When a couple with two kids purchased a traditional Forest Hills residence in 2016, they assumed that everything in the home would have to change except its recently upgraded kitchen.
The owners, a consultant and a fitness professional, wanted to transform and enlarge the 7,600- square-foot, center-hall home built in 1991. Their goal was to take the outdated, red-brick abode in a transitional direction, introducing a contemporary vibe while still embracing its established Washington, DC, neighborhood. Their wish list included a pool house in the backyard, which overlooks Rock Creek Park.
To help them realize their dreams, the duo tapped architects Patrick Cooke and Neal Thomson, interior designer Martha Vicas, landscape architect Kevin Campion and the contractor ThinkMakeBuild. The project would redesign the façade, adding triple dormers to the roofline and replacing and realigning windows and doors. It would also gut the interiors and add 300 square feet to the footprint with a new laundry room and expanded home gym. Above all, the redo would amplify rear views of the landscape. “A connection to the new rear garden and pool house was first and foremost the driving factor for our work,” says Thomson. “That—and planning a house that could work for entertaining on a large scale while also being a family home.”
New landscaping extends an elegant welcome to the completed residence, with its original red brick painted a pale cream. “We wanted the front of the house to complement the context of the street; it’s not nearly as modern as the back,” explains Campion, who laid new bluestone pavers across the lawn leading up to the home’s front entry. “We specified hornbeams to define the garden’s edge and also screen the garage area. Boxwoods further shape the space and provide a clean edge to the front lawn.”
Inside the home, new white-oak flooring and clean-lined trim detail the foyer; the former boxy staircase was demolished and replaced by a graceful, curved one, allowing for clearer sight lines from the front to the back.
Formal living and dining rooms flank the entry hall. Vicas outfitted these spaces in spare, streamlined style. “The owners’ previous house was filled with more traditional furniture and carpets, but the artwork was modern,” she observes. “They definitely wanted to make this house a tad more contemporary, but without being cold.” The intimate living room, with a textured “tweed” wall covering and a tailored stone-and-steel fireplace, is anchored by a modern interpretation of a Chesterfield sofa upholstered in orange velvet. “The orange color makes it edgy, as does the bronze base,” the designer adds.
Across the way in the dining room, a sculptural light fixture made of hand-blown glass forms hung from individual filaments is a focal point. Vicas furnished the elegant room with an extra-long dining table that seats 12 for large gatherings. “The walls are also really special,” she comments. “With their four coats of lacquered-oil paint, I find it hard to resist touching them.”
The back of the main level encompasses the kitchen and family room. Though the kitchen was untouched, Vicas hung a whimsical, pretzel-like light fixture above the newly furnished eat-in area. The family room features an alcove ceiling with five halo light fixtures and a custom-designed, white-limestone fireplace sporting banded-bronze inlays. The effect is a stylish yet comfortable room where the family can gather to converse, play the piano or read.
Along the rear of the home, Thomson and Cooke replaced the paned windows with floor-to-ceiling ones, along with new sliding-glass doors, all facing the lush parkland. “We completely redesigned the large balcony outside the family room, adding a glass railing with unimpeded views to the backyard,” recounts Cooke of the space, which boasts an al fresco dining area.
The second floor houses three bedrooms (there are seven in total), including the reimagined master suite. Another alcove ceiling and an inset headboard wall define the owners’ bedroom, along with an abstract patterned carpet that Vicas designed. Thomson and Cooke also added a small balcony where the couple can enjoy coffee brewed in the master bathroom’s morning kitchen, which features a wet bar and built-in espresso machine. “We tiled the master bathroom walls in solid marble slabs and created a sense of being suspended above the park with floor-to-ceiling walls of glass around the vessel tub,” says Thomson.
The rear pool area was inspired by the verdant courtyard in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Kevin Campion, along with colleagues Jordan Crabtree and Lacreisha Phillips, oversaw the transformation of the garden and its crisp hardscaping. “The negative-edge pool is dynamic and has several connected elements: a swimming pool, a hot tub, a paddling basin for the kids and a cold plunge spa,” he reveals.
The striking, 800-square-foot pool house is made of stone and steel; its indoor hearth is aligned with the swimming pool. “The pool house was designed to fold open to the terraced area with glass pocket doors,” says Cooke. The interior boasts two bar-height tables that can be moved outside if needed; they sit on either side of four armchairs and a concrete drum table.
Meanwhile, the backyard’s bluestone terrace matches the front’s bluestone pavers for continuity, and river birches grow in a steady line by the pool, creating a shade canopy that will improve with time. “A portion of the rear garden hangs on a fairly steep slope,” says Campion. “We call it the forest garden, where we employed a variety of native trees, shrubs and ground covers that will hopefully soon look like the richly planted woodland was never touched.”
Having remodeled a previous residence, the owners were savvy about the process and trusted the team to execute their dream home. Their wish list was met—and then some.
Architecture: Patrick Cooke, AIA; Neal Thomson, AIA, Thomson & Cooke Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Martha Vicas, M.S. Vicas Interiors, Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: Kevin Campion, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC.
Sofa & Chairs: hollyhunt.com. Fabrics: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Coffee Table: dmitriyco.com. Mirror over mantel: Owners’ collection. Wallcovering: phillipjeffries.com. Carpet: custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Limestone Fireplace mantel: chesneys.com. Drapery Fabric: pollackassociates.com. Drapery Fabrication: leangsinteriors.com. Fireplace screen: avrett.com.
Table: hollyhunt.com. Light: ochre.net. Lacquered Walls: carlospaintingllc.com. Chairs: davidedward.com. Chair Fabric: Kerry Joyce for hinescompany.com. Carpet: custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Drapery fabric: pierrefrey.com.
Sofa: Custom. Sofa Fabric: castelmaison.com. Carpet & Vintage Sculpture: Owners’ collection. Coffee Table & Curvy Chairs: hollyhunt.com. Chair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Square Chairs: deccahome.com. Chair Fabric: pollackassociates.com. Light Fixtures: camerondesignhouse.com through illuminc.com.
Bed: capertoncollection.com through hollyhunt.com. Sconces: hollyhunt.com. Mantel, Nightstands & Bench: Custom. Bench Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Carpet: custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Ceiling Fixture: urbanelectric.com. Chair and ottoman: dmitriyco.com. Side Table: arteriors.com.