Building a new house typically requires choosing an architectural style and sticking with it through construction. Countering this practice, a couple combined both historical and contemporary designs to create an Arlington home that steadily grew more unconventional as it was completed in 2013.
“Our taste changed through the course of the project,” says the wife, a lawyer who enjoys browsing Houzz. “We started out more traditional and ended up much more modern.” Rooms once envisioned with archways and crown moldings gave way to open, flowing spaces with low-slung, European furnishings.
Designed by GTM Architects, the home appears classically dignified from the outside. Its porches, pediments and façades clad in cedar shake are inspired by Queen Anne and Shingle-style architecture. To one side, the three-car garage is designed as a complementary pavilion with a pitched roof and dormers.
“We didn’t want to build an imposing house, but one that felt welcoming and fit with the neighborhood,” says the husband, a security consultant. He and his wife bought the property in 2012 and razed an outdated rambler on the corner lot to construct the larger, two-story home.
Part of the architects’ challenge was deciding where to place the house on the parcel, which abuts a wooded ravine. “We were limited to the flat part of the yard,” says GTM associate Douglas Roberts. “We set the house on an angle to the street to make the most of the views across the ravine and bring in lots of natural light.”
Reinforcing the home’s mix of classical and modern elements is the landscaping designed by J. Mark White of GardenWise. “We used traditional plantings like roses and boxwood, and large, sweeping masses that are more modern and organic,” says White.
Midway through the project, the homeowners decided to change the interiors to reflect a more open, contemporary style. “We were drawn to very clean, modern interiors and our builder recommended that we consider FORMA Design,” says the wife. “It was not an easy decision, but at the end of the day, architect Andreas Charalambous of FORMA did exactly what we had hoped.”
Living and dining rooms at the front of the home are now joined into one long space for entertaining. Each function is defined by a lower section of the ceiling, an area rug and distinctive lighting. The owners refer to the side furnished with four swivel chairs as the “martini lounge.” Says the husband, “Formal living rooms really don’t get much use, so we created a place to enjoy a cocktail.”
At the back of the house, the kitchen and family room are also treated as a single space. Accessible from this area are a porch and a mudroom leading to a patio for grilling and outdoor dining. Tall windows and doors on two walls bathe the interiors with sunlight and offer views of the wooded ravine.
The nearly all-white kitchen designed by Lauren Levant Bland, then of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, incorporates an island with stools for dining. For more seating, Charalambous designed a banquette under a window to accommodate a table and chairs from the Italian company Porro. The light-filled family room, where the homeowners spend time with their three-year-old daughter, is comfortably furnished with an L-shaped sofa and swivel chairs for watching TV.
In the center of the house, a stair hall is designed as a “buffer zone between the front and back rooms,” notes Charalambous. The staircase incorporates open risers and glass side panels to allow sunlight to pass through it from windows and doors on the landings. The treads extend from two thick walls, one clad in porcelain tile resembling stone to convey a sense of solidity.
The tiled wall rises through all levels of the house to visually anchor the stair and adjacent rooms. On the second floor, it is visible in the master bedroom next to the custom leather headboard. Near the bed, French doors open to a balcony overlooking the ravine. “It’s like a tree house,” says the husband. “It’s awesome to watch the fall leaves change from here.”
The master bathroom, also designed by Lauren Levant Bland, resembles a minimalist spa and adjoins a large walk-in closet. Symmetrically arranged on either side of the room are glass cubicles—a frosted enclosure for the toilet and a transparent shower stall—and his-and-her vanities. The centerpiece of the snow-white space is a sculptural tub placed under the windows.
The third floor provides a home office where custom desks are tucked into the dormers. This area and the finished basement are carpeted, in contrast to the main and second levels which feature ebonized oak flooring.
Rather than replacing all the furnishings from their previous home in Rosslyn, the couple recycled their dining set, kitchen stools and other pieces to furnish their guest rooms, basement and office. Advises the attorney, “Never assume that the pieces you have picked up along the way won’t amplify your evolving style.”
Writer Deborah K. Dietsch is based in Washington, DC. Geoffrey Hodgdon is a photographer in Deale, Maryland.
ARCHITECTURE: GEORGE T. MYERS, AIA, principal; DOUGLAS ROBERTS, associate, GTM Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN: ANDREAS CHARALAMBOUS, AIA, IIDA; LAURENCE KOEHRSEN, AIA, FORMA Design, Inc., Washington, DC. KITCHEN & BATH DESIGN: LAUREN LEVANT BLAND, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Chevy Chase, Maryland. BUILDER: MILLER/Custom Builders, Bethesda, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: J. MARK WHITE, ASLA, GardenWise, Inc., Arlington, Virginia.