Nestled into the eclectic Chevy Chase neighborhood of Somerset, a nondescript split-level house caught the eye of buyers who appreciated its bones despite its outdated condition. They consulted architect Lou Balodemas about a whole-house renovation that would bring in light, impart a modern, open feel and enliven the exterior.
The front door leads to a ground-level foyer, which Balodemas expanded out about four feet; he also updated the space with a dark, porcelain-tile floor. The existing staircase was retained; it leads up to the main level, which has been transformed from a series of separate rooms into an open-plan space encompassing living and dining areas and a kitchen.
One of the main goals of the project was to bring in as much light as possible. “Opening up the rooms helped,” Balodemas says. “We also removed false framing that created slanted ceilings in the living and dining rooms. Now, there’s a cathedral ceiling across both areas.” Skylights have been added above the dining area, in the kitchen, and in both baths, while the living room windows were enlarged. The kitchen and both baths were updated with a sleek, modern aesthetic, and an existing screened porch has been rebuilt.
The front façade underwent a major facelift that adds visual interest and curbs appeal. “The garage doors really needed to be de-emphasized,” Balodemas says. “We replaced them with a single custom door of sapele mahogany.” A matching decorative panel was installed beside it, and a new front door, flanked by wide sidelines, is painted eye-catching, welcoming red.
Renovation Architecture: Lou Balodemas, AIA, Balodemas Architects, Washington, DC. Builder: Phil Mann, Highbury Construction, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Christie Leu, Christie Leu Interiors, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photography: Anice Hoachlander.
Lou Balodemas’s Trade Secrets:
- Before you begin the renovation process, be sure to communicate as much information as you can to your architect about what you want. This will streamline the process and make it easier for him/her to achieve a design that satisfies you and meets your needs.
- In terms of design, take what the existing house gives you. Don’t force unnecessary alterations in an effort to make the house something it’s not. You will be happier with the result.
- Make decisions as early as possible in the process and try to stick with them. This is the best way to avoid extra, unforeseen work and expense.
- Be prepared to pay what it takes to hire a proven and reliable contractor. It will be worth the investment.