Home & Design
Backyard prior to renovation.
Backyard prior to renovation.

BEFORE: The dingy backyard prior to the renovation.

Rear facade and backyard
Rear facade and backyard

The reimagined rear façade and backyard respect the home's provenance yet feel pristine and new. Photo: Robert C. Lautman

Backyard Idyll

An addition by Muse Architects forges a connection between a historic row house and its rear garden

Georgetown’s historic Cooke’s Row boasts a hefty pedigree—starting with Henry D. Cooke, the District of Columbia’s first governor, who in 1868 commissioned architect Morris Starkweather to design four stately homes in the Italianate Revival style. Fast forward to the 21st century, when journalists Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh, who own one of these dwellings, hired Muse Architects to design a rear addition. “Our intention was to extend the home’s best architectural features while mitigating the lack of connection to the rear garden,” says senior principal Stephen Muse.

The addition, which contains an owners’ suite and a sunroom, opens out to the garden via French doors and a wide stair. The new façade “repeats the mansard roof form, dormers and wood brackets,” Muse notes. “Because the addition is two stories and the existing home is three, we slightly downsized these elements to be compatible with this smaller façade.”

The architect and his team collaborated with Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture on updating the garden, where old hardscape and a seldom-used pool made way for an elegant patio and plantings.

Renovation Architecture: Stephen Muse, FAIA, Muse Architects, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: LifeCraft, Inc., Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: Holt Jordan, ASLA, PLA, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, Washington, DC. 

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