a good team are key—and because [we had] both of those things, there were no real surprises here, which is a good thing.”
Kelli Lakis is a writer who lives in Baltimore. Photographer Bob Narod is based in Herndon, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: MARK S. BUCHANAN, AIA, Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects, Washington, DC, and Middleburg, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: STEVE KIRSTEIN, project leader; GEOFF KUCK, project manager, BOWA, McLean, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: PAMELA GAYLIN RYDER, Pamela Gaylin Ryder Interiors, Washington, DC.