Photography: Alan Karchmer

Floors + Windows + Doors: Case Study

Solar Gain: Architect Reena Racki lets in the light in a Woodley Park addition

The appeal of a gracious center-hall Colonial was diminished by a poorly constructed addition, so the owners called on Reena Racki to remedy the situation. She and her team remodeled the kitchen and replaced the existing addition with a new one that encompassed a family room and eating area, a mudroom leading to the garage and a powder room.

Since a front porch blocked sunlight from entering the interiors in the older part of the home, Racki wished to emphasize light and airiness in the south-facing addition. Nine-foot ceilings give way to an 11-and-a-half-foot ceiling in the addition, which is kept bright by white walls and floors in a pale, sand-hued porcelain tile, warmed in winter by radiant heat.

Seven-foot-tall casements open for cross ventilation, with transoms above and fixed window panels below. The windows are Jeld-Wen Custom Wood Clad low-E glass for low heat gain in summer and heat retention in winter. “We emphasize energy conservation in the context of climate control,” Racki explains.

A partial wall separates the mudroom and powder room from the rest of the family room; Racki added transoms at ceiling height to bring in more light. A large Velux skylight, positioned in the angled family-room ceiling, directs light through French doors into the otherwise-dark living room.

Racki worked around a 60-foot oak tree in the backyard that created obstacles to the new construction, in part because the tree provided passive sun control. A separate screened porch echoes the style of the addition.

RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: Reena Racki, AIA, Reena Racki Associates, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: Acadia Contractors, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: Alan Karchmer.


  • Windows are a very important component of any project. It is worth investing time and budget on them, as they affect the use and economy of a space so much.
  • Never go with cheap windows. Economize on other things first; it’s worth making trade-offs for quality windows, which influence heat gain and loss in the home.
  • When deciding which windows to buy, take comfort level and use of space into account. How cozy do you want it? How open? Remember that heated floors can balance the climate in a space that has lots of windows.
  • Window choices should not be made irrespective of other choices in the process. They should be synthesized with all aspects of the design. The process should be done holistically.