Case Study: Architecture + Custom Building

Modern Magic: A contemporary home complements its traditional Cleveland Park neighborhood

The challenge of designing a contemporary-style home in DC’s Cleveland Park led Kube Architecture to create what the firm calls a “modern barn.” The four-bedroom abode is divided into two offset pavilions topped by pitched roofs that echo the rooflines of the surrounding, traditional homes. Yet the pared-down architecture—stucco walls accented with Italian composite paneling and large, metal windows—achieves a contemporary flair unusual for the neighborhood.

Inside, the residence is fitted with practical touches, including sliding doors that separate the home office into two workspaces and a shaft for a future elevator. “The owners wanted the house to feel livable, not formal or overdesigned,” says Kube principal Janet Bloomberg.

The entrance pavilion contains an open-plan living/dining area and kitchen on the ground floor and a master suite with a vaulted ceiling on the second level. The adjacent wing incorporates a mudroom, powder room and home office on the main floor, with upper-level bedrooms for the owners’ two children and guests. The basement is every kid’s dream: a two-story sports court for playing basketball, racquetball, and squash.

Warm maple floors lighten the rooms, as do expansive panes of glass that capture views of Washington National Cathedral. Windows located at the ends of the hallways open out to balconies. They overlook a landscape designed by Campion Hruby that features an inviting terrace and swimming pool, nestled at the juncture of the pavilions.

Architecture: Janet Bloomberg, AIA, principal; Andrew Baldwin, design associate, Kube Architecture, Washington, DC. Builder: ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Text: Deborah K. Dietsch. Photography: Greg Powers.

Janet Bloomberg’s Trade Secrets

  • Sliding doors within a room will divide it for separate uses and allow flexibility.
  • Stair landings and hallways should be sized generously; they may also function as dens or play areas.
  • In an open-plan kitchen, furniture-like components will help the space blend with other areas. Varying wood, metal and composite materials with shiny and matte finishes will add visual richness.
  • Windows strategically placed at the ends of hallways and in living areas will draw the eye to the views.
  • For aging in place, consider building a shaft that will provide closet space now while allowing for the addition of an elevator later.