Few countries have produced a more specific design aesthetic than Denmark. For most people, the term “Danish Modern” conjures ready images of light wood surfaces, expanses of white and sleek, contemporary furniture. To the owners of a mundane raised ranch house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, imbuing their home with this spare sensibility was of paramount importance. Kira Fortune, who is Danish and works in the field of international health, and her British husband, Richard, a management consultant, resided in England before settling in the DC area. Prior to that, they lived in Denmark. “We wanted a house where London and Copenhagen could come together,” Kira explains.
After living in the house with their two children for a couple of years, the Fortunes selected DC architect Carmel Greer to make the changes they wanted. “They asked for an open family room/dining room and kitchen, which isn’t unusual,” Greer says. “What was different was that when they showed me photos they had clipped, they were so boldly modern.”
Greer designed a sleek, contemporary addition that expanded the back of the home; it would contain an enlarged kitchen, sitting area, and dining space—all in stark-white Scandinavian style. In contrast, the original 1970s structure housing the living room would be largely untouched; with its traditional fireplace and built-in bookshelves, it reflected the London piece of the equation while still flowing smoothly into the addition. If funds were left after these changes were made, a master suite above the addition would become part of the plan.
A large, functional kitchen replaced the small, cramped version, as well as the former dining room. Beyond the kitchen, the back wall of the home was bumped out 16 feet to accommodate a spacious seating and dining area. Ten-foot ceilings delineate the addition from the kitchen and the rest of the house, where ceilings measure eight feet. Glass doors and windows admit plenty of light.
The design seamlessly supports the owners’ stylistic vision—including a sleek Bulthaup kitchen centered on a 14-foot, Caesarstone-topped island and a wall of built-in cupboards that keeps surfaces clutter-free. The interiors throughout are painted white. “We believe less is more,” Kira says. “We wanted clean lines—warm modern with a soul.”
In keeping with this philosophy, the couple imported furniture by renowned Danish designers, along with iconic pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, Kira’s favorite modern designers. The dining area contains a sideboard from BoConcept, a table by Piet Hein and Eames chairs, while the sitting area holds an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair shipped from Hay Furniture in Copenhagen. A wood-burning stove from Morsø adds a cozy touch, and large-scale photography commissioned by Greer hangs on walls that are otherwise unadorned.
Before the renovation, the upstairs consisted of one small, attic-like room. Greer brought to light and height to it with a five-window dormer, and it now houses Richard’s home office. Creating the hoped-for master suite on the second story of the addition was indeed possible; it lies beyond a short transitional passage lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. As spare as the rest of the house, the bedroom opens to a small îpe balcony overlooking the backyard. It also flows directly into a spa-like master bath with an enclosed W.C. Clad from top to bottom in Carrara marble with a luxurious soaking tub, “it’s our escape,” says Kira. “It feels like a hotel.”
The kids’ rooms are located in the original structure, along with the living room, where Greer enlarged the windows, replacing a curved bay with a square one, and substituted the original stair rail for a simpler version. One of their prized possessions, a Stingray Rocker by Thomas Pedersen, occupies a corner of the room.
The Fortunes are very happy with their sleek, renovated home—and so is their architect. “This was one of my first jobs,” Greer reflects. “As a fledgling architect, it was a relief to be hired to do something I knew would be beautiful.”
Photographer Jeff Wolfram is based in Washington, DC.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: CARMEL GREER, AIA, LEED AP, District Design, Washington, DC. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: OSCAR TELLEZ, H.I. Contractors LLC, Bethesda, Maryland.