After their second child was born, George and Rima Bitar realized they’d outgrown their home and decided to search for a larger, move-in-ready residence. But two years later and still looking, they changed their minds when they landed on an unrenovated, 1990s-era home with a pool, situated on a quiet cul-de-sac in McLean.
“It wasn’t what I had in mind but I could see beyond what was inside,” recalls Rima. “We wanted a house with a pool and a nice neighborhood. There wasn’t much space for entertaining, but there was a lot of charm.”
With its series of small rooms, the main level felt choppy. Fussy fluted columns and dark finishes conveyed a dated vibe. And tired cabinets and poor workflow in the kitchen left much to be desired. Nevertheless, Rima insisted, “I could see the potential.” So they purchased the home with a few basic fixes in mind.
George, a plastic surgeon, and Rima, an electrical engineer, gravitate toward modern style—though she describes her aesthetic as “modern but warm at the same time.” After interviewing several contractors who focused mainly on kitchen improvements, they met with Sonny Nazemian, principal of Michael Nash Design Build & Homes, who envisioned ways to address flaws throughout the entire house.
One of these was a powder room located to the left of the foyer that separated the living room and study. Both of these small, dark rooms were blocked off, so Nazemian suggested relocating the powder room and combining the living room and study into one space; this would create a larger entertainment area with abundant natural light.
“Sonny got that right away,” recalls Rima. She and George also liked Nazemian’s ideas for overhauling the kitchen, improving sightlines to the lush backyard and modernizing the home’s traditional detailing. They hired him to complete a whole-house makeover before they moved in.
In the kitchen, his plan addressed both form and function. “They had a nice-sized kitchen but it was old and tired and everything was in one area,” recalls Nazemian. “If two or three people wanted to work in that area, they would run into each other.”
Moreover, Rima didn’t like having the stovetop located on the island. “From a safety standpoint it didn’t work,” she points out. “My kids are always roaming around the island, and there was no place to put a vent.”
Nazemian’s plan moved the cooktop to the back wall and installed a hood above. He reconfigured the island and shifted the refrigerator and sink, improving workflow. New white cabinets, quartzite countertops and JAS Lighting pendants hanging from a new tray ceiling convey a modern look.
The kitchen opens to a two-story family room where Nazemian re-faced the dull, two-story stone fireplace in sleek porcelain with a niche for a flat-screen TV. He also removed an outdated wet bar, creating a new powder room in its place between the family room and adjacent living room.
In lieu of heavy, traditional appointments, visitors encounter bold updates from the moment they enter the marble-floored foyer. Wrought-iron pickets have replaced builder-grade wooden ones on the staircase and landing. New LED lighting and fresh paint brighten the interiors, while dark-stained, wide-plank wood flooring feels more contemporary than the pale, existing wood floors.
And in the enlarged living room, Rima, a talented musician, has room for her baby grand piano next to a new built-in cabinet lined with backlit onyx for a touch of drama.
Nazemian removed as many of the home’s ornate columns as possible, reframing necessary ones in panels that complement crisp crown molding installed throughout the residence. “By eliminating columns, views of the backyard are improved,” he explains.
On the upper floor, the master bathroom was updated, bookshelves in the hallway were removed to create a wider passage and a spare bedroom was converted into a home office to make up for the loss of the study downstairs.
“The house now has a timeless beauty that doesn’t dictate a certain era,” says Nazemian of the finished project.
The Bitars are thrilled with their renovated residence, which won a 2016 Grand COTY award. “Sonny did a very nice job making the house modern with a classical twist and keeping it warm and very inviting,” enthuses George. “Once we found architectural solutions for the things that bothered me, I felt like it was the kind of home I wanted.”
Photographer Greg Hadley is based in Fairfax, Virginia.
RENOVATION DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION: SONNY NAZEMIAN, Michael Nash Design Build & Homes, Fairfax, Virginia.