After 20 years in their sprawling McLean, Virginia, home, Jack Ferguson and Veronica Slajer were ready to downsize—but not just anywhere. Both political consultants by trade, they wanted a row house on Capitol Hill. The couple rejected numerous prospects, but were ultimately drawn to a circa-1880 brick residence with good bones and a convenient
carriage house that would expand their living space. However, “the house was a mess,” Ferguson recalls. “The basement staircase was in the dining room and the kitchen was in the basement.”
The whole property needed a dramatic overhaul. Architect Jennifer Fowler drew up plans reorganizing the interiors, adding a kitchen on the main floor and reconfiguring the second floor with a new master suite. She also gutted the basement and replaced the outdated original kitchen with a catering kitchen by Poggenpohl. The carriage house received a makeover that included a kitchen for guests on the ground floor and two bedrooms with a Jack-and-Jill bath upstairs.
Ferguson and Slajer tapped designer Zoe Feldman to reinvent the interiors, enhancing the home’s charming, vintage architectural features while adding fresh, modern elements to the mix. “We were careful not to take the house too much in one direction,” Feldman says. “I really like the tension between old and new—and I think good design requires tension.”
The deft blend of classic and modern is evident on arrival: The original double front door—freshly painted blue-gray and featuring opaque, stained-glass panels—gives way to a vestibule with a terracotta-tile floor in a modern, graphic design. The traditional staircase and living room, adorned with ornamental details and an ornate, marbleized fireplace, are visible through a sleek, glass pivot door that the owners like to keep locked while leaving the outer door open. “We can see out but still be safe,” Ferguson observes, adding, “The glass door invites you, yet there’s a separation. I’d prefer a real entry passage, but the light and glass give the sense that the small area in front of the stair landing is adequate.”
Beyond the living room, the original dining room was converted into a minimalist kitchen. “When I entered the picture,” Feldman says, “Jack and Veronica had purchased a Poggenpohl kitchen that needed to be designed for the space.” She situated the cabinetry and appliances along one wall in the former dining room. Stairs to the basement, which hugged the opposite wall, were removed and new basement stairs were tucked away beneath the upper staircase in the living room. On the wall facing the backyard, an incongruous picture window was replaced with French doors complete with transoms and sidelites; the doors open onto a steel-reinforced wood deck and a picturesque courtyard beyond.
A passageway about four feet below the main level originally connected the main house to the carriage house. The owners wanted to remove it, “but eventually we realized the connection between the spaces is essential,” Ferguson says. The passage leads from the new kitchen to the carriage house, where the powder room is located. Now elevated to main-floor level, it has been spruced up with clean-lined, heated-slate floors and three sets of French doors that spill onto the courtyard. Slajer, who enjoys gardening, planted a green roof atop the structure.
Upstairs, the original master bedroom now belongs to the couple’s 13-year-old son while a former sitting room was reconfigured to accommodate the master suite. The couple’s bedroom features architectural details of Feldman’s design and motorized draperies that conceal a Juliet balcony overlooking the courtyard. Skylights illuminate the stairwell and master bath, which boasts a cement-look tile accent wall and a custom vanity topped with marble.
Built-ins throughout the house improve functionality. “They were a starting point for the project,” Feldman notes. “I love to build things in, especially in older homes where there’s never enough storage. The idea was for this house to be a very quiet experience, with everything tucked away. It should feel seamless.”
Contrasting with the modern lines of the kitchen and front entry are design elements ranging from classic to rustic. “The owners appreciated the history of the home, so they were inclined to reuse things they found in the house,” Feldman relates. Floorboards salvaged from the attic have been repurposed as wall panels, installed above the minimalist kitchen cabinets and opposite a wall of exposed brick. By contrast, a pair of crystal chandeliers by Dennis & Leen makes a formal statement in the living room, along with two ornate, large-scale gilt mirrors that came with the house.
Clean-lined, classic furnishings and Oushak rugs, all brought by the owners from their previous home, convey casual elegance throughout the interiors. “We encourage clients to keep what they can, so as not to be wasteful.” Feldman says. “In this case, they had so much beautiful stuff, we thought, ‘Why buy new things just to buy them?’”
The opening between the living room and kitchen was widened, emphasizing the line of sight back to the courtyard. There’s no longer a formal dining room but, says Ferguson, “We get creative with seating arrangements and it works.” The couple loves to entertain, from dinner parties to fundraisers. “We get a lot of compliments,” he reveals. “If a home is done right, people will respond without knowing what they’re responding to—it just makes them feel good.”
Renovation Architecture: Jennifer Fowler, AIA, Fowler Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Zoe Feldman, Zoë Feldman Design, Washington, DC. Contractor: Jeffrey Keil, Keil Construction, Washington, DC.
Gold-Framed Mirrors: Original to house. Chandeliers: dennisandleen.com through hollyhunt.com. Sofa by Window: brunschwig.com. Ottoman: ferrellmittman.com. Throw Pillows: hollyhunt.com. Rug: pasargad.com. Living Room & Stair Rail Paint: benjaminmoore.com.
Cabinetry: The Craft; 703-706-0873. Chandelier & Sconces: circalighting.com. Rug: pasargad.com. Bedstead: rh.com. Commodes: mcguirefurniture.com. Storage Bench: leeindustries.com. Chaise Lounge: ferrellmittman.com. Drapery Fabric & Fabrication: meticuleux, llc; 703-860-4309.
Cabinetry: The Craft; 703-706-0873. Wall Tile: waterworks.com.