Built between 1949 and 1951, the Hammond Wood community in Silver Spring is notable for its modern houses nestled into a heavily wooded setting. Its 58 homes designed by architect Charles Goodman with open plans, window walls and nature-sensitive siting had a significant impact on residential design during the post-World War II era.
“Goodman’s houses are well-known among architects, and sought after as some of the best mid-century architecture in the area,” says Janet Bloomberg, a principal at KUBE Architecture. “I love that Hammond Wood has large trees and houses with lots of glass. It’s a friendly and supportive neighborhood, so we knew we wanted to buy here.”
In 2011, she and husband Sean Brady, an entomologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home on a one-third-acre lot in the community and undertook a renovation a few months later. “The house was very small—only 1,100 square feet—so I added a half-bath, opened the kitchen to the living space, installed brightly colored cabinets to make it family-friendly and widened the galley area for better function,” says the architect. New windows and mechanical and electrical systems were installed to improve the energy efficiency of the design.
But even with these changes, the interior felt cramped for the homeowners and their young son, Ian. “We wanted private space for the family in addition to the living area, and we needed a dining space, more bedrooms and a home office for Sean and me,” says Bloomberg.
About five years after the initial renovation of the main house, the couple embarked on a 10-month construction project. Bloomberg devised a wood-framed addition braced with steel at the rear of the lot that respects Goodman’s architecture while establishing an adaptable design for contemporary living. “I tucked the addition behind, so it is barely visible from the front and allows the original home to maintain its street presence,” she says.
Sloping roofs, large expanses of glass, an exposed structure and a strong indoor-outdoor connection relate the new pavilion to the existing house. A connective corridor located outside the footprint of the original home bridges old and new to maintain the integrity of Goodman’s design. Following the contours of a hill on site, the addition is raised half a level up from the mid-century dwelling, which further sets it apart, as does a courtyard between the two structures.
The hallway connecting the new and old structures serves as a gallery for art on the lower level, then widens to create a seating area on the upper floor. A green roof atop the hallway provides visual interest from the new addition while collecting water runoff from the roof of the existing house.
Inside the main house, a small bedroom and adjacent hallway were demolished in favor of a dining area. “It creates a good place to connect to the addition, as we didn’t have an obvious spot to connect previously,” says Bloomberg. “This change makes the living/dining area feel much larger than before.”
The addition includes a small basement containing all mechanical equipment. Ductwork runs underground to the new concrete floors, providing a highly efficient air-supply system. Metal roofing wraps the exterior side walls of the new structure, draining water into linear gravel troughs along the perimeter so downspouts and gutters are not needed.
Bloomberg instilled flexibility into the addition with flowing spaces and sliding walls. Currently, the interiors are used as a family room, a home office and a hangout space for Ian. “The design allows for changes in the future to meet evolving family needs,” says the architect. With its separate entrance, the addition could be transformed into an accessory dwelling unit for aging parents or older children. It also features two new bathrooms and a laundry room.
The pitch of the addition’s shed roofs accommodates clerestory windows, offering views of the many large trees on site, all of which were preserved during construction. Each room in the addition boasts a full-height wall of glass, making the landscape the main focal point.
“My favorite aspect of the addition is the large windows that make it feel both open and private at the same time,” observes Brady. “I also like the flexible room arrangement; we can open up most of the space to act almost like a studio where the family can enjoy themselves together, but also close off rooms when family members need their own space.”
Bloomberg, who calls the project “Dual Modern,” treated the addition as a laboratory for experimenting with different aspects of modernism and new design elements. “I used this addition to test products I was interested in trying out but had never used before,” she says. “I incorporated adaptable light fixtures, three-dimensional Italian tile and a stained-birch plywood ceiling that I then was able to show clients and use on projects that followed.”
How can an addition be adaptable to meet changing family needs?
Janet Bloomberg: Flexible elements such as sliding doors, moveable walls and furniture on wheels can allow a space to be adaptable. Rooms can be enlarged or made smaller, and adjacent rooms or hallways can be utilized for additional space and function. Also, a separate entrance to an addition enables it to become an in-law suite or accessory dwelling unit in the future.
What are ways to distinguish an addition while respecting original architecture?
A glass connection between old and new can visually distinguish the addition from the existing house. Or the addition can be separated by a hallway or gallery from the main house.
How do you determine where an addition should be built?
Consider zoning setback requirements, existing trees, existing grade (or slope), path of the sun and opportunities for views. Another important factor is site circulation, including movement from the street through the house to the landscape.
Renovation Architecture: Janet Bloomberg, FAIA, principal and lead designer; Matthias Arauco-Shapiro and Matthew Dougherty, project designers, KUBE Architecture, Washington, DC. General Contractor: Darren Kornas, ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC. Interior Contractor: Ricardo Cardenas, R. Construction, Takoma Park, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Kevin Campion, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.
For Liz Mearns, decorating homes in the Arlington community of Aurora Hills is a regular part of her business. “I have worked on about 25 projects within a four-block radius,” says the interior designer, who lives and runs her firm, Imagine Design, in the neighborhood. “The convenience is great, but it also means I have to keep it fresh. No one wants their house to look the same as the one down the street.”
In 2013, she helped repeat clients design a home in the neighborhood in collaboration with architect Christine Kelly of Crafted Architecture. Kelly transformed the original 1920s home on a corner lot by demolishing most of its compact, shingled structure, only preserving the existing foundation, basement and first-floor perimeter walls. The rear of the house was extended with a two-story addition and the front reconfigured with a porch. The rebuild expanded the original 3,000-square-foot dwelling into a 5,657-square-foot home, including the finished basement.
Inside, says Kelly, the layout was reorganized to “create a series of intimate and family gathering spaces,” including five bedrooms and baths. The rear extension provides an open kitchen/family room on the main floor, a master suite on the second floor and a rec room in the walk-out basement.
From the front, the home now resembles a modern farmhouse. A porch adorned with gas lamps wraps two sides of the exterior, which is clad in fiber-cement shingles. A new shed separated from the porch by a tiny garden serves as a freestanding garage.
“We worked to make sure the scale of the house from the street didn’t overpower the neighbors,” says Kelly. “The biggest challenge was getting all the bits and pieces to work within the existing zoning.” In renovating, she preserved the home’s original wooden staircase, which connects its two levels, as part of the new build.
About a year after Kelly and Mearns completed the ambitious makeover, the owners sold the house and moved to Texas. Neighbors—a stay-at-home mom and her business-consultant husband—bought the property in 2015. “We love the neighborhood. It’s close to downtown DC and the airport,” explains the wife. “The setting is what drew us.”
The husband agrees; perched atop a forested hillside, the back of the home faces the trees through tall windows in the kitchen and family room. “I love this part of the house overlooking the woods,” he says. “It’s open to the view, but very private.”
The new owners, who had previously worked with Mearns, hired her to redesign the interiors to suit their taste and needs. Apart from refreshing some finishes, they kept the renovated spaces intact, says Mearns, who set out to make the living spaces “casual and light-filled, with a lot of natural elements.”
The family room is furnished with comfortable sofas and armchairs arranged around a stucco, wood-burning fireplace. The adjacent kitchen, designed in collaboration with Stuart Kitchens, centers on a copper range hood and a walnut-paneled island topped with marble. In contrast to these bright, open spaces, the dining room at the front of the house is dark and cozy with a charcoal-colored wall covering and a coffered ceiling. The nearby study, which opens to the front porch, is similarly intimate and painted a deep gray.
The preserved staircase leads to the second floor, where the landing and a new dormer have been turned into homework space and a lounge for the couple’s two sons, 11 and 15, and daughter, 13. Three bedrooms and a shared bathroom for the children occupy the second-floor spaces where the original house once stood, next to the master suite addition at the rear.
The master bedroom is almost all finished in white. Ivory carpet, bedding, draperies and wall covering were chosen to “create the feeling of a sanctuary,” says the owner.
Working with Mearns, the wife says, helped her to overcome her biggest fear: wallpaper. “I was always afraid of it, but Liz convinced me it’s a good way to inject personality into the rooms,” she explains. Patterned papers, some in bold colors, now enliven the kids’ study space, dining room, master bedroom and powder and mud rooms.
The owners recently worked with Kelly to expand the back deck off the family room into an outdoor entertaining space. They also use the front porch to host family and friends for coffee or cocktails. As Mearns notes, “The house is designed to feel friendly and welcoming”—just like a good neighbor.
Renovation & Addition Architecture: Christine Kelly, AIA, Crafted Architecture LLC, Alexandria, Virginia. Interior Design: Liz Mearns, Imagine Design, Arlington, Virginia. Kitchen Design: Stuart Kitchens, McLean, Virginia. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.
How do you integrate an addition with the existing house?
Christine Kelly: Scale the addition proportionally, create offsets when tying in new materials and match
Liz Mearns: An addition should be carefully curated to give additional space while relating to the rest of the home. You never want it to look like it’s stuck on.
Tips for defining spaces in an open plan while maintaining flow?
CK: Large, cased openings between spaces, coffered ceilings, or stepping the family room down from the kitchen give detail and definition to open plans.
LM: Groupings of furniture grounded by a rug can define each space; seating should be no more than eight feet apart for conversation.
What is the best way to work with an architect and a designer?
CK: I like clients to hire the entire team at the beginning, to encourage the sharing of ideas throughout the design process.
LM: Be thorough about the plans from the start because making changes down the road is often more difficult and expensive.
Renting a pre-War apartment in the District’s Adams Morgan neighborhood inspired designer Rachel Dougan to refresh the spacious, two-bedroom unit with an eclectic mix of furnishings, new paint and edgy artworks. “Preserving the character of the space—not taking out molding details or changing the floors—was essential,” says Dougan. “But I didn’t want it to look like a rental.”
The residence is part of a 1926 cooperative apartment building located near Meridian Hill Park. “It is a grande dame of a building with good bones,” Dougan notes. The Neoclassical structure was designed by architect Joseph Younger, who later created the Kennedy-Warren on Connecticut Avenue.
In customizing the home for herself and husband Jim Dougan, an economic consultant, the designer abandoned the typical approach of embracing a neutral interior palette and accenting it with colorful accessories. Instead, she played up dramatic light-and-dark contrasts—including furniture in bright shades—to enliven the rooms and set off their graceful proportions and details.
“This apartment was the first instance where most of our things ended up out in the open, versus packed away in storage,” says Rachel. “During the process of pulling our home together, it was a challenge not to have it look like a yard sale, but I like the result, which is a very honest representation of us and how we live. What makes it work is celebrating juxtapositions and not taking anything too seriously.”
Dougan’s eclectic blending of high-end designs, big-box store bargains and flea-market finds—all in different styles, colors and textures—assembled into bold but livable spaces is the hallmark of her DC firm, ViVi Interiors. After partnering with the late Washington designer Jerry Copeland for several years, she launched her own practice in 2015.
The Dougans’ Adams Morgan apartment (the couple recently moved to a row house in Woodley Park) offered plenty of room for design experimentation. It opens to a 17-foot-long foyer leading to a corner living room with windows on two sides. “I loved the light in that room, the furniture, the breezes through the open windows in the spring and fall, and being surrounded by artwork and books,” says Jim.
Adjoining the living area are a guest room, bathroom and master suite. Next to the foyer is a dining room and at one end of that space is the kitchen.
To gain more storage space, Dougan turned the service entrance area in the kitchen into a pantry. A corridor between the foyer and master bedroom, originally intended for servants, became a walk-in closet.
Tall bookcases stretching along the foyer wall extend into the living area to create a library. “They look like they are built-in and architecturally intentional, but I bought them from Ikea,” Dougan reveals. “The wall behind the shelving and gaps between the units were painted black to disappear and give them a custom look.”
Intense hues and geometric shapes enliven each space. “At the core of my aesthetic is a leaning toward cleaner lines and spots of saturated color, which is the common thread I used to pull it all together,” explains Dougan.
Gold shimmers on the chevron-patterned metallic wallpaper on the foyer ceiling, panels inside the bookshelves and an Asian screen in the living room. A deep purple wall behind a contemporary four-poster bed anchors the master suite. A blue sofa, green swivel seating and vividly striped, upholstered chairs brighten the living and dining rooms.
Recycled from the Dougans’ previous homes, the furniture includes low-slung seating collected for a mid-century dwelling and traditional pieces and antiques purchased for an historic row house. “They all have curves and shapes that relate to each other,” explains the designer about her mingling of periods and styles. “But you can’t just throw things together. You have to consider the visual weight, proportions, scale and color of each element so they work in balance.”
Artwork adds another layer of visual interest. Jim collects comic book illustrations—an “under-appreciated art form, but there’s a whole realm of amazing artists working in the field,” he notes. Several of his favorite pieces are arrayed in the apartment, including a print by Sin City comic series artist Frank Miller. A statuette of superhero Iron Man is displayed in the living room bookcase and hanging on a nearby door are depictions of the character Sally Jupiter from the Watchmen movie.
“Rachel has a good sense of how to create a unified whole,” observes Jim. “She definitely reflected both of our tastes.” He adds: “If I feel something is not quite working, I’ll let her know. But generally, she’s right.”
Interior Design: Rachel Dougan, ViVi Interiors, Washington, DC.
Table: lexmod.com. Side Chairs: Vintage. Dining Chair Fabric: scalamandre.com. Swivel Chairs: Vintage. Center Table: curreyandcompany.com. Foot Stool: jonathanadler.com. Credenza: ikea.com. French Deco Antique Chandelier: artisanlamp.com . Photograph: tamarlevine.com. “Mascarpone” Paint Color: benjaminmoore.com.
White Sofa: bebitalia.com. Indonesian Coffee Table: Vintage. Table Under Coffee Table: molteni.it/us. Poufs: cb2.com. White Chairs & Blue Sofa: mgbwhome.com. Blue Sofa Fabric: fabricut.com. Gold Pedestal: target.com. Vintage Black Chest: goodwooddc.com. Sisal Rug: Sisal: floorson14.com. Fabric on Pillow & Josef Hoffmann Bench: kravet.com. Martini Table: americaneyewdc.net. Pillow Fabric on Blue Sofa: dedar.com. Floor Lamp: circalighting.com.
Rug: stark.com. Bed: cb2.com. Bedding: sferra.com. “Pelt” Wall Color: farrowandball.com. Slipper Chair: Vintage. Nightstand: ikea.com. Table Lamps: curreyandcompany.com. Drapery Fabric: fabricut.com. Drapery Fabrication: stevensonvestal.com. Antique Armoire: French Deco.
The hallmarks of historic Arts and Crafts architecture—overhanging roofs, shingled façades and exposed-wood joinery—are celebrated in the home built by Dawn Vermilya and Jinyong Cai in Northwest DC’s upscale Phillips Park neighborhood. The married couple had looked at dozens of properties in the area before buying a wooded lot next to Glover-Archbold Park.
Vermilya and Cai, a buildpartner in an infrastructure investment fund, had previously built a contemporary residence on the outskirts of Beijing and were comfortable with the custom-design process. They chose Washington, DC, architect Ankie Barnes of Barnes Vanze Architects to create a seven-bedroom house for themselves and their three grown daughters.
“We were looking for a home that would be compatible with both Chinese and Western furnishings and art, that made you feel comfortable and relaxed but also had a certain natural elegance to it,” says Vermilya, formerly with the World Bank. “Ankie took these concepts and suggested a California Arts and Crafts style.”
Barnes drew inspiration from the shingled residences in Pasadena, California, created by architects Charles and Henry Greene in the early 1900s. “With its blend of Asian and American influences, woodsy style and connection to nature, their architecture was a good place to start,” he says. Like the Greene brothers’ climate-sensitive homes, the Phillips Park house invites outdoor living with porches, decks and balconies extending from every level.
Meticulous detailing is evident throughout the interiors, beginning in the three-story foyer with its elegantly curving staircase edged in white oak. Flanking this entrance hall are the dining and living rooms, where oak moldings and trim grace the walls and ceilings.
At the back, the main level expands to a large, open space containing the kitchen, breakfast area and family room, all unified by a continuous wood-beam ceiling. Since the site slopes downward toward the rear of the property, this end of the house is perched high above the yard like a treehouse. “There’s an expansive view of our garden and Glover-Archbold Park,” says Cai. “It is always beautiful and changing with the seasons.”
A spacious deck off the family room serves as a place for hosting al fresco parties and enjoying the scenery. “It’s very nice to just relax, read or have a barbecue there, spring through fall,” Cai relates. In the walk-out basement below the kitchen, a wall of folding-glass doors can be completely opened, joining a stone patio to an indoor exercise area centered on a resistance swimming pool.
Throughout the house, Asian-influenced woodwork and decorative finishes remind Cai and Vermilya of their years living in China. The deck railings and fretwork in the dining room and the home office off the family room are inspired by Eastern motifs. Wooden door surrounds on the main level suggest the shapes of temple gateways. Japanese-style cherry blossoms extend across the tile of the living-room fireplace.
Four bedroom suites on the second floor include spaces for the homeowners and their visiting daughters, while a guest room occupies the lower level. Of the two bedrooms on the third floor, one is used as a study and the other as a studio for Vermilya, who experiments with art. The owners’ bathroom reveals fine craftsmanship in its teak vanity, cabinets and tub surround, designed by Barnes Vanze to recall both Asian and Arts and Crafts handiwork.
Working closely with her colleagues and the clients, interior designer Miriam Dillon complemented the architecture with wood furnishings, metal light fixtures, grass cloth on the dining room walls and earth-toned upholstery. She also incorporated the owners’ collection of Chinese antiques, art and accessories throughout the home.
“The clients had an interest in a minimalist environment with clean lines that would not detract from the architecture,” says Dillon. “Since the house occupies a site that allows for beautiful views of the landscape, it was important to respect the setting with natural materials and colors.”
The owners and their family delight in their serene new retreat. “The abundance of natural materials, the home’s relationship to the woods and Asian influences all made the California Arts and Crafts style an ideal choice for us,” says Vermilya. “It reminds us of the craftsmanship we’ve seen in China.”
Architecture & Interior Design: Anthony Barnes, FAIA, LEED AP, principal; Ellen Hatton, AIA, project architect; Miriam Dillon, interior design, Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, DC. Builder: Richard Zantzinger, Mauck Zantzinger & Associates, Inc., Washington, DC. Landscape Design: Marion Oxford Dearth Landscape Design Inc., Washington, DC.
Window Treatment Fabric: fabricut.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Sectional & Lounge Chair: roche-bobois.com. Console Table: 1stdibs.com. Coffee Table: roche-bobois.com. Island Pendants: restorationhardware.com. Breakfast Table: randomharvesthome.com. Chairs & Stools: Owner’s collection. Table Chandelier: visualcomfort.com.
Console Table: 1stdibs.com. Entry Rug: restorationhardware.com. Stair Runner: carpetimpressions.com. Hanging Pendants: visualcomfort.com. Loveseat: leeindustries.com. Accessories: Antiques. Art: By owner. Sconces: visualcomfort.com.
Sofa, chairs & coffee table: Owner’s collection. Fireplace Mural: fireclaytile.com.
Lighting: hubbardtonforge.com. Faucets: waterworks.com. Sink: us.kohler.com. Vanity & Cabinets: Custom by Barnes Vanze Architects. Counter: caesarstoneus.com. Accessories: waterworks.com. Chair: Owner’s collection. Deck Furniture & accessories: restorationhardware.com.
Panoramic vistas beckon through floor-to-ceiling windows in the contemporary penthouse of the 31-story Waterview condominium in Rosslyn, Virginia. They sweep across the Potomac River from Georgetown to the National Mall, bringing city landmarks and monuments into focus.
Impressive, too, are the views inside the aerie, where unadorned planes of wood, stone and metal enclose flowing spaces. Ordinary elements are treated unconventionally, from hidden doors to sculptural ceilings and walls finished in raw and refined materials, heightening the visual contrasts.
“The closer you look, the more quality you perceive in the design,” says homeowner Matt Calkins, a corporate CEO and board-game designer. “The home is full of surprising details and tactile pleasures.”
Calkins is the single dad of a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, who live in the condo part-time. The executive says he “likes to get really involved in projects” and recently moved his software company, Appian, from Reston to Gannett’s former headquarters in Tysons. Remodeling the Waterview condo was his first foray into residential design; at the recommendation of Appian’s commercial architect, he turned to DC modernist Robert Gurney to spearhead the effort.
“Bob is really good with the back and forth of ideas,” says Calkins. “He is flexible and I felt I could collaborate with him.”
In organizing the U-shaped apartment, Gurney says, “The views were the thread that wove the project together.” He arranged the kitchen, dining area, living space and game room along the perimeter facing vistas of DC and situated the home office, kids’ bedrooms, bathroom and playroom in the opposite wing overlooking Rosslyn.
The large master suite bridges the two sides, offering views of the Kennedy Center and Washington Monument. The master bedroom incorporates a sitting area and a cedar-clad spa bathroom centered on a Japanese soaking tub.
Gurney maximized the ceiling heights and spatial flow in the 4,865-square-foot apartment by gutting the existing compartmentalized interior. However, he confronted some elements that had to remain in place. “Since this is a penthouse, there was infrastructure like roof drains and plumbing stacks that couldn’t be moved,” the architect recalls.
Accommodating these necessities led him to segment the ceiling above the main living spaces into drywall facets resembling the folded-paper constructions of origami. To accentuate this effect, the ceiling is separated from the adjacent walls so it appears to float. Observes Calkins, “It looks like a cloud that drifted in and might drift out.”
In contrast to the ceilings, wood, metal and stone differentiate and enrich the walls and architectural elements. Dark, wenge-finished surfaces define the kitchen and the bookcase partition separating the living/library area from the game room. Quarter-sawn white oak is applied to floors and corridor walls, while sheets of reflective steel define the utility core at the center of the unit. Structural concrete columns are left exposed as a contrast to the wood and metal finishes.
“We tried to create tension between materials,” says Calkins, pointing out the piano’s polished surface next to the raw concrete column in the living area. “But it is done quietly. Creating a peaceful feeling was one of my goals. There are no loud artworks or carpet runners to disrupt the space.”
In the dining area, the back wall is clad in cleft slate to integrate one of the only artifacts on display: a large fossil of an extinct marine reptile that Calkins acquired from a dealer in Hamburg, Germany. A plant fossil purchased at Astro Gallery in New York is similarly recessed into a wall of the master bathroom.
Interior designer Therese Baron Gurney, who often collaborates with her husband, complemented the architecture with wood-topped tables and low-slung leather chairs. “It was a challenge to find pieces that were classic, comfortable and didn’t block the views,” she explains. “We chose designs that were simple and elegant, but not fragile.”
Since completing the renovation, Calkins purchased two adjoining units on the floor and tapped the Gurneys to expand his home into those spaces. Another fossil wall is planned, along with a larger kitchen and a sitting room oriented to the views. As the homeowner notes, “I will be able to enjoy sunsets over the city.”
Renovation Architecture: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, principal, and Nicole de Jong, AIA, project architect, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Architect, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Therese Baron Gurney, ASID, Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Peterson and Collins, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Julia Walter, Boffi Georgetown LLC, Washington, DC. Home Automation: Atlantic Control Technologies, Annapolis, Maryland.
Flooring, Source: grafbro.com. Lighting Design: gsadc.com.
Rug: silkroadcarpetandrugs.com. Coffee Table: centralstationinteriors.com. Chairs: poltronafrau.com. Pillow Fabric: brentanofabrics.com. Floor Lamp: davidweeksstudio.com. Side Tables: Baker. bakerfurniture.com.
Table: usonahome.com. Chairs: poltronafrau.com.
Cabinetry: boffi.com. Hood: gaggenau.com. Countertop Source: usmarble.com. Backsplash Source: salvatori.it. Cooktop: gaggenau.com.
Table: poltronafrau.com. Chairs: hermanmiller.com. Rug: mitchelldenburg.com. Walter Knoll Sofa: m2l.com. Sofa Fabric: pollackassociates.com. Throw Pillows: weitznerlimited.com. Coffee Table: cassina.com.
Bed: natuzzi.com. Lamp: Lumina lumina.it. Rug: silkroadcarpetandrugs.com. Chairs: wkworks.com. Chair Fabric: kvadratrafsimons.com. Center & Side Tables: classicon.com.
Custom Wenge Cabinet Design: robertgurneyarchitect.com. Cabinet Fabrication: alleghenywoodworksllc.com. Flooring & Countertop Source: usmarble.com. Sink Fixture: lacava.com. Fixture Source: rlvoight.com. Cabinet hardware: hafele.com. Soaking Tub: bradfordproducts.com.
Sofa: ligneroset-dc.com. Rug: whiteoakcarpet.com. Chairs: hermanmiller.com.
Looking at the front of the vintage row house Patricio Asfura-Heim and Christine DeWitt recently remodeled, little seems to have changed from a century ago except for the bright coral-colored front door. However, beyond the threshold, modern interiors present a dramatic contrast to this historic façade.
Renovating the home in the Georgetown Historic District was a two-year process—prolonged by the extensive federal and local design reviews required to ensure that any alterations to the exterior would fit with the original architecture and surroundings. “The Old Georgetown Board is very particular about what is visible from the street,” says DeWitt, referring to the federal group responsible for reviewing designs in the historic district. “We had to change some elements. We replaced the asphalt roof shingles with slate and the aluminum gutters with copper. The review covered every detail.”
Working with architect Adam McGraw of StudioMB, the owners faithfully restored the exterior using old photos of the property as a reference. New windows were inserted to match the originals and a wooden porch on the detached side of the house was structurally improved. Wood siding was cleaned and repainted.
“Part of working in Georgetown is using authentic materials, which guided us toward more traditional choices on the outside,” McGraw explains. “On the inside, we wanted open spaces and clean lines along with contemporary finishes. We tied interior views to the centerlines of original windows and bays to bring old and new together into a cohesive, integrated design.”
Beyond the historically accurate façade, 21st-century interiors burst into view. The bright, expansive main level, centered on a minimalist white kitchen, extends from front to back. Light filters into the living and dining areas from bay windows, while streamlined, mid-century furnishings underscore the modern sensibility.
“Our vision was all about family,” observes the Chilean-born Asfura-Heim, who works at the State Department. “We wanted a space where we could all do our thing but be together. I could be cooking, our daughter could be sitting at the dining table and Christine could be in the family room, yet we could all see each other and be in each other’s company.”
The flowing interior transforms what had been separate rooms with the staircase located along one side in traditional row-house fashion. “Even though the house was chopped up, it had good bones and I felt we could do a lot with it,” says DeWitt, an assistant professor of dermatology at Georgetown University who also runs her own practice.
The open plan was achieved by demolishing the original staircase and room partitions and adding more space to the back of the house via a three-level addition. “After looking at several ideas,” McGraw recounts, “we decided on a rear addition in the vocabulary of the original house and added a more contemporary two-story bay to bring in the north light and open the house to views of the garden.”
The addition contains the family room, a library/TV room on the second floor and an attic bedroom for the couple’s young daughter, Victoria. The family room is sunken from the kitchen, dining and living areas, making it level with a new stone patio in the backyard. Along the back wall, glass doors fold open, joining the interior seamlessly to the outdoor living room and accommodating the homeowners’ entertaining style.
“During a party last summer, we left the folding doors open so people could transition between the island and a drinks table on the patio,” recalls DeWitt. “For Victoria’s fifth birthday, we had her friends hang out in the family room and the adults in the living room and kitchen—close enough to keep an eye on the kids but far enough away to give a sense of separation and privacy.”
McGraw maintained the openness of the main level by tucking a new steel-framed staircase to one side of the addition, behind the family room, to connect all the levels. Topped with a skylight, the stairs supply daylight to the rooms at the back and keep the living spaces and second-floor owners’ suite unencumbered by hallways.
The staircase provides visual interest in the kitchen area, where part of its underside peeks out from the ceiling. In the second-floor library/TV room, a wall opening allows glimpses of the stairwell, while tall windows at the back and sides fill the room with light. “We wanted to build in as many vantage points as we could,” says Asfura-Heim.
Furnishings throughout the house are mostly reproductions of Mid-Century Modern classics, including Eames lounge chairs and pieces by Danish designer Finn Juhl. Combined with the owners’ collection of contemporary art, they supply colorful accents and sculptural shapes against a background of white-painted walls and pale oak floors. “We didn’t want the house to be a traditional box,” DeWitt notes.
“The design was all about space, volume and light,” adds Asfura-Heim. “It’s an oasis for coming home.”
What’s your advice to homeowners renovating in an historic district?
AM: They should encourage the architect to talk with project reviewers before the first line is drawn. That’s a much more successful approach than developing a full-fledged design and asking for approval later.
How can you combine modern living and historic charm?
AM: It is important to remember the aspects of the original house that drew you to it in the first place. Whether windows, floors or moldings, those key elements should be maintained and reinforced to achieve a harmonious outcome.
What are some rules for adding onto an historic house?
AM: Most often, it is respecting the original structure and not overwhelming it to the point where you can no longer perceive where old ends and new begins. This can be done so the addition is subservient to the historic house or with changes in materials to differentiate old and new.
Renovation Architecture: Adam McGraw, AIA, StudioMB, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: PC Home Remodeling, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Rustic and modern meet in this renovation of a century-old log cabin in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Somerset. The original structure has been preserved and complemented by a clean-lined addition clad in cypress. The expansion updates the home with much-needed improvements, including a master suite and a kitchen with access to a new concrete patio.
“I wanted to bring light and open spaces to the house,” says homeowner Maya Weil, a legacy fundraising consultant for arts organizations. “All the rooms used to be small, chopped up and dark, even on the brightest day. I didn’t want to lose the character and charm of the house, but I wanted to make it feel more joyful and livable.”
Weil spent part of her childhood in the home, which was owned by her mother, journalist Margaret Lee Weil, who worked for The New York Times and NBC News, and as a foreign correspondent for United Press International. “This was a great place to grow up, full of life,” recalls Maya Weil, who now shares the house with her nine-year-old daughter Maggie. “My mom had an open-door policy and the house was always full of neighborhood kids and gatherings of interesting people.”
After her mother died in 1992, the house stayed in the family and Weil eventually moved back in. She began the renovation in 2015, working with David Haresign and Adam Greene of Bonstra | Haresign Architects. Haresign had previously remodeled and expanded a log cabin in Sperryville, Virginia; Weil was impressed with the finished project’s mix of contemporary and historic elements. “The architects were able to combine the two without making the design look jarring,” she explains.
In renovating the Somerset house, Haresign and Greene were challenged by its cedar-log architecture. The home was originally built in 1919 by a local dentist, who imported the timbers from Canada and hired lumberjacks from Quebec to assemble the structure. The building’s exterior was later clad in stone to better fit the neighborhood. Inside, some of the logs were left exposed while others were covered in wood paneling and plaster.
Margaret Weil had bought the house from the dentist’s daughter and, in the 1980s, had extended the kitchen, created a dining room and added a second-floor bedroom and bath. The architects left some of these alterations in place but upgraded the interiors and returned the historic parts of the home to working order. Stonework was repointed, oak floors refurbished and a geothermal heating and cooling system installed along with new wiring and lighting. Windows, which had been altered to accommodate air conditioners, were rebuilt to match their original appearance.
“We restored the portions of the log house that were the most historic and noteworthy,” Haresign recounts. “The modern spaces we added respect the scale and materiality of the historic home and accommodate new systems throughout.”
The only space where the exposed logs remain is the living room, which still exudes the woodsy coziness of a mountain lodge. A porch off this room was enclosed with new window walls for year-round use.
Pulling off wainscoting to unearth the timbers in other parts of the house led the architects to revise their plans to unmask more logs. “In some places, the walls were out of square, which created difficulties,” Greene explains. “So we framed new walls within the original structure to create rectilinear spaces.”
These new partitions resulted in the crisp design of the dining area and kitchen. This flowing, open space replaced the existing kitchen, two bedrooms, study and staircase, and added to the west end of the house.
The dining space centers on a table with a wooden top made from cedar logs removed from the home during the renovation. In the kitchen addition, folding-glass panels can be completely opened to the outdoor terrace.
On one side of the transformed space, a new staircase up to the second-floor bedrooms is anchored along a vibrant, teal-painted wall. A skylight in the roof above the stairs filters sun through glass panels set into the first and second floors and down to the remodeled basement.
The architects initially intended to expose the original joists on the second level, but found they had been compromised through later additions of plumbing and electrical systems. “Once it was determined that the joists could not be saved, we raised the level of the second floor by six inches, allowing for taller ceilings on the main level,” says Greene.
A peaked ceiling and tall windows create an airy feeling in the second-floor master bedroom, housed within the addition. “The master suite and kitchen used to be at the rear of the house,” notes Haresign. “Our goal in relocating these spaces was to orient them to the views of the expansive front yard.”
Weil, who is a violinist, now holds concerts and social gatherings in the house. “The openness of the main level makes it great for entertaining,” she says. “My favorite place to sit is in the log living room, looking through to the modernized dining and kitchen area with the glass ceiling and floor panels. The architects did a fantastic job of making the juxtaposition of old and new feel seamless.”
Q&A WITH DAVID HARESIGN
Should an addition to a historic house blend or contrast with the original architecture?
DH: We believe it should complement the original architecture while being clearly new. Understanding the original massing and materiality allows for successful designs that respect historic architecture and create a compatible whole.
What is the easiest way to modernize the kitchen or bath in an old house?
DH: Replacing sinks, appliances and toilets but leaving them in the same location is easiest. However,
modern fixtures are generally larger than old ones and updated building codes require more space than they used to. Refreshing a room’s layout to conform to contemporary standards usually yields a better result.
How do you preserve an older home’s character during a renovation?
DH: Original features that bring a sense of craft and authenticity are worth preserving. Remodeling can be limited to functional areas like kitchens and bathrooms that need to be modernized for performance.
Renovation Architecture: David Haresign, FAIA; Adam Greene, AIA, Bonstra | Haresign Architects, Washington, DC. Kitchen Design: Kitchen & Bath Studios, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Contractor: Thorsen Construction, Alexandria, Virginia. Landscape Design: Jennifer Horn, ASLA, Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture, Arlington, Virginia.
Instead of tearing down their small colonial to build a McMansion, Bethesda homeowners Geoff Sharpe and Laurel Hatt preserved the existing 1940s structure as the centerpiece of their expanded home. “We liked the character of the house and wanted to provide a sense of continuity with what was here before,” says Hatt, a public health economist.
The original brick façade is still discernible under a coat of white paint; it now extends to a new, brick-clad wing with a garage. Around back, a boxy addition with stained-cedar siding and large windows presents a contemporary contrast away from the street.
“The idea was to build a garden and put a house around it,” says Sharpe, a landscape architect who now works as a real estate developer. “We wanted to create a strong connection between the indoors and outdoors.”
Hatt and Sharpe bought the three-bedroom colonial in 2010 to reduce their commuting time to jobs in Bethesda and accommodate their two young daughters, Madeleine and Abigail. “This is a family-friendly neighborhood with good schools, and we knew the size of the lot would allow us to build an addition in the future,” says Sharpe.
By 2014, the two began interviewing architects to translate their ideas into a detailed design that would expand the house. They selected Foundry Architects based on the firm’s “unabashedly modern portfolio and willingness to listen to us,” says Sharpe. Construction commenced in 2015 under the direction of Bethesda contractor AllenBuilt, Inc., and was completed a year later.
“The design process was a very collaborative effort and sketches were traded back and forth,” recalls architect Matthew Compton of Foundry. “Geoff and Laurel approached us with a fully formed concept for the backyard. That led to a well-defined layout for the home from the start.”
The new, L-shaped design incorporates the original home’s living room and study on the main floor and two bedrooms on the second floor. The refurbished basement provides a playroom and areas for storage and utilities.
A new brick wing, comprising the garage and second-floor master suite, joins one side of the house. On the opposite end of the original house from the garage, a modern addition extends into the rear yard to complete the home’s L shape. It contains a new kitchen with two guest rooms above.
“The original home’s massing and proportions dictated the form of the new construction, but much of the interior was altered to bring in more natural light and provide spaces that better match the homeowners’ daily life,” says Compton.
For Hatt and Sharpe, a new kitchen topped the list of must-haves. “We wanted a bigger space for cooking and hosting people while we cook so it would feel celebratory,” says Hatt, recalling how she and her husband had to prepare meals in the “tiny galley kitchen with a fold-up extension of the counter.”
Now, a generous, marble-topped island provides plenty of prep space and room for seated family and guests. Meals are enjoyed at a walnut table in a dining area within the spacious room. “The kitchen is where we spend most of our time,” says Hatt. “We do more entertaining now.”
Tall Jeld-Wen windows and glass doors provide abundant daylight and access to the canopy-shaded outdoor dining space on the patio just outside the kitchen. White-oak flooring, pale paint colors and a high ceiling reinforce the airy feeling.
“We took advantage of a grade change in the rear yard by stepping down the new addition to provide the kitchen and dining room with just a bit more ceiling height than the existing home, while keeping the addition at a scale that is compatible with the neighboring houses,” says Compton.
Another skillful maneuver was to relocate the staircase next to the kitchen; it connects to a hallway on the upper level that acts as a bridge leading past the kids’ bedrooms in the original house to the new master suite above the garage. Slots of open space between the hallway and the walls allow daylight into the center of the house, as do the open risers and the glass panels that flank the staircase.
The master suite incorporates a large bedroom, a walk-in closet and a bathroom with a freestanding soaking tub. On the second floor of the kitchen wing, the guest suite features corner windows overlooking the backyard, where Metro’s Purple Line is under construction just beyond the property line.
Once that light rail is completed, the homeowners expect to carry out their plans for transforming the back garden with a swimming pool, trees and plantings according to Sharpe’s design. Says Compton, “We are excited for the second phase to be implemented and for their full vision of the property to be realized.”
What is the easiest way to give a traditional house a contemporary design?
MC: The glib response would be to “paint it white,” but the actual process of arriving at an answer is complicated. Accomplishing this goal depends on the unique circumstances of the particular house and the owners’ needs.
What are the best ways to fit a contemporary design into a neighborhood of older homes?
Careful material selection and building at an appropriate scale and proportion are the most obvious ways. The overarching principle is respect for the neighborhood and its inhabitants.
What assets do older traditional homes offer in terms of design? What parts of these homes should be preserved and why?
Consider a simple fireplace and hearth, and think of all the conversations families and friends have had around it, the hands that have built fires in it, children that have played around it--even the mason that laid the brick and the brickyard that fired it. So, it takes some very good reasons for us to conclude that preserving such elements isn’t the most appropriate response to a renovation.
The four basic elements of nature—water, earth, fire and air—neatly come together in the rear terrace of a remodeled 1920s colonial in Northwest Washington. Spending time in nature can have significant health benefits. Visible from the home’s new kitchen addition is the shimmering, liquid surface of an elevated, marble-clad swimming pool and spa bordered on one side by a raised terrace and fringed with shrubbery and plants.
Set into one wall of the raised pool, a gas fireplace warms an outdoor sitting area, offering a view of dancing flames from the kitchen. This backyard oasis provides numerous places to unwind and breathe in the relaxing atmosphere.
“I use the terrace and pool almost every day,” says homeowner Tim Davis, president and CEO of the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to civic education for schoolchildren. “And I love the way the outdoor features and fireplace look from inside the house, even during the winter.”
Davis, a widower, purchased the traditional abode in 2003 after living in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “I liked that this house had good bones, was in the city and had already been renovated,” he recalls.
About a decade later, when he decided to add a bigger kitchen and more usable outdoor space, his tastes had changed and he wanted something more contemporary. To move in that direction, he chose McInturff Architects, a Bethesda firm known for award-winning modern design. “I was looking for an architect who designs clean lines and maximizes the light,” the homeowner recounts.
Mark McInturff and project architect Colleen Gove Healey concentrated the renovation at the back of the L-shaped house. A terrace and a new kitchen were added and the indoors opened out through a wall of retractable glass panels. The duo collaborated with landscape architect Lila Fendrick on the exterior plan.
The outside wall of the original study was demolished to join this space to the kitchen; it serves as a family room/library, with built-in shelving and a TV that can be automatically raised from a custom cabinet. “I wanted a big, open space where I could cook and entertain with people all around me,” says Davis.
McInturff says the challenge of the design was “transitioning from the traditional rooms at the front to the contemporary space at the back.” He points to the center hallway, where a new wall bumps out to accommodate the ends of the crown molding and baseboards extending from the older part of the house.
Both the formal dining and living rooms at the front of the house were left intact and updated with the removal of some molding and the addition of new finishes and furnishings. Located next to the dining room, the former kitchen now encompasses a bathroom, bar and pantry.
A hall leads into the new kitchen from the older part of the house; the floors throughout the residence are unified by ebony-stained oak planks, which were also applied to the hallway ceiling. “They create a ribbon that drops in and connects old and new,” McInturff explains.
The architects reconfigured the original staircase—leading from the foyer to the second-floor bedrooms—to accommodate a new flight of stairs in the addition that connects the second level to a screened porch overlooking the pool. Visible in the kitchen ceiling, the sculptural underside of the new staircase is also covered in stained-oak planks to match the floors.
“In choosing materials, we tried to reference the older parts of the house,” says Healey. Kitchen cabinets, custom furnishings, window frames and staircase handrails are crafted of mahogany to add rich color and texture. On the outside, new copper siding complements patinated metal paneling that was applied to the outside of the second-floor master bedroom during a 1990s renovation to unify both sides of the house.
Interior designer Susie Zohlman worked with the architects and Davis to ensure that the furnishings, rugs and color schemes “blended the old with the new,” she says. “Contemporary design can be cold, so we warmed it up with textures and colors.”
Davis recently added a pull-down projection screen to the terrace, where he often hosts parties and events, including political and charitable fundraisers. “Friends watch movies outside, swim when the weather allows, come and cook in the kitchen and just hang,” he says. “I love having a house that is a gathering place.”
Addition & Renovation Architecture: Mark McInturff, FAIA, and Colleen Gove Healey, AIA, McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Susan K. Zohlman, Zohlman Marquis, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Builder: Mike Lofgren, Lofgren Construction, Laytonsville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Lila Fendrick, ASLA, Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, Chevy Chase, Maryland.
POOL & PATIO
Windows: dynamicwindows.com. Pool installation: alpinepools.com. Lighting: outdoorillumination.com. Chairs & Pillows by Pool: janusetcie.com. Outdoor Fireplace: sparkmodernfires.com. Round Table & Chairs: dwr.com. Built-In Seat Cushion: cushions.com. Pillows on Built-In Seat: rh.com.
Unexpected contrasts fill the Bethesda residence architect David Jameson designed for himself, his wife Nancy and their two children, McKenzie and Jake. Raw and refined, dark and light, solid and void, outdoors and indoors, the material and spatial juxtapositions in this unconventional home reflect Jameson’s ongoing search for new ways of refreshing modern design.
“This is a laboratory for me where I can investigate new technologies and materials to use on other projects,” he says on a tour of the home, pointing to glass doors that slide open and shut automatically and a shower stall made of Corian.
The contemporary residence replaces a 1949 home designed by noted DC architect Charles Goodman that was damaged by a fallen tree. Jameson followed the footprint of the original modernist dwelling in planning his 7,700-square-foot replacement and throughout construction preserved the mature plantings on the property.
From the street, the new home’s rectilinear façade lacks any signs of domesticity and could pass for a museum on the tree-edged corner lot. Carefully composed light and dark planes surround the setback mahogany front door. Sections of fritted glass are judiciously placed within walls that resemble shiny, rusticated concrete blocks.
The unusual, custom-made cladding turns out to be molded, stainless-steel panels treated with what experts call a “light interference” coating. “The metal was made in London by Rimex Metals Group as flat sheets,” explains Jameson. “We shipped them to Zahner in Kansas City, where they were custom-molded and fabricated into the finished façade system.” A specialized architectural metals fabricator, Zahner has produced materials for Frank Gehry and other top architects around the world.
The shimmering, dimpled steel surfaces reflect the colors of their surroundings, changing from inky to bright hues. “It’s like scrunched-up aluminum foil with its crinkled and light-reflective quality,” says Jameson. “It’s a mirage-like material.”
From its mostly opaque frontage, the L-shaped house shifts to become transparent on the inner sides, enclosing a courtyard with a swimming pool and a two-story pavilion for entertaining and hanging out. The vibe is California modern with floor-to-ceiling walls of glass connecting inside to outside. Marking each level of the house are horizontal bands of stainless steel that were bead-blasted to create the look of pewter.
The tall panes are edged in black ceramic frit to appear weightless and conceal the structural steel, with organic, wood-finished mullions on the insides of the glass. Windows by Tradewood allow daylight to flood the open-plan spaces on the home’s two levels, turning it into a lantern at night. “The idea of the house is a study of light in different ways— its refraction, capture and infusion into the interior,” says Jameson.
Pale-white schist paving extends from the outside to the inside of the house, and unvarnished planks of Western red cedar cover the ceilings. The finishes invert the typical residential arrangement of wooden floors and white ceilings.
Warm-hued sapele mahogany window mullions and banding around the perimeter of the rooms keep the spaces from feeling too austere. Bright abstract paintings, most created by DC artists, hang in every room to add punches of color.
In the two-story entrance hall, the raw cedar planks are applied to both the ceiling and walls to create the effect of a tall wooden box. Dramatically juxtaposed against the textured surfaces are the black diagonal planes of a steel-enclosed stairway leading to the second-floor bedrooms.
Sequestered at one end of the foyer, the living room focuses on a wall clad in anodized aluminum that incorporates a gas fireplace. The space extends to a bay enclosed by glass on three sides and perched above the side yard to embrace views of the landscape and pool.
The dining room provides a transitional zone between the stair hall and living space in front, and kitchen and family room at the back of the house. In this long room, a painting by DC artist Steven Cushner takes up an entire wall to provide a graphic backdrop to the dining areas.
The kitchen design runs counter to the current popularity of white cabinets and light finishes. Black granite resembling veined marble is applied to the countertops and backsplash. The cabinets are finished in metallic lacquers to resemble burnished lead and silvery aluminum.
These materials are repeated in the adjacent butler’s pantry and in the master bathroom—where the granite is applied to an 18-foot-long vanity—to provide visual consistency.
Just off the stair landing on the second floor, the ceiling and front wall of the TV lounge are tiled with the same reflective metal panels as the front façade. The master suite, with its large bathroom and dressing area, occupies the front space above the living room. Two bedrooms for the Jameson children overlook the courtyard and two guest suites across the hall accommodate visitors.
Furnishings throughout the house are a mixture of new and vintage mid-century pieces collected by the architect over the years. Many of the tables and chairs are by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, whose philosophy, “to express the personality of the material,” is shared by Jameson.
In the family room, the sofa and armchairs are upholstered in furry shearling, a cozy comfort within the home’s hard edges. Behind the seating, a long wooden dining table made by Ru Amagasu, grandson of the renowned Pennsylvania furniture maker George Nakashima, bears tree bark and fissures in the timber.
Such natural imperfections, Jameson says, are part of the beauty of hand-worked materials and important to his designs. “I really like the act of making things,” he asserts. “Architecture is about creating an experience that celebrates craft as well as space.”
Architecture & Interior Design: David Jameson, FAIA, Bethesda, Maryland. Builder: Ally DC, Bethesda, Maryland.
Windows: tradewoodindustries.com. Stone Flooring: stonesource.com. Acoustic Plaster: baswa.com. Lighting: luciferlighting.com. Structural Engineering: lintonengineering.com. Mechanical Engineering: foleyengineering.com. Civil Engineering: casengineering.com. Plumbing Fixtures: fantiniusa.com through unionhardware.com. Home Automation: casaplex.com.
Landscaping: evergrolandscaping.com. Pool Installation: lewis-aquatech.com. Furniture: Richard Shultz through knoll.com.
Cabinets & Surfaces: boffi.com.
Table: Satoru Amagasu. Vintage Hans Wegner 501 Chairs: wright20.com. Sofa & Side Chair Fabric: Shearling. Radio House Sofa, Finn Juhl Side Chairs & Coffee Table and Poul Kjaerholm Daybed: furniturefromscandinavia.com.
Vintage Eames Chair & Ottoman: phillips.com.
Cabinets: boffi.com. Fixtures: fantiniusa.com through unionhardware.com.
Spectacular views of the Potomac River convinced photographer and human rights activist Betsy Karel to downsize from a multi-story house in Cleveland Park to a one-level condominium in Georgetown. The river’s broad, flowing curves beckon through tall panes of glass and within sight are the towers of Rosslyn, the arches of Key Bridge and the expanding Kennedy Center.
“Walking in, looking out the windows and seeing the Potomac and all that sky was the primary reason for buying,” says Karel. “And the apartment is on a corner and has a lot of privacy.”
The original layout of the three-bedroom unit, however, did not showcase the vistas right away. “When you first came in, it felt like a warren of rooms,” she recalls. “There were a lot of hallways that seemed like wasted space.
I wanted to open them up and simplify.”
To renovate the 3,000-square-foot condo, the owner tapped Muse Architects based on the Bethesda firm’s successful remodeling of her previous home. Principal-in-charge Stephen Muse and project architect Warren Short started by stripping the existing walls, ceilings and floors down to concrete slabs before creating a more streamlined design.
The resulting interior architecture is contemporary but understated, in order to focus on river views and to showcase Karel’s remarkable collection of photographs and library of art books.
“We combined the previous living room, dining room, halls and library into one large, flexible space,” Muse explains. “Now when you enter, the view is immediately apparent and draws you right in.”
From the foyer, a short hallway leads directly into the south-facing main room, where living and dining areas are defined by groupings of furniture. Windows wrap around two sides to open the interior to light and views.
“I wanted a big space so I could have both intimate dinner parties and large gatherings of 70 to 80 people when I entertain,” says Karel. Rather than being part of this room, the kitchen is contained behind the dining area and fitted with German-designed cabinetry and quartz countertops.
Formerly encompassing the library, one corner of the large living space serves as a lounge area with armchairs and a sofa arranged in front of a flat-screen TV and shelves of books. Behind this space, the master suite occupies the southeastern corner with more views of the river. Two guest suites are sequestered at the end of the condo farthest away from the master bedroom and living spaces.
Muse and Short employed new architectural details to reinforce the clean lines of the interior. “We de-trimmed the apartment by removing crown moldings, baseboards, door casings and bulkheads,” says Muse. Fumed-oak flooring in the
main spaces and carpeting in the bedrooms keep the rooms from feeling too austere.
In the living/dining area, ceilings of different heights allowed for the installation of a quiet, efficient heating and cooling system as well as window pockets for drapery and shades. The new ceilings accommodate recessed and cove lighting that respond to the location and size of the photographs displayed on the walls.
Lenses fitted over adjustable halogen lamps reduce ultraviolet light from the fixtures to protect the artwork. The lighting, shades and mechanical system are controlled through a digital keypad, reducing the number of light switches and thermostats for a more minimalist look.
New doors from the kitchen, hall and master bedroom allow for privacy and appear as partitions when closed. These full-height slabs fold back into shallow niches concealed within the thresholds, thus blending into the architecture when open.
The furniture comprises mostly mid-century-style designs finished in wood and neutral-colored upholstery. “I wanted to keep the attention on the art and with this type of furniture, that’s easy to do,” says Karel. Most of the pieces are low-slung and have been arranged so as not to detract from the river views.
Built-in shelving throughout the apartment was designed by Muse and built by woodworker Ivan C. Dutterer of Hanover, Pennsylvania, to hold the owner’s extensive library of books. In the living space, the shelving is white to complement the wall color, while the storage cabinetry in the bedrooms is finished in walnut veneer to look more like furniture.
The owner has been collecting photography since the 1980s; images by notable talents such as Diane Arbus, Robert Frank and Irving Penn are strategically displayed throughout the rooms to take advantage of limited wall space. “It’s an eclectic collection,” Karel observes.
Two large scenes of oil derricks by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky are prominently displayed in the dining area, while smaller black-and-white images are mounted on the columns in the living area. A seascape by California photographer Richard Misrach dominates the wall of the master bedroom, where more shelving is devoted to the homeowner’s library.
“This sort of renovation refrains from drawing attention to the architecture and instead draws attention to the collections, much like a gallery,” says Muse.
“My photos and books,” adds Karel, “are the soul of my home.”
How do you create modern architecture inside an apartment without a major remodel?
Stephen Muse: Eliminate architectural trim such as door casings and crown moldings, use a neutral color palette and simplify the design of necessary elements like light switches, electrical outlets and door hardware.
What type of lighting highlights artwork on the walls?
SM: Adjustable downlights can be aimed at artwork and fitted with lenses to reduce ultraviolet light and protect the art.
What do you recommend for built-in shelving and furnishings?
SM: Built-ins finished in the color of the walls allow the books or artworks to be visually prominent. Veneered in wood, they create the appearance of furniture.
Why hire an architect rather than an interior designer for a renovation?
SM: An architect brings a view of the project as a whole and works to coordinate all the design elements. The best interior design should never be an afterthought to the architectural design.
Years of searching the Chesapeake Bay waterfront for a home led Marshall “Marsh” and Estela McClean to purchase a hilltop property overlooking Mill Creek near the Severn River with the idea of building the home they wanted. “We liked the size and shape of the site and the deep water for our boat,” says Estela, retired CEO of a firm providing electrical infrastructure expertise overseas. “The land goes out to a point so when you are on the dock, you feel like you are standing in the middle of the creek.”Waterfront Haven
The empty nesters spent weekends in an old cottage on the Annapolis-area site before demolishing that structure to make way for a spacious house with sweeping water views. They hired Vincent Greene Architects and builder Lynbrook of Annapolis to construct a two-story, four-bedroom home with space for their grown children and grandkids.
“The site offered stunning panoramic views but within a narrow buildable area,” says David Myers of Vincent Greene Architects. “When we began to layer all the required setbacks on the site plan, we were left with a long, slender, pie-shaped area that drove the organization of the house.”
The architects met the challenge by locating the main living spaces and master suite nearest the water while placing guest bedrooms and utility spaces closer to the street. A driveway/courtyard leads to the attached garage on one side and to the home’s centrally positioned entrance on the other.
Blending both modern and traditional architectural elements, the house features corner windows separated by fiber-cement panels and walls sheathed in stone and stucco. The soffits of the overhanging roofs are clad in mahogany. “We chose materials that provide longevity and should age well over time,” says Myers.
The 17-month building process involved frequent meetings among the homeowners, architect, and contractor to keep all the parties on track. “The design is distinctive and required a high level of detail,” says Raymond Gauthier, president of Lynbrook, who built four-foot-high mock-ups of the ashlar-lined exterior walls to get them right.
The high quality of the design and construction extends to the interior, where a dramatic, two-story foyer lined in cherry-wood panels greets visitors. Just beyond the entrance, the living areas are visible, bordered by tall windows that wrap the rear and sides of the house to capture vistas of the creek in nearly every direction. “We wanted a simple, elegant design with lots of light and space,” says Estela. “We preferred an open, modern style, but didn’t want to go overboard with something too contemporary.”
The stone-clad gas fireplace in the living room is double-sided and also faces a smaller room used for watching TV. “It’s a place where the two of us spend most of our time at the end of the day, sitting in front of the fire and enjoying the atmosphere,” says Marsh McClean, a retired financial advisor.
In the opposite corner, the dining space is sunken from the living area so views of the water from the adjacent kitchen remain unobstructed. In the living and dining spaces, paintings of maritime scenes and a model of a clipper ship are among the nautical touches throughout the house.
The McClean had an elevator installed near the entrance “so we’ll be able to stay in the house longer,” notes Estela. The alternative is an elegant staircase that appears to float; it leads to the second-floor bedrooms and basement. To achieve the floating effect, Lynbrook extended unobtrusive steel brackets from the stairs to supportive plates hidden in the walls.
Upstairs, the master suite is framed by large windows presenting expansive water scenes from the bedroom and bathroom. Next door, a corner home office offers vistas up and down the creek. “There are no bad views in this house,” says Marsh.
Down the hall, a bunk room for the grandchildren incorporates built-in corner beds and three balconies. “It’s a place where the kids can congregate and be kids without worrying about noise transmission to the adjacent spaces,” explains Myers.
The McClean, who owns a condo in Florida, mostly spend summers at their Annapolis home, where they enjoy kayaking and boating on the creek. “I always wanted a stone house on the water,” says Marsh. “This was a rare chance in life to build something from the ground up.”
Architecture: Vincent Greene, AIA, principal; David C. Myers, Jr., project architect, Vincent Greene Architects, Baltimore, Maryland. Contractor: Raymond Gauthier, Lynbrook of Annapolis, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Design: Richard Evans, Holly Acres Landscaping, Harwood, Maryland.
Colonial Classic In renovating their classic, stone-fronted colonial residence, Kevin Scallan, a financial systems expert, and his wife Karen sought to preserve rather than radically change the 1963 home’s traditional character. “We wanted to create more space and update the kitchen and bathrooms, but also wanted to keep the original style of the house,” says Karen.
The pair chose Anthony Wilder Design/Build to undertake the project after admiring the firm’s work in magazines. “I like the way they remodel older homes so the new design looks like it has always been there,” Karen explains.
Wilder and his team made incremental changes to both the interior and exterior that quietly meld with the home’s original sensibility, yet go a long way in upgrading its design and livability. They refreshed the façade by adding copper gutters, cleaning the existing slate roof and refinishing and repainting the shutters. A new portico with a pediment creates a gracious, sheltered entranceway, and a sunroom at one end of the house is now an elegant conservatory.
“The existing portico was understated and not scaled appropriately,” recalls architect Sean Mullin. “The new portico blends with the traditional detailing of the home and relates seamlessly to the redesigned exterior of the conservatory.”
In the entry hall, the staircase was reimagined with graceful, lacquered newel posts and tapered balusters. From the foyer, a deep archway now leads into the living room, which was reduced in size by about five feet to make way for a new coat closet and a powder room built into either side of the doorway.
On the opposite side of the foyer, a study was turned into the dining room, with access to the adjoining kitchen. A wall adjacent to the staircase was removed to open access to the basement.
Subtle changes made a dramatic difference, such as the widened doorways between rooms on the main floor that provide more daylight and views through the interior. “We opened the lines of sight and connected the front to the back,” notes principal Anthony Wilder. “Even though the ceilings are eight feet, they feel taller because of the large, cased openings between the rooms.”
Energy-efficient windows and doors enabled the design team to transform the dilapidated sunroom at the side of the house into a bright, glass-enclosed conservatory. “It looked like a bird cage before, scantily built rather than sturdy and weatherproof,” notes Wilder. “Now it is Karen’s sanctuary.” A new coffered ceiling makes it feel taller than the adjacent study and insulated floors keep it cozy year-round.
Interior designer Keira St. Claire says she brought “a sense of calm to the sunroom through a lot of white and green accents.” The comfortable seating was part of an overall choice of simple, classic furnishings and fixtures that “reflect the homeowners’ traditional aesthetic and exemplify a timeless style.”
Details set the new interiors apart. For example, the piping on the sofa upholstery repeats the shape of the moldings on the wainscoting, unifying the furniture and architecture.
One of the most dramatic transformations was the kitchen, located at the back of the house. To enlarge the dated, narrow space, Wilder created a one-story addition that extends six feet from the rear, clad in brick to match the original exterior wall. The extra space accommodates a dining area and a walk-in pantry.
“The kitchen used to be dark and closed-off from the rest of the house,” says kitchen designer Shannon Kadwell, who reconfigured the space. “Now it is open and airy with a large, arched window over the sink. It has a traditional feeling in keeping with the house.”
Framing the island next to the commercial-style range are two columns, only one of them structural. The boldly figured marble countertops and backsplash add dynamic pattern; the backsplash is pieced to look like one marble slab.
The two-car garage was enlarged to accommodate another bay, now used by the homeowners for bike storage, and a mudroom tucked in between the kitchen and garage. While most of the upgrades were concentrated on the main level, the second-floor bathrooms now boast new fixtures and finishes in streamlined style.
Only the youngest of the Scallans’ three daughters still live at home and while her parents will become empty nesters in a few years, they have no intention of downsizing. “We use more of the rooms now,” says Karen Scallan. “The house is more lived-in than it ever was.”
How do you decide when to renovate rather than tear down?
Anthony Wilder: The first consideration is budget, as a renovation is less expensive than a custom home. Before we make recommendations, we learn each client’s dreams, habits, preferences, and personal stories. We look at practical and aesthetic factors of the home, neighborhood and client’s goals.
How do you best preserve a home’s character while updating interiors for today?
AW: Our design solutions are classic and timeless, not trendy. They honor and complement the existing home so that the new work is seamless and elevates the original design. We take into account the client’s emotional attachment to the home.
What are some easy ways of modernizing a kitchen?
AW: Windows can be added or enlarged, wall and cabinet colors can be lightened and doorways opened to adjacent living spaces.
What factors most impact a bathroom renovation?
AW: Color, size, and scale need to work in concert. Clean lines, a skylight or a window if possible, and ventilation are elements that we consider.
Renovation Design: Anthony Wilder, principal; Sean Mullin, AIA; Interior Design: Keira St. Claire, Allied ASID; Kitchen Design: Shannon Kadwell, CKD, CBD, Allied ASID, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John, Maryland.
Modern UpdatePotomac is known for its sprawling mansions, but in moving there from California, scientists Ronald Herbst and Bahija Jallal chose a more modest alternative. “We didn’t want a huge house, but one where we would use every room,” says Jallal, president of Gaithersburg-based MedImmune.
In 2006, the couple purchased a four-bedroom, circa-1985 house, big enough for themselves and their two daughters, on a large, forested lot abutting a creek. “The house was in bad shape. The roof was falling apart,” recalls Jallal. “But you had to look beyond that. We liked that the rooms had a lot of light and the backyard was huge.”
Herbst and Jallal made the necessary repairs, landscaping the yard to resemble previous properties they’d owned in the Bay Area. After living with these improvements for a decade, they embarked on a radical renovation to modernize the home.
“When we moved, it was new jobs for both of us. Our kids were in school and had activities, and they were our first priority,” explains the German-born Herbst, vice president of research and development at MedImmune. “We started looking at remodeling only after our older daughter was in college.”
Interviewing DC architects who specialize in modern design led the homeowners to choose Kube Architecture. “They listened to what we liked,” says Jallal, who grew up in Morocco and studied in France and Germany. “For us, it was all about simplicity, light and clean lines.”
Kube principal Richard Loosle-Ortega and associate Andrew Baldwin focused on opening the interiors to daylight and views. “The house was closed off to the outside,” recalls Loosle-Ortega. “The original ceiling in the family room was low and slanted, the windows were small and the main staircase blocked sight lines to the back of the house and yard.”
Staying within the home’s existing footprint, the architects reconfigured the rear of the main floor by raising the roof over the family room and opening the remodeled kitchen and study up to the two-story space. Daylight now floods the interiors through floor-to-ceiling windows flanking the fireplace and in the adjoining rooms. The staircase was rebuilt with open risers and glass balustrades to allow views back to the family room from the entrance hall.
At the front of the house, the living room was stripped of its moldings, trim and fireplace mantel in order to streamline the space. Wallpaper and trim were eliminated in the dining room and a traditional bay window was replaced with a large, flat glass pane.
Upstairs, the master suite now flows into an adjoining sitting area that overlooks the family room. The sleek master bathroom, reached through a vestibule with a custom-built console, incorporates windows above a freestanding tub to take advantage of vistas of the wooded lot.
The architects repeated materials throughout the house to achieve design continuity. “The idea was to create a visual dialog among the elements to connect the spaces,” explains Loosle-Ortega. For example, the stained ash used for the custom kitchen doors and paneling reappears on the desk and cabinetry in the study. The steel of the beam extending across the family room is reintroduced in the study shelving and living room fireplace surround.
On one side of the family room, a Macassar-ebony paneled storage wall counters the raw, industrial concrete look of the fiber-cement paneling around the fireplace. The exotic wood extends upward to form part of the second-floor balcony railing and shelving on the balcony wall. “We created a mini-library that allows you to get closer to the views on the upper level,” notes Loosle-Ortega.
Contrasts in color and texture enliven the spaces. Light-colored porcelain tile in the kitchen complements the original oak floorboards, now sanded and bleached to a pale hue throughout the main floor. Overhead, the first-floor ceilings are painted black, while those in the two-story family room are white.
Underscoring the planar design of the interior is lighting placed in coves and soffits that outlines various elements in a soft glow. “There is a hierarchy to the lighting design in terms of general, task and ambient lighting,” says Loosle-Ortega, who collaborated with New York-based Sense Lighting Design on the project. “Recessed lights act as general lighting, lights in the staircase wall serve as task lights and LED strips hidden over countertops and shelves add to the ambient effect.”
The home’s modern aesthetic extends to the exterior, where a dated brick façade was painted in unifying gray and white, and a sleek steel canopy was added to shelter the entrance. Fiber-cement panels and siding applied to the back façade complement the expansive new windows and glass doors.
The couple furnished the rooms with contemporary pieces that blend with the architecture. Jallal enjoys stretching out on the family-room sofa and experimenting with recipes in the uncluttered kitchen, while Herbst appreciates the study, where he can work on his laptop and display the antique books that he restores as a hobby. Both consider their minimalist surroundings restorative, providing relief from their stressful jobs. “With all the travel and meetings, it’s nice to come home to a sense of serenity,” Jallal observes.
Adds Herbst, “We find the tranquility is good for us.”
What’s the easiest way to make a traditional home feel contemporary?
Richard Loosle-Ortega: Eliminate cornices, baseboards and window trim, or paint them the same color as the walls to unify and simplify the spaces. Introduce large windows to bring in more natural light and make the spaces feel bigger and more open.
How do you convince a homeowner to use an edgy material like the fiber-cement board?
RLO: We point out the cost-effectiveness of the material and how it will complement more conventional materials such as wood and brick.
How do you make a minimalist interior feel warm?
RLO: Minimal does not mean sterile. Using different textures and indirect lighting can add warmth, while the overall look remains modern.
How do you make a big design impact without renovating the entire home?
RLO: Identify strategic locations that will have the most impact. The entry, living and dining rooms and kitchen are the first spaces to start. Within those spaces, focal points such as a staircase, fireplace or cabinets can become
important design features.
Renovation Architecture & Interior Design: Richard Loosle-Ortega, RA, principal; Andrew Baldwin, associate, Kube Architecture, Washington, DC. Lighting Design: Sense Lighting Design, New York, New York. Renovation Contractor: ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC.
A Maryland-based business consultant who had always wanted to live in a home with flowing, clean-lined spaces recently convinced his wife to go modern, too. “We’d never experienced an open plan and were excited about creating one,” he reflects. The couple considered ways to transform their center-hall colonial in Bethesda’s Sumner neighborhood before they moved on and purchased an old farmhouse on a hilltop in nearby Mohican Hills.
“After buying the property, we thought about doing a juxtaposition of a new design with the old house,” explains the wife, a stay-at-home mom, and former museum curator. “But there were major structural issues with the existing house, so we decided to demolish it and start from scratch.”
The homeowners then embarked on a three-year journey to realize their dream of open-plan living with the help of DC architect Robert Gurney, who is known for his rigorous contemporary designs. “Bob is willing to be bold but not extravagant,” says the husband. “He eliminates visual noise in his houses and understands the value of minimalism and simple lines.”
Gurney sited the linear house on the ridge of the sloping, one-and-a-half-acre site and organized its intersecting volumes to accommodate the couple, their three teenage daughters and visiting parents. “The girls’ bedrooms and the guest suite are separated from the living spaces,” he says. “This division makes a lot of sense for the way the family lives.”
Contrasting materials distinguish the two wings and visually break up the length of the building on the site. The front living pavilion is mostly sheathed in heat-treated poplar siding, while the rear bedrooms are finished in charcoal-gray stucco. The two sides connect via a light-filled, two-story stair hall just inside the front door.
In winter when the trees are bare, the owners can see the Potomac River from the main living area and master bedroom. “I tried to orient these spaces to capture the water views and retain as much flat space on the site as possible,” says Gurney. To one side of the house, a generous, level lawn bordered by a retaining wall provides a grassy stage for outdoor dining, volleyball and, in the future, a possible swimming pool.
Within the block of living spaces, the kitchen, dining and sitting areas are open and interconnected. The main living area focuses on a fireplace within a two-story space offering views of the lawn and surrounding forest. “We call it the tree house,” says the wife, who points to the evergreens and colorful leaves visible through floor-to-ceiling glass.
“What’s so cool is that we are in a suburb close to DC, but it feels like we are in the country,” says the husband.
To reinforce that impression, Annapolis landscape architect Kevin Campion designed “concentric rings and a layering of plantings that make the house feel like it is nested in nature,” he says. Deer-resistant perennials interspersed with drifts of grasses create a transitional meadow between the clearing around the house and mature trees surrounding the property.
Montgomery County’s strict environmental regulations led Campion to plant trees, including beech, dogwood and river birch, to replace those felled to make way for the house. Two specially designed gardens established at the front and back of the property manage the flow of rainwater on site. “Rather than have stormwater wash down the site and erode the hill, we worked with engineers to create gardens layered with sand, soil, stones, and plantings that allow the land to absorb as much water as possible,” explains Campion.
To furnish the interiors, the homeowners worked with designer Therese Baron Gurney, choosing pieces in harmony with the style and proportions of the house. “I worked to respect the architecture but made sure to accommodate all the people using the house, from kids to grandparents,” says Baron Gurney, who is married to the architect but runs her own DC practice. “All the fabrics are washable and durable, and the height of the seating is comfortable. I designed the living-area coffee table so you can put your feet on it.”
She also ensured functional adaptability in some of the rooms. A Murphy bed allows the office to double as a guest room. With its swivel chairs and tables, the mezzanine—located above the dining area—can be used as a TV lounge or workplace. Behind the kitchen, a space fitted with built-in shelving and a gas fireplace serves as an intimate reading nook or a conversational sitting area and entertaining space.
On the second floor, each of the kids’ bedrooms is paired with a bathroom. The master suite incorporates a fireplace and opens to a porch in the treetops.
Every bit of the décor is judiciously placed and kept to a minimum to maintain an uncluttered look that allows the architecture to remain center stage. “The house is so beautiful,” says the husband. “We think of it as the art.”
Architecture: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, principal; Sarah Mailhot, project architect, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Therese Baron Gurney, ASID, Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, DC. Builder: Steve McCaughan, Commonwealth Building and Design, Clifton, Virginia. Landscape Architect: Kevin Campion, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.
EXTERIOR Windows: westernwindowsystems.com. Paneling: Fiber Cement Board (cembrit.us) over open rainscreen system. Wood Siding: Thermally modified poplar. Stucco & Chimney: Integrated-color cementitious stucco. Wood-Burning Fire Element: heatilator.com.
ENTRY Stairwell: Custom by the builder. Bench: gordoninternational.com. Recessed Lights: Lightolier (lbclighting.com). Suspension Lights: bega-us.com, deltalight.com, zaneen.com, moooi.com. Pendant: steng.de. Round Rug: filzfelt.com.
KITCHEN Cabinetry: Custom ebony and maple. Countertops: White Zeus Extreme Silestone. Hood: thermador.com. Cooktop: mieleusa.com. Bar Stools: dauphin.de. Banquette: arco.nl. Banquette Fabric: deploeg.com. Table. prismatique.com. Chairs: kartell.com.
Case Study Architecture + Custom Building The challenge of designing a contemporary-style home in DC’s Cleveland Park led Kube Architecture to create what the firm calls a “modern barn.” The four-bedroom abode is divided into two offset pavilions topped by pitched roofs that echo the rooflines of the surrounding, traditional homes. Yet the pared-down architecture—stucco walls accented with Italian composite paneling and large, metal windows—achieves a contemporary flair unusual for the neighborhood.
Inside, the residence is fitted with practical touches, including sliding doors that separate the home office into two workspaces and a shaft for a future elevator. “The owners wanted the house to feel livable, not formal or overdesigned,” says Kube principal Janet Bloomberg.
The entrance pavilion contains an open-plan living/dining area and kitchen on the ground floor and a master suite with a vaulted ceiling on the second level. The adjacent wing incorporates a mudroom, powder room and home office on the main floor, with upper-level bedrooms for the owners’ two children and guests. The basement is every kid’s dream: a two-story sports court for playing basketball, racquetball, and squash.
Warm maple floors lighten the rooms, as do expansive panes of glass that capture views of Washington National Cathedral. Windows located at the ends of the hallways open out to balconies. They overlook a landscape designed by Campion Hruby that features an inviting terrace and swimming pool, nestled at the juncture of the pavilions.
Architecture: Janet Bloomberg, AIA, principal; Andrew Baldwin, design associate, Kube Architecture, Washington, DC. Builder: ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Text: Deborah K. Dietsch. Photography: Greg Powers.