The Arlington neighborhood of Ashton Heights evolved during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s as a quaint mix of bungalows and cottages. By the time Andy and Cathy Liverman—on the market for a new home after 29 years in Fairfax—found one of these houses for sale in 2016, many had either been replaced by sprawling McMansions or added onto beyond recognition. Bucking the trend, the Livermans, who are empty-nesters, opted to remodel while maintaining the home’s 2,000-square-foot size.
After purchasing the house, the couple tapped Winn Design+Build to overhaul its run-down interiors and spruce up the dingy exterior. “We wanted a more modern, streamlined look inside, with clean lines, openness and light,” recounts Cathy, a health policy analyst. “But we wanted to keep the original feel on the outside.”
During an initial basement walk-through, Winn and his clients made a surprise discovery: A loadbearing wall on the main floor had been removed without the addition of any other support. “There was only one beam supporting the whole house,” marvels Andy, a retired business owner. “The living room had a big dip in the middle of it.”
Once a new structural-support system was in place, Winn and his team began opening up the choppy, ground-floor rooms. They demolished a wall separating the living room from a spare bedroom situated behind it on one side of the central staircase. The dated galley kitchen on the other side of the staircase became a laundry/mudroom, while a spacious new kitchen was installed in the spot where the bedroom used to be. At the back of the house, a 1990s family-room addition was updated with attractive built-ins; it’s accessible via both the laundry room and kitchen and flows out onto an enlarged deck through French doors.
The airy kitchen is a centerpiece of the new layout. Winn’s Jennifer Hall collaborated with the homeowners to select fixtures and finishes, including white Rutt cabinetry and a dark-blue island, both topped by marble-look Cambria counters, and a glass subway-tile backsplash in soft blue. A powder room and pantry closet replaced a full bath along the stair wall. The laundry room combines crisp-white cabinetry and black-granite countertops.
In the living room, new built-in bookshelves line one wall and the once-dingy brick wood-burning fireplace is now clad in white millwork with a soapstone surround and a gas insert. Per the Livermans’ preference, there is no dining room. “We like to eat around the island or outside,” explains Cathy. “And the kitchen is so beautiful.”
Located above the family room in the addition, the master bedroom has been streamlined: Small closets flanking the windows were removed and—courtesy of EcoNize Closets—a new master closet is now functional and convenient. Two guest rooms have been similarly updated and the hall bath was gutted and remodeled with honed Carrara marble surfaces.
“Working on an older house is a bit like peeling an onion,” Winn observes. “It’s hard to know when to stop—you can always find additional things to do. You want to maintain the character of the house while making improvements.” He and his team matched existing trim throughout the interiors; rebuilt stair rails; replaced windows, doors and hardware; and added recessed LED lights and stylish fixtures. At Andy’s request, the original heart-pine floors from the main level were repurposed upstairs and new, wide-plank, heart-pine floors unify the main level.
In his exterior update, Winn adhered to the vintage bungalow aesthetic. “There was asbestos siding that needed to be remediated,” he notes. “We replaced the remaining wood with composite HardiePlank. The porch floor is ipe that will turn silvery over time.” Consulting a style guide Andy had discovered from Ashton Heights’ early days as a development, they chose new Craftsman-style pillars to accentuate the porch. “We used the guide for inspiration,” Winn says. “We added board-and-batten on the eaves and korbels that were probably here originally and got lost.”
Creating a sense of light was a priority for the Livermans, who stained the floors a honey color, selected pale blue and cream shades for the walls and opted for sunny yellow on the front door. Cathy turned to Ashley Dodson of The Nest Egg in Fairfax for help selecting furnishings, which are a mix of new pieces and antiques the couple already had. The finished home is perfectly sized for their lifestyle—which includes
frequent visits from grandchildren. “We use the whole house,” Cathy says. “It works well for us.”
Renovation Architecture: Stan Khramov, AIA; Construction: Michael Winn; Kitchen & Bath Design: Jennifer Hall, Winn Design+Build, Falls Church, Virginia.