Remodeling: Case Study

Bright & Airy: Carmel Greer lets in the light in a 1920s Cleveland Park bungalow

When a couple with a toddler purchased a vintage house in DC’s historic Cleveland Park neighborhood, they contacted architect Carmel Greer to update the dingy interiors for better flow, function, and light. She paid particular attention to the dark, cramped galley kitchen, which was accessible only through the dining room.

Greer’s plan removed the wall between the family room and kitchen to improve circulation. By reconfiguring a small room off the kitchen, she managed to create a new mudroom, powder room and exit to the backyard.

The new design admits plenty of natural light. In the open family room/kitchen space, white walls, pale cabinetry, and quartz countertops keep things bright and airy. New casement windows over the sink look out to the landscape.

Greer relocated existing appliances—including a Viking stove that adds a pop of vibrant blue—and introduced a contemporary aesthetic with flat-panel, inset cabinet doors. She ensured that the sleek kitchen would “still be in keeping with the language of the house,” she says, with a board ceiling that echoes “the cottagey feel” of the abode and schoolhouse-style lights that don’t block the views outside.

Throughout the home, white walls contrast with dark-painted doors and walnut-stained oak floors. The arched passage between the family and living rooms is wallpapered, while clean-lined furnishings complement older-home touches such as existing moldings, fireplace surrounds, and new radiator covers. “The goal was a modern kitchen that felt natural in the existing house,” says the architect. “We made it work.”

Renovation Architecture: Carmel Greer, AIA, LEED AP, principal; Ashley Adams, designer, District Design, Washington, DC. Builder: Justin Sullivan, Impact Construction and Consulting, LLC, Washington, DC. 

Carmel Greer’s Trade Secrets:

  • Consider the existing house as you plan a remodeling project. You don’t have to match your new space with the existing one, but there should be harmony between them.
  • I don’t like to remove elements that are in good condition; I think it’s wise to keep what you can and respect it. In this house, for example, we kept the existing fireplace but spruced it up.
  • Look for ways to connect kitchens and baths to other spaces. Here, we used traditional cement tile in the bathrooms, but with modern, geometric patterns.
  • If you want to mesh a modern kitchen with a traditional space, paint the wood cabinets for material continuity.
  • If you prefer trendy hardware, choose it in a standard size so it will be easy to replace down the line—it’s less of a commitment.