In renovating their 1948 rambler, Spring Valley homeowners Brian and Joanne Barlia realized that gaining more usable space doesn’t necessarily require an addition. Instead, they decided to reorganize the interiors so they would work better for family living.
The two-story house had been remodeled by the previous owner, but was still in need of upgrades to create larger, more comfortable spaces. Among other drawbacks, the kitchen was cramped, the living room small and bedrooms were accessed from a narrow hallway.
“It had a very choppy layout with lots of rooms,” recalls Joanne Barlia, a volunteer fundraiser for the Ocular Melanoma Foundation. “Once inside, guests couldn’t figure out how to get back to the front door.”
With three sons and a daughter, the Barlias initially commissioned architect Ankie Barnes to extend the back of the house with a large family room. But they eventually decided against the project. “We ended up not wanting to increase the footprint of the house while reducing the size of the backyard,” says Brian Barlia, a real estate developer.
Instead, the homeowners asked Barnes to collaborate with DC architect Andreas Charalambous to reconfigure the existing two floors and basement into a more open, functional arrangement. Charalambous had worked on several projects for Barlia’s development company, Peak Gersten, and steered the interiors in a streamlined direction. “We strove for an uncluttered, yet warm feeling, and spaces filled with light,” notes Charalambous, who handled material, furniture and lighting selections as well as millwork design. The architects worked together to simplify the building envelope and open the interiors. “To stretch a tight budget, we distilled the scope down to items delivering the biggest bang for the buck,” says Barnes.
“We decided that the best design direction to take to tame the ‘ranchiness’ of the house was to go modern.” Exterior walls of brick, stone and siding were unified with a continuous coat of stucco and roof dormers added to expand the second-floor bedrooms. At the front, a porch column was removed to create a clean, cantilevered roofline. Windows and doors were changed to simpler, more energy-efficient designs, and a new front door was added to “set a modern tone from the entry on in,” says Barnes.
Inside, the main level was reconfigured to make room for a large, open kitchen and family room, where the Barlias entertain and spend most of their time. The two spaces are divided by a floating staircase leading to the second level and basement. “This part of the renovation was major surgery, and I am happy to say the patient not only survived but was given a new lease on life,” says Charalambous.
The rear wall abutting the kitchen and family room was rebuilt with steel posts and beams to support floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors, which provide access to the tree-lined backyard. “We focused the house to encourage interaction between the inside and outside,” says Brian Barlia.
The garden setting was designed by landscape architect Richard Arentz with a lap pool and seating areas to maximize the potential of the space. In easy reach of the pool is a bathroom with a shower and dressing area, next to a mudroom. These new spaces were created from portions of the original garage and living area. Just outside the kitchen, a stone patio shaded by a wisteria-covered pergola serves as an outdoor living/dining room in warm weather.
Spots for casual meals and conversation are found throughout the main level. The kitchen was enlarged to incorporate an island and breakfast area. In a corner of the family room, the turret built by the previous owner is now fitted with a built-in banquette around a circular table. A formal dining area occupies one side of the stone-clad fireplace wall separating the living room.
Walls finished in Venetian plaster anchor the various spaces on this level, adding texture and an earth-toned palette. They are designed without doors or moldings so the spatial flow is uninterrupted throughout this part of the house. Pale oak floors reinforce the light, open feeling.
Upstairs, the master bedroom is located over the family room with the corner turret used as a seating area. A new master bathroom provides a double-sink vanity, whirlpool tub and large shower. Just off the master suite, the once-narrow corridor connecting the children’s bedrooms has been widened with study alcoves inserted into the dormers. They house bookcases and desks for homework.
Charalambous took a playful approach in designing the kids’ spaces. He finished the sons’ shared bathroom in blue mosaic tiles while applying pink and violet patterns to the daughter’s bathroom and building a custom daybed with storage in her bedroom. The basement serves as the children’s hangout with a large sectional sofa facing a TV over the fireplace.
While the home’s interiors are clean-lined and contemporary, the exterior, with its pediment and corner turret, still reflects a more conformist aesthetic—a dichotomy that is intentional. As Joanne Barlia notes, “We like the idea that the outside is more traditional and low-key, and it’s a surprise when you come into the house to find that it’s so modern.”
BUILDING ARCHITECTURE: Ankie Barnes, FAIA, LEED AP, Barnes Vanze Architects, Inc., Washington, DC. INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN: Andreas Charalambous, AIA, IIDA, Forma Design, Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Richard Arentz, ASLA, Arentz Landscape Architects, Washington, DC, and Marshall, Virginia. BUILDER: Ted Peterson, Peterson + Collins, Washington, DC.