It was a grand collaboration. A young couple with strong design instincts engaged architect Christian Zapatka and interior designer Andrew Law to transform their conventional, 1930s white-washed brick cottage into a home with European sensibilities—but without grandeur or pretention.
The 3,000-square-foot house in DC’s Wesley Heights boasted good bones and a beautiful, quarter-acre lot, visible in the neighborhood from four sides. But it lacked presence, marred by small windows, an unimposing front door and wooden additions tacked onto the rear. Low ceilings made the third floor bleak and the basement dreary.
Zapatka drew on a classical vocabulary polished by a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. His plans retained only the core of the house, eliminating a side porch, the rear additions and the outdated front entrance. New, elongated windows replaced the smaller original ones and a full-height glass front door now brings light into the expanded front entrance, which is graced by elegant, Regency-style double columns and a zinc roof. The result, notes Zapatka, is “a face that is more robust without being over-scaled or ostentatious.”
Replacing the side porch is a portico with columns and a zinc roof to match the entry’s. The portico features a fireplace that shares its chimney with the living room fireplace. Off the back of the house, a new, curved addition encompasses a combined kitchen and family room with a semi-circular alcove forming a floor-to-ceiling bay window. All new construction is wrapped in repurposed brick that matches the original house.
Dramatic interior alterations produced a proper center hall with front-to-back circulation. Zapatka organized all the service elements—including kitchen, pantry and bathrooms—in a central core to allow for what the architect terms “clarity of circulation.” The original slate roof was replaced, then raised to accommodate new shed dormers and two bedrooms with en suite baths on the third floor. A basement excavation added several feet to the height of the lower level, which now features a playroom, an art room, storage and a garage.
The old stairs gave way to a straight, custom-milled staircase connecting all four floors; this strong design element became the home’s powerful spine, transforming a two-story house with a basement and attic into one with four full, integrated levels. The family’s usable space increased to 5,000 square feet without significantly enlarging the building’s footprint.
“You can make a difference with small gestures—in this case, a group of small gestures,” Zapatka notes. While clearly “a bigger, grander house,” he adds, “it sits lightly on its site. It contributes to the neighborhood rather than detracting from it.”
Like Zapatka, Andrew Law was charged with channeling a classic look. “The clients were interested in tradition, and in creating an interior that would work for years to come,” he says. “Our interiors had to be approachable; kids and dogs are part of everyday life for our clients.”
Law emphasized texture and patina throughout, using a mix of stained and painted woods. In the foyer, a Gustavian-era bench pairs with an antique Oushak rug. The living room is “used all the time,” says Law, adding that the custom sofa is upholstered in durable linen velvet that “holds up with dogs and kids and will gain a patina over the years.” A leather bergère chair sits next to a garden stool of cast concrete. The neutral sisal-wool carpet “relaxes the antiques in the room,” says Law.
In the dining room, the designer paired the clients’ table with new chairs upholstered in green leather. Waxed-linen draperies from Rose Tarlow frame an existing bay window enclosing an Italian, marble-topped table. The chandelier is from Marston Luce.
Several “gestures” appear on the second floor—and those details elevate both architecture and interior design. Another Gustavian bench and Oushak rug on the second-floor landing echo those in the foyer, creating a sense of continuity. And in the enlarged master bedroom, Law tucked a built-in desk inside a window alcove, creating a cozy spot for the owners to work. In the master bath, clad in Calcutta Gold marble with nickel fittings, a tub shelf extends into the shower to form a bench.
Zapatka and Law agree that the finished project perfectly synthesized the vision of clients, architect and designer. The homeowners, observes Zapatka, “had sophistication and an appreciation of good design. And they wanted their house to fit into the neighborhood.”
Adds Law, “They value custom artisanship and custom work. Because it’s a ‘forever’ house, they were committed to doing it once and doing it right.”
Renovation Architecture: Christian Zapatka, AIA, FAAR, Christian Zapatka Architect, PLLC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Andrew Law, Andrew Law Interior Design, Washington, DC. Builder: Mauck Zantzinger & Associates, Inc., Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: Amy Mills, DCA Landscape, Washington, DC.
Flooring: classicfloordesigns.info. Design for Built-Ins: christianzapatka.com. Fabrication: mauckzantzinger.com. New Windows: pella.com. Exterior Whitewash & Paint and Interior Paint: Darryl Ring Custom Painting (301-695-5938). Trim: themasterswoodshop.com.
Dining & Bay Window Tables: Client’s collection. Dining Chairs: deringhall.com. Chair Upholstery: Custom Leather. Chandelier & Sconces: marstonluce.com. Drapes: johnrosselli.com. Drapery Hardware: salvationsaf.com. Wallpaper: farrow-ball.com. Rug: mattcamron.com. Candelabra: dennisandleen.com through hollyhunt.com.
Bench: Vintage through scottantiquemarket.com. Bench Cushion: arabelfabrics.com. Rug by Front Door: mattcamron.com. Front Door: Design by christianzapatka.com. Door Fabrication: themasterswoodshop.com.
Skirted Chair by Fireplace: hickorychair.com. Chair Fabric: rosetarlow.com through hollandandsherry.com. Wood-Framed Chair by Fireplace: louisjsolomon.com. Chair Upholstery: michaelsmithinc.com through jambusa.com. Sofa: leeindustries.com through americaneyewdc.net. Sofa Fabric: rogersandgoffigon.com through cowtan.com. Bench on Rollers: romanthomas.com. Bench Fabric: georgespencer.com. Coffee Table: Client’s collection. Chest by Door: Vintage through scottantiquemarket.com. Tree-Stump Table: Formations through hollyhunt.com. Occasional Table by Sofa: Vintage through niermannweeks.com. Demi-Lune Table: marstonluce.com. Mirror over Mantel: Antique. Art over Sofa: Through callowayart.com. Rug: pattersonflynnmartin.com. Drapery: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com.
Window Treatment Fabric: victoriahagan.com through hinescompany.com. Chair: Clients’ collection. Rug: coecarpetandrug.com. Built-in Desk & Shelving Design: christianzapatka.com. Desk & Shelf Fabrication: mauckzantzinger.com.