The bustle of 14th Street immediately subsides as visitors turn onto picturesque Corcoran Street with its Victorian-era row houses under a canopy of shade trees. One of these stately homes caught the eye of Keith Stiles in 2012; on the lookout for a rental property to invest in, he quickly snapped up this historical, circa-1890 home—and soon realized he’d prefer to live in it himself. “I loved the location, the house has good bones,” he says. “But it definitely needed an update.”
The house bore the dated stamp of its last renovation, which took place in the 1980s. Stiles, a mortgage branch manager, hired KUBE Architecture to design a major renovation in the style he preferred. “I’ve always had a contemporary sensibility,” he says. “I wanted to go a little more classic because of the style of the house, but my taste kept leading me in a very contemporary direction.”
Because of the home’s historical status, the front façade would have to remain untouched save for a new layer of cream-colored paint. Architect Richard Loosle-Ortega also retained such original interior elements as the door and window moldings and exposed brick accent walls—though he gutted the whole first floor to create an open plan that flows towards a wall of windows, beyond which is an elevated rear deck with a courtyard below. “In DC, we blend the bones of an older house with open spaces,” he explains. “We couldn’t change the front of the house so we had to bring in light through the back.”
On the ground floor, a cathedral ceiling from the 1980 renovation has been eliminated and load-bearing walls replaced by exposed steel girders. Located under the stairwell, the existing powder room was enlarged and updated with glossy porcelain tile from Porcelanosa and concealed behind layers of panels, one of which is actually a door. Floors are a dark-stained bamboo and LED lights by Illuminations at ceiling level create a warm glow. The wall that originally held a lackluster fireplace is now a focal point in the living area, juxtaposing matte gray porcelain tiles with fumed larch wood to frame a vent-less fire element with a steel surround.
Throughout the house, materials crop up more than once, creating continuity; the fumed larch and steel surfaces reappear in the master bath while gray porcelain tiles also surround the fireplace in the upstairs office. “Every detail has been thought through,” says Loosle-Ortega, who describes the KUBE team as “warm Modernists. We like the naturalness of raw materials and we love color, which we add through materials as well as paint.” Punches of color show up on the ceiling—painted in shades of gray—and deep blue accent walls that enliven the second-floor spaces. The home’s sleek, modern furniture was all purchased at Theodores in Upper Georgetown.
A major design element is the island countertop—striated Carrara marble from Marblex that dominates the kitchen. Stiles says that this stone inspired the “contemporary yet ageless” aesthetic of the home. Loosle-Ortega designed the adjacent kitchen wall as a subtle backdrop to the bold marble, pairing custom cabinets from Davida’s Kitchen & Tiles in a striated wood veneer and glossy white with Caesarstone counters in Concrete. The design emphasizes the marble countertop, which is angled “so as not to look like a bowling alley” in the long kitchen area, Loosle-Ortega explains.
The second-floor master bedroom and office are separated by a 10-foot-high frosted sliding-glass door with three panels. Loosle-Ortega unified the two spaces by repeating the same built-in custom cabinetry in both. A low-slung custom bedstead backs to a wall that’s bisected by a long, narrow mirror and punctuated by a back-lit, frosted-glass panel that illuminates the hallway on the other side of the wall. A panel of ash echoes the wood accents downstairs, while in the adjoining office a glass railing overlooks the stairwell.
Off the bedroom, a spacious master bath incorporates Caesarstone countertops, porcelain-tile floors and fumed larch accents. A steel panel offsets one wall and a glass shower enclosure replaces a glass-block version from the original 1980s bath. Clerestory windows bring in light.
The third floor has been reconfigured to house a guest room and sitting room, with a deck offering rooftop views of DC. Despite its modern interiors, says Stiles, “the house still fits its neighborhood.”
Photographer Greg Powers is based in Arlington, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN: RICHARD LOOSLE-ORTEGA, RA, principal in charge; ANDREW BALDWIN, associate, KUBE Architecture, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: DARREN KORNAS, Think Make Build, Washington, DC. MILLWORK: ANDY GREEN, Potomac Woodwork, LLC, Gaithersburg, Maryland.