It’s a perennial question among couples who have bought their first house in DC’s close-in neighborhoods, where small, pre-War homes are the norm: When babies arrive and you need more space, do you move—or renovate?
The answer was easy for Dean and Amanda Zang, who had settled in one of North Arlington’s small older homes when they got married. “For us,” Dean says of their property with a large park and the shops and restaurants of Clarendon within a three-block radius, “it was an irreplaceable location.”
Once they had a toddler and a second baby on the way, the Zangs chose to stay put and remodel their shingled 1929 home. They called on David Ricks, whose work they’d seen elsewhere in the neighborhood, to create a design that would evoke the architectural era of the original house while doubling its size and modernizing its interiors.
“We wanted to integrate those shingles with a more modern look,” Dean says, adding that he and Amanda also loved the interior moldings, trim and arched room entries. “We wanted to take that style to a more casual, comfortable form.”
Those ideas resonated with Ricks, who used the home’s shingled exterior as an impetus for his design. “Shingle style is considered the true domestic style of American architecture,” he remarks. The architect would call on the turn-of-the-century vernacular in creating simple, gabled forms in the renovated home.
The first step was deciding what shape the new house would take—especially at the top, which would house the third floor with a study and sitting room, two new bedrooms, a full bath and multiple storage areas. Placing all that space under a single gable would have looked too massive, so Ricks broke down the scale with a series of intersecting rooflines. That way, he explains, “You get a very striking silhouette and bold, geometric forms.”
Getting to the point of construction, however, was not going to be easy. The new building was confined to the original footprint and to meet local requirements, builder Trip Carder had to retain the front wall and the original side-den structure as the bigger house took shape around them. “It’s so much easier to knock down and start anew,” Carder observes. “Here, you’re dealing with old construction, crooked construction, and you have to go back and make everything straight.”
That den is now the dining area; its original, sagging floor was replaced with one that’s level with the new, open-plan living/dining room. Out back, there was enough space for an addition that extended the house from 40 to 80 feet deep. The additional space on the main floor allowed Ricks to move a coat closet and powder room from the original foyer back into a new hallway near the kitchen, thus creating a more spacious entry marked by tall wainscoting and a wide staircase. He echoed the original home’s arched passageways in a wide hall that leads to the expansive kitchen and family room, which are located two steps down from the front of the house to allow for taller, coffered ceilings. The result is an open floor plan from front to back that nonetheless feels intimate.
“The ground floor is a meandering series of spaces defined by different levels and furniture groups,” Ricks says. The coffered ceiling, he adds, serves more than just an aesthetic purpose. “A flat ceiling would be severe for such a large space. There’s nothing more monotonous and mundane than a contiguous, flat drywall ceiling.”
The family room area flows seamlessly into a screened porch, which is used up to eight months of the year thanks to heaters built into the ceiling. Sliding glass doors with dark moldings and transom details handsomely mark the passage outside. “The porch is my favorite space,” Dean Zang says. “The îpe flooring feels like interior flooring, and space is lounge-y, but utilized in a more formal way.” Above the porch, a roof terrace is accessible from the master suite. The parquet grid of îpe on the porch ceiling can be removed when the roof needs maintenance.
Though the new structure extends far beyond the original house, Ricks and Carder ensured that the family would have ample yard space for their two boys. Zoning allows outbuildings at the lot line, so Carder took down the original detached garage and built a new one 16 feet back. “It was really important to them to have that play space,” he says.
And as the boys get bigger, so will the house. The still-unfinished basement will one day hold a rec room and au pair apartment with its own entrance. The Zangs aren’t sure when that will happen, but they’re not going anywhere. As Amanda says. “This is our forever house.”
Jennifer Sergent is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Virginia.