A homeowner with two children, downsizing from a large Potomac colonial, loved the smaller scale and urban feel of the 1920s Sears bungalow kit house she discovered in Chevy Chase—despite the fact that it needed extensive remodeling. She purchased the home and embarked on a renovation that would preserve its character while revitalizing it with a more open floor plan and light, elegant interiors. A happy collaboration with architect Richard Leggin and interior designer Penny Mickum resulted in a house that is more spacious, yet retains its street-friendly proportions.
“It’s the kind of house people want these days—a not-so-big house with quality space,” says Leggin, who at their first meeting gave his client a gift: a copy of the original ad for the Sears “Maywood” home extolling the “simplicity and worthfulness” of its design.
Leggin’s renovation plan preserved the front façade of the house, with its inset entryway, wooden shingles, and overhanging cottage-style roofline. The foyer, living room and dining room were also left intact, and a side porch that had been enclosed by a previous owner became a home office. The major change was a two-story addition across the back of the house that tripled the size of the original galley kitchen and added a family room, breakfast room, porch and second-floor master bedroom suite. A drive-in garage was also added on the lower level.
Leggin notes that the original house had “lots of cottage-style charm, both inside and out,” including its cozy entry foyer with a paneled stair wrapping a built-in bench, and a well-sized living room with a stone fireplace and a bank of five windows across the front, typical of the Arts and Crafts style. “The new interior rooms reflect all of that—scale, details, plus enhanced circulation and flow through the house, and from the house to the garden,” Leggin says. While the addition substantially increased the home’s square footage, it was carefully balanced to complement the existing structure and allow for a fair-sized yard and garden.
In her interior plan, Mickum worked closely with her client, who wanted the décor to evoke the feeling of summers on Nantucket combined with the lines and lightness of Swedish Country design. After an estate sale disposed of most of her traditional furniture, she was ready to start anew. She and Mickum honed in on a palette of soft blues, greens, grays, and beiges, selecting some key new pieces—including a painting of hydrangeas that is a focal point in the living room, and a custom carpet in the dining room in swirls of blue.
Light walls, white interior shutters, cabinets and built-ins throughout the first floor provide continuity and contrast with the warm-brown wood floors, stained a custom color mixed by Mickum. The recurring design elements enhance the renovation’s more open floor plan, with its easier connections between rooms and from the interior to the yard and garden.
The complementary design carries through to the second floor. To make the hallway feel more spacious and open, Leggin expanded the landing at the top of the stairs. The generous master bedroom suite, which overlooks the yard, encompasses a vestibule, a walk-in closet, and a large bath. Mickum painted the upstairs bedrooms in different shades of blue and continued the white shutters, cabinetry and marble finishes from downstairs.
“I wanted each of the rooms to have its own character while maintaining continuity throughout the house,” says the designer, who explains that her goal was to create “a feeling of serenity and a flow.”
The décor feels carefully pulled together, yet personal. Seashells, a favorite of the owner, are displayed throughout the house. An antique clock from her previous abode, repainted to complement the Swedish-style furniture, occupies the home office. The iron bedstead in her teenage daughter’s room is a piece purchased years ago. The Sears Maywood ad, now framed, hangs in a first-floor hallway.
The owner is thrilled with the results of the renovation. “I use every room, which wasn’t the case in my previous house,” she says. And her children’s friends love the right-sized home, which feels open in the summer and cozy in the winter—perfect for every occasion.
Writer Sue Kirchhoff is based in Silver Spring. Timothy Bell is a New York-based photographer.
ARCHITECTURE: RICHARD LEGGIN, AIA, Richard Leggin Architects, PC, Glen Echo, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: PENELOPE MICKUM, Penelope Mickum Interior Design, Bethesda, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: Utica Builders, Sterling, Virginia.