In spite of its woefully outdated state, a 1930s home in Bethesda spoke to a young couple when they bought it in 2004. Owned by the same people for 65 years, the house was a mess. The dishwasher operated via a hose in the sink, there was no main-floor bathroom, and shag carpet oddly clad both floors and walls.
Still, the brick Cape had great appeal—in particular, its backyard slope, which yielded stunning tree-level views. The problem, recalls the husband, a financial advisor, was that the trees were only visible through one window. “You couldn’t really enjoy the views, which were the best feature of the lot.”
Other than a few immediate cosmetic fixes (a new dishwasher, less shag), the couple waited nearly 10 years to embark on the renovation they’d been dreaming of since moving in. “We waited until we could afford to also do an addition,” explains the wife. “We wanted to do it right.”
When the time finally came, they tapped Anthony Wilder Design Build to update and enlarge the home they shared with their nine-year-old twins. Their goal was to preserve the character and charm of the house and to ensure that it still fit the neighborhood, while integrating the luxuries of modern life. They were not interested in turning it into a really big house because, as the husband says, “we didn’t want it to be so oversized that when the kids moved out we’d have to downsize. We wanted to keep it in proportion.”
This attitude resonated with Wilder, who observes, “In a big house, we end up inhabiting the smallest rooms because we’re social beings and we want to be in cozy spaces. The clients understood that.”
First on the agenda: an addition that would capitalize on those views. Architect Sean Mullin designed an open kitchen/family room at the back of the house that would span its width, flanked by a spacious, wrap-around deck. The older part of the house is open to the addition so that, for example, the front door enjoys a direct sight line to the back of the house and its tree-level vistas.
The former kitchen encompasses a pantry, butler’s pantry, mudroom and powder room, connecting the front entry with the new kitchen. The butler’s pantry leads to the dining room, which adjoins the family room and takes advantage of its views. Off the dining room, the jalousie windows on the existing porch have been replaced with screens (window inserts and a heater make it a three-season room); the porch now opens onto the deck, complete with hot tub, TV and gas fire element.
Upstairs, the bedrooms have been reconfigured to accommodate a new master suite, for which Mullin borrowed space from the son’s room (he designed a loft above it that more than made up for the change). Located above the addition, the master bedroom has a volume ceiling punctuated by dormer windows, while walls of windows expose views on three sides. “There’s a tree house effect in the master bedroom,” says Mullin. A full-height mirror beside the bedroom door adds visual symmetry, makes the room feel larger and reflects the view.
Throughout the house—which won a Contractor of the Year Merit award for Entire House over $1 Million—Wilder’s team focused on details to improve the space. Squared doorways were replaced with arches. Built-ins in the dining room display the wife’s china collection, and the stairwell showcases an oak railing lacquered in glossy black. The classic white kitchen pairs custom cabinetry with Calcutta Gold marble counters. In the powder room, kids’ bath and light-filled master bath, Calcutta marble imparts a classic look.
The wife worked with interior designer Karen Kalicka and kitchen and bath designer Shannon Kadwell, both of AWDB, to create an uncluttered, transitional look for the interiors. A palette of soft blues, grays and tans provides a welcoming vibe, while plenty of crisp, white-painted millwork offsets dark-stained furniture and solid, textural fabrics. “The buzzword on this project was quality, not quantity,” says Wilder. “It has a timeless sensibility.”
Photographer Morgan Howarth is based in Gainesville, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE & CONSTRUCTION: ANTHONY WILDER, principal; SEAN MULLIN, AIA, project architect, Anthony Wilder Design Build, Bethesda, Maryland. KITCHEN & BATH DESIGN: SHANNON KADWELL, Anthony Wilder Design Build. INTERIOR DESIGN: KAREN KALICKA, Anthony Wilder Design Build.