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From House to Home An Architect’s Perspective on Remodeling

Bruce Wentworth, AIA with Esther Ferington


Copyright Š 2012 Bruce Wentworth All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior consent of the author.


From House to Home An Architect’s Perspective on Remodeling

Bruce Wentworth, AIA with Esther Ferington

8555 Connecticut Ave. Suite 200 Chevy Chase MD 20815 Phone: 240.383.1227 Fax: 240.395.0707 www.wentworthstudio.com


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ADDITIONS & IMPROVEMENTS a sympathetic addition with panache 7 adding space creatively on capitol hill 20 a tree grows in spring valley 29 a discreet upgrade for a classic bungalow 40 from split-foyer home to modern architecture 50 finding potential in an unfinished basement 56

BATHS & MASTER SUITES a client’s vision for three elegant small baths 64 the luxury (and challenge) of extra space 71 a master suite updates a 1960s home 79 a capitol hill bathroom, art deco style 89

KITCHENS a modern kitchen on capitol hill 98 a trio of family-friendly spaces 109 room to grow 119 colorful spaces for a senior gardener 132 revitalizing a watergate kitchen 140 at home: a wentworth client reflects on the transformation of her row house 148 a light and airy row-house kitchen 153


ADDITIONS & IMPROVEMENTS


A Sympathetic Addition with Panache 7

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8 WHENEVER A PROJECT INVOLVES ADDING ON TO A HOUSE, I like to aim for a “sympathetic addition”—a new space that’s functional, fresh, and attractive, but also responds to the style of the original house. A thoughtful addition can often enhance a home’s appearance, not just add more room. Sometimes this visual effect is subtle. But every once in a while, it can be spectacular. Consider, for example, a striking breakfast room that I and my design-build studio added to a house in Bethesda’s Carderock Springs neighborhood. Topped by a butterfly roof that tilts away from the house, the breakfast room extends like a small, gleaming peninsula into the wooded backyard. On all three sides, floor-to-ceiling glass provides sight lines to the tops of the trees, while filling the room with sunlight. As dramatic as it is, this addition fits right into my clients’ modern 1960s house, built in the Contemporary style. A more traditional design, which might be well suited to another house, would feel stodgy and unsympathetic here. Carderock Springs is one of a handful of architect-designed 1960s neighborhoods in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs that have kept their original appearance, and are increasingly valued for that reason. The modern, one- and two-story houses are designed to fit smoothly into the landscape, with natural or neutral colors, clean, unornamented lines, and plenty of glass at the back to encourage visual connections to the outdoors. Embracing that aesthetic led my design team to this practical, and beautiful, result.

Left: One of the keynotes of the Contemporary designs in Carderock Springs is ample glass, allowing a visual connection

with the landscape. Here, the new family room offers views through a new wall of glass at left, the light-filled breakfast room, and the original kitchen window.

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A List of Goals

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In our first meeting with the owners, however, the breakfast room was almost an afterthought—one possible option within a bigger remodeling scheme. We had worked with the same couple a year earlier, when they and their young son were living in a different house in Carderock Springs. Unfortunately, the limitations of that site made that project unrealistic. But my clients liked the neighborhood and their short commutes (he was a dentist, she was a controller at a technology firm), so they simply moved to another house nearby. The new house still required updating and expansion, but it could better accommodate the changes. With their second child, a daughter, now on the way, they were eager to set the remodeling process in motion. We met just as they went to settlement on the house. My clients’ new home essentially consisted of two wings: a two-story wing to the right of the central stair hall and a one-story wing to the left. The one-story section, the focus of our meeting, was simply not laid out for a young family of today. The rooms felt isolated and boxed in, with little visibility or communication among them. From the stair hall, a single door opened into the small dining room. Across the dining room, another door led to the family room, which was otherwise literally walled off from the rest of the house with a massive wall of unpainted brick. The family room shared another wall with the garage, but had no direct access to it. Walking from one to the other required going outdoors. The third room in the one-story wing, the kitchen, only connected to the dining room. That meant that someone in the kitchen couldn’t see, hear, or speak to children playing in the family room—or anyone else there, either. Last remodeled in the 1980s, the kitchen was also more than ready for a major redesign. Its tired materials included a sheet vinyl floor, plastic laminate countertops, laminate cabinet doors with finger pulls, and bulky track lighting. As we began our conversation, I was happy to see that my female client had prepared a list of the couple’s shared goals ahead of time. It’s always great to work with clients who take time to make lists and carefully review plans as we go along, helping to ensure that we resolve any issues or miscommunications while the project is still on paper.

right: The butterfly roof breakfast room is a sympathetic addition with panache, employing the clean lines, glass walls,

and lack of ornamentation of Contemporary style in a 21st-century room for kids and family dining. The banquette’s open framing lets even more light in, and makes the space more attractive from the outside, too.

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First of all, as their list indicated, the couple wanted better access, visibility, and flow among the dining room, kitchen, and family room. In addition, they wanted a new kitchen with better quality materials, gas appliances instead of electric ones, and an island; a mudroom to connect the family room and garage; aesthetic and functional updates to the family room; and a breakfast area, which might either be an addition or simply an area inside the house. Following the example of several neighbors with the same house model, they also wanted to move the rear wall of the family room back by about 4 feet, by converting a covered patio to indoor space.

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Opening the Space At our next meeting, my design team began presenting ideas and alternatives, all within an open plan that removed the interior walls and captured the old patio space. Taking out the brick wall that blocked off the family room would be a huge visual relief, but it meant that a steel beam and posts were needed to take its place. In the final design, a bulkhead on the ceiling enveloped the beam, suggesting a visual boundary between the family room and adjoining spaces. A short wall at one end of the kitchen concealed one steel post; the other two were hidden in columns that framed the dining room. The old family room ceiling—a dark, quirky clapboard surface with low-hanging lights—felt low and confining; we suggested replacing it with white or off-white drywall with recessed lights. The design team also offered variations on a media center for the family room, as well as what eventually became an attractive dry bar there. The mudroom entrance from the garage came together quickly, with coat hooks, shelves, and other storage in a tiled space with doors to the basement and backyard as well as the family room and garage. As we talked through the transition to a more open plan, our clients were concerned about the mismatch between the old family room’s custom oak floor, made of random-width planks with contrasting wood pegs, and the new strip oak flooring in the rest of the space. Instead of finessing the difference, I suggested making a feature of it, using bands of dark walnut to mark the boundaries between the two flooring patterns. In the finished project, these walnut borders turned out to be a great success, serving as a kind of ghost outline of the old rooms. We changed the house, in other words, but left an interesting hint of where the interior walls had been.

left: The butterfly roof is at the same angle as the original gable roof on the house, seen at right; only the orientation is reversed

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The kitchen, meanwhile, would be transformed. To begin with, we proposed opening the wall to the dining room, which was previously reached by a narrow door and passthrough window. A new row of base cabinets between the two spaces would shield the kitchen work surfaces from view. With the old brick wall removed along another side of the kitchen, a new kitchen island could now look out to the open family room, with space for stools on the side across from the kitchen. A large countertop, work sink, and plenty of storage would complete the island, which would be lighted by three pendants overhead. In general, our clients favored streamlined, upscale materials throughout the kitchen, including teak cabinets, stainless-steel appliances, and polished black granite counters. My female client wanted to be sure, however, that this remained a family kitchen, warm and inviting for all. In response, we developed its signature element—a playful, though sophisticated, backsplash of mixed tiles in colors suggesting autumn leaves, and perhaps evoking the trees outside. Before the tiles were installed, a member of my staff worked onsite to plan the placement of the tiles in detail, creating a pleasing, seemingly random arrangement from the mix.

On to the Breakfast Room There was still, however, a major decision to make: how to include an informal family eating area, the breakfast room that the owners had envisioned all along. One of my team’s designs suggested setting aside part of the family room for the purpose—a practical, relatively low-cost solution. Other alternatives envisioned an addition to the house. Ever methodical, my clients used masking tape to mark out such a breakfast area and lived with it for a few days. The verdict was then clear. A breakfast area didn’t fit well inside the house; it blocked the flow between the family room and the kitchen. An addition, they decided, was worth pursuing. As I mentioned earlier, we designed the breakfast room addition with walls of glass, in keeping with the Contemporary style. The outward-oriented butterfly roof, a variation on the modernist Shed style, maximized the height of the walls for better views of the woods in the backyard. Within the room, my clients preferred a design with a custom, childfriendly banquette, upholstered with stain- and water-resistant fabric. My interior designer and staff carpenters also created the breakfast table, equipping it with a durable top and with table legs tucked out of the way of toes, knees, and shins. With an intervening wall removed, the family room communicates easily with the remodeled kitchen (left) and dining room (far right). The section of floor is in the space once occupied by an outdoor patio.

right, above:

right, below: There’s plenty of room for bar stools and dangling feet to tuck under the outside edge of the new kitchen island, which combines a wealth of storage with a large preparation space, including a sink. 13

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A Family at Home Unlike many owners who choose between remodeling or moving, this couple made a bold decision to do both—moving within their neighborhood and still pursuing such a significant remodel. And they did so, as I mentioned earlier, during the wife’s second pregnancy. Just after our project came to an end, the baby arrived as well—and in dramatic fashion.

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While visiting at home with a friend, the wife went into labor in the newly renovated dining room. Her husband, the dentist, came home just in time to deliver their daughter, with an emergency operator on the phone and an ambulance on the way. Decades ago, the popular American poet Edgar Guest wrote, “It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,” but some events speed up that process. As the birthplace of their second child, this remodeled house very definitely became a home. Today, the father says that their family spends 90 percent of its time in the newly linked rooms, where the open space itself remains his favorite part of the project. Day to day, the breakfast room is where the parents and children enjoy their meals. The two children also do projects there, piling into the banquette with visiting friends to enjoy a game or a snack. The dining room, still the point of access to the entire wing, is used for entertaining, holidays, and special occasions. The open plan easily accommodates a second dining-room table when needed, and draws guests into the other spaces. An enthusiastic cook, he relishes the new kitchen, as well as its connections to the other rooms. Working at the new, large island, he can hold a conversation with someone in the family room, dining room, or breakfast room—a far cry, he says, from standing at a counter in the old kitchen and staring at a wall. He is also delighted by his new, high-end gas range. For all its value as a cozy, family eating spot, the breakfast room remains the visual standout of the project. The natural light bathes the space and creates a very joyful look, while the outdoor scene changes with the seasons. The net effect, he says, is that “you feel like you’re outdoors, when you’re indoors.” f

Left: High clerestory windows provide a line of sight to the tree canopy, usually cut off from sight by one-story

windows. Below, a custom table fits nicely within the banquette, its centered legs well away from the corners to avoid tripping up diners.

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Old Floor Plan In the old plan, the kitchen connected only to the dining room and the outdoor patio; a long wall with a single door blocked off the family room. An awkward connection to the garage required taking a few steps outside to go from the house to the garage or vice versa.

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New Floor Plan In the new plan, the remodeled kitchen flows into the dining room and family room. The breakfast room addition contributes light, space, and seating and much of the old patio has been captured as interior space. At right, a mudroom with a tiled floor provides storage and a connection to the garage.

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1 9r o m FHrooums H F e otuos eH toom H eome


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Adding Space Creatively on Capitol Hill Interior design by Shari Daniels

FROM THE STREET, THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY TOWNHOUSES of Capitol Hill tend to be fairly uniform. Historical preservation requirements ensure that making major changes to the façade of a townhouse is difficult, if not impossible. In the back, though, it’s a different story—one often filled with architectural variety. Changes at the rear must also be approved, but the rules are less restrictive for this more private space. Additions, windows, doors, porches, and decks reflect the tastes of past and present owners and the needs of modern life. As one of my clients says cheerfully, when you visit the back of a Capitol Hill house, “you never know what you’re going to see.” The townhouse where she and her husband live and brought up their two sons is a case in point. Built in the late 1860s or early 1870s in the Italianate style, the house occupies an unusually wide, 25-foot lot. For most of its history, the house was 19 feet wide, joined to one neighboring townhouse by a party wall, but separated from the other by a 6-foot-wide side yard. This extra lot width enabled me to design a very different, yet complementary, rear addition, which offers great views of their spectacular backyard garden, designed by the wife, a talented gardener. When I met with my clients to discuss ideas for the project, it came as a nice follow-up to some past remodeling endeavors. We first worked together years ago when I did architectural designs for two former carriage houses that they owned as rental properties. I later reconfigured much of the second floor of their townhouse to create a master suite with an Art Deco bathroom. Adding on to the first floor of the house would be their most ambitious remodeling project so far.

left: Glass windows paired with a glass door almost fill the two exterior walls of the new family room, allowing great

views of the garden behind the house. Awning widows at top open to admit fresh air. Designed by the wife, a talented gardener, the client’s large backyard garden offers a great view for the new addition at left; similar windows in the addition and the kitchen (at right) help tie the two together. From House to Home

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A Long-Planned Project

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The basic idea was to add space in two ways: capturing the side yard at the side of the house, and using the open space within the townhouse’s classic, L-shaped dogleg, in which the kitchen extends farther back than the rest of the house. As with any good addition, however, this project wasn’t only about gaining space. It was also about functionality. Essentially, this came down to three primary goals. One goal— often heard in Capitol Hill residences—was to admit more light and open up a very dark, tired kitchen. Another was to provide first-floor closets and a full bathroom (not a powder room), increasing the total number of bathrooms to two. The third was to add an architecturally modern but informal family room overlooking the garden, with room for casual meals and socializing. In all of this, my clients wanted to respect the original style and period details of the house, but complement them with something truly new and modern. They had also decided to use their own interior designer, Shari Daniels, for the project, while relying on me as the architect. For both of us, mixing the styles of different periods in a harmonious but interesting way would become a hallmark of the project.

A Transitional Kitchen As the only part of the old house included in the project, the kitchen played a vital transitional role, forming a visual and physical bridge from old to new. My clients considered its size perfectly adequate for their needs, especially since their sons were now grown and out of the house. But the room was dated, dark, and poorly laid out, requiring a complete remodel. One obvious issue was the small, 2-foot-wide kitchen window. Replacing it with a dramatically larger 5-foot-wide window, topped by a pair of awning windows, immediately began to transform the space. The second step was removing most of the old exterior wall between it and the new addition. This open-plan arrangement allowed room for an island—still located within the kitchen, but made usable by the increased space around it. Within this setting, Shari Daniels specified a mix of old and new materials—cherry for the base cabinets and island, painted wall cabinets, honed granite countertops, a marmoleum

right: Marmoleum flooring (a resilient combination of natural materials) lightens the remodeled kitchen, where natural-wood and painted cabinets contrast with honed granite counters and stainless steel. 21

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floor, and stainless-steel appliances echoed by custom stainless-steel legs at one end of the island. Glass pendants hung over the island. In a modern touch, the backsplash of mosaic stone tiles wrapped around the jamb of the new window, avoiding traditional trim and leading the eye outdoors to the garden.

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Blending Italianate and Contemporary The centerpiece of the project, of course, would be the new family room, also called the garden room, which not only filled in the old dogleg layout but extended several feet farther into the backyard. The view from this room would be unusually panoramic. At 25 by 100 feet, my clients’ garden was a large one for the city. But the angle of view was even wider. The lack of a wall or fence on one side allowed a view of the neighbor’s garden, and there was only a 4-foot wire fence on the other side. In response to this wide vista, I suggested wrapping a wall of windows around the back corner of the new room. By providing a range of viewing angles, the wraparound windows made the house feel more like a detached home than an urban rowhouse, where elements are often strictly lined up on a front-to-back axis. As in the kitchen, awning windows were placed above the large windows. Now that both sides of the townhouse would be anchored to the adjoining walls, the awning windows in the family room and kitchen would play an important part as the only source of fresh air at this end of the townhouse, at least on the first floor. Architecturally, the large expanse of glass suggested a Contemporary style for the addition, which served as a nice contrast to the Italianate house. One reason the two styles worked well together is that the rear walls of older townhouses tend to be almost featureless; many elements that make a townhouse Italianate are only seen at the front. Using brick for the new room also helped unify it with the house, which was stucco over brick, as did the use of similar windows in both the new room and the kitchen. Although the windows brought in a wealth of natural light, I added still more light with a pair of skylights in the high ceiling. Shari Daniels complemented these with lighting fixtures in diverse styles and locations: a modern wall sconce, floor lamps, and an antique Venetian glass chandelier that worked well with the skylights.

Left: Vintage chandelier and modern wall sconce mix comfortably with paired skylights in the new family room, a Contemporary space with design elements that mix traditional elements—the wood floor, for example—with modern features like the wraparound glass. From House to Home

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A Standout Bath

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The final piece of the addition—hall closets and a full bath—may sound purely utilitarian, but it turned out to be very successful visually as well. Leading from the new family room toward the front of the house, this corridor and bath are in an area once occupied by part of the old side yard. As in the family room, I added a skylight over the bathroom that washed the space with light. I admitted that light into the hall as well by adding a large glass transom above the bathroom door. The skylight-and-transom solution proved so effective that my clients now sometimes use the hall closets without bothering to turn on a light. Positioned squarely at the end of the new corridor and filled with sunlight, this first-floor bathroom, unusually, became a natural focal point. I made sure that, with the door open, the view was of the sink and mirror, with the toilet discreetly out of sight. I also placed the entrance to the shower enclosure out of direct view from the hall, making the bath look more like a powder room at first glance. Using elements that harked back to the kitchen, Shari Daniels specified glass pendants and a variation on the same idea of wrapping tile around corners. A narrow, natural-wood shelf at chair rail height and wood trim higher on the wall echoed the kitchen’s natural wood elements and the new family room’s wood floor. As a signature element, she added an unusual round mirror in a crenellated wood frame. The net effect of the materials, the sunlight, and the discreet location and layout makes this bath both visually striking and far more private for guests than a more conventional powder room.

An Unobtrusive Addition Obtaining permission for the project, meanwhile, hinged in large part on what might seem like a small matter: visually de-emphasizing the fact that an historic townhouse that had been substantially narrower than its lot was being widened, at least at the rear, to fit the space. My solution was to keep the original side yard beside the house in place for the first several feet. This meant the actual façade of the house—the front wall—did not change an iota. Several feet back, at the side of the house, I added a low, one-story brick wall across the old side yard. From that point on, my clients’ townhouse filled the full lot width, due to the new construction. Once the addition was completed, my clients, with their knack for gardening and landscape design, took the idea even further with appropriately placed plantings and shrubs. The brick wall across the old side yard is now nearly hidden by a tree, bringing the street view of the house even closer to its original appearance.

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Today, my clients enjoy added closet space, an upscale guest bathroom, and a modern kitchen—all in addition to a family room filled with sunlight that embraces an everchanging view of the large garden outdoors. Visitors circulate easily between the kitchen and family room and, when the weather cooperates, onto the deck and a flagstone patio. Looking back towards the house from the end of the garden, the Contemporary family room lives comfortably with the historic townhouse, welcoming family and friends while making a confident, but discreet, architectural statement. f

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Old Floor Plan The existing townhouse was 19 feet wide on a 25-foot lot with a side yard beside it; the classic dogleg design provided doors from two different rooms to a backyard deck. The only rear-facing window was a tiny one in the kitchen.

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New Floor Plan The new room captures most of the old side yard (leaving a short section at the front for appearance) while filling in and going beyond the void space created by the L-shaped dogleg. The exterior wall of the kitchen was largely removed to open it to the family room.

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A Tree Grows in Spring Valley

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30 I OFTEN JOKE THAT I REALLY HAVE TWO CLIENTS for my remodeling projects: the homeowners and the house. In other words, I aim for solutions that serve the owners' goals and also work well with the home's original style. When it came to one major addition, however, you could say that I had a third client: a magnificent, full-grown tulip poplar. I first met with the new owners of the house—and the tree—just before they closed on their purchase, a small residence on a large, level lot in the Northwest Washington neighborhood of Spring Valley. The wife, an economics reporter, and her husband, a lawyer, were moving from Chicago with their two sons, ages three and six. They loved the generous backyard, but wanted to make the house larger and more suitable for the family. Built in about 1950, it had just a few firstfloor rooms—a dining room, living room, galley kitchen, and half bath—and a group of bedrooms and baths upstairs. At the rear, a small, box-style addition supplied a first-floor sunroom and a second-floor study, accessible only from the parents' bedroom. Their plan was straightforward: strip off the old box addition and replace it with a much more substantial two-story addition that would include, on the first floor, an open-plan kitchen and family room intended as the center of daily life. The second floor of the addition would house a new master suite, including a master bedroom, master bath, and walk-in closet. In the existing house, a first-floor home office for the husband would replace the old, front-facing kitchen, and the clothes washer and dryer—previously marooned in the basement—would move to a convenient location on the second floor. Although the addition would almost double their living space, the couple wanted it to be unobtrusive, designed and built in sympathy with the home's Colonial Revival style. Using environmentally friendly materials was also a priority. And then, they mentioned the backyard tree.

Left: The big tulip poplar (complete with tree fort) is just visible through the windows of the new family room, where 9-foot-high ceilings accommodate oversize windows.

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Preserving a Giant

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Homeowners often bring up trees and other landscape elements at the start of a project, but I could tell that for my clients, this tulip poplar was really something special. The existing tree fort was great for the boys, but that wasn't the main attraction. Instead, as the wife said, she had fallen in love with the tree itself, a beautiful specimen that was at least a hundred years old—much older than the neighborhood. It cast a wonderful shade across the backyard, creating an effect almost like a nature preserve. The roots for such a mature tree usually extend far beyond the visible, aboveground trunk and branches. Unless we planned the job just right, digging a new foundation could cause irreparable harm. As a first step, we decided to offset the addition to the northwest side of the house; this kept it as far as possible from the tree, which was to the northeast. But that alone wasn't enough. As planning for the project moved forward, we worked with the couple's arborist and a structural engineer to devise the second part of the solution: a special foundation with a much lighter impact on the landscape. Instead of digging a deep trench along each new wall and pouring concrete footings, our finished plan used helical footings—steel supports that are literally screwed or augured into the ground at widely separated points along a shallow, foot-deep trench. A horizontal steel beam placed in the trench is then anchored to the footings, creating structural support for the addition with absolutely minimal disruption. Getting the job done right, as in any highly engineered solution, relied upon calculations by a structural engineer, followed by meticulous installation. When the day came to break ground on the addition, we dug the shallow trenches with the arborist standing by to cut and seal each root we encountered. At the end of the process, the tree had a few shorter, but carefully sealed, roots, the addition had a sturdy foundation—and I had learned another specialized building technique, which I have used again, when needed, on later projects.

The Heart of the Home Keeping the tree safe and in good health was vital, but in the meantime, we had much more to find out about the owners' tastes and preferences for the addition itself. One essential requirement for the kitchen turned was a separate pantry, which we tucked beside the house's existing chimney. Having a pantry also meant we could include fewer cabinets in the kitchen, avoiding a floor-to-ceiling, monolithic look that the wife didn't care for.

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Like many homeowners, the couple wanted a kitchen island, which could serve as a family gathering spot, a place for kids to perch for snacks, and a casual social center at parties. After reviewing some home magazines (a step I often recommend to clients), they gravitated toward making it a round island, which my female client found inviting and practical. Little boys run into corners, she commented matter-of-factly, and a round island doesn't have corners. Although the island in the magazine was a circle, the couple liked my suggestion of an oval, a shape that worked better in the space and didn't feel as static as a circle might have. Overhead, a unique glass pendant drew attention to the spot, complementing recessed ceiling lights and additional lights under the cabinets.

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The clients also requested 9-foot ceilings for the kitchen and family room, a height that accommodated larger windows. At the side of the family room, we planned a door to a patio that linked to the backyard. Connecting to the existing house was fairly easy on the first floor. I suggested adapting two openings—cutting down a window to create a door, and refitting the door that once led to the old sunroom. Using openings in this way, when the locations are right, is usually a smart, cost-effective idea.

Green Choices for a Modern Kitchen In keeping with the owners' goals, fitting out the new space also meant considering some green materials. From my point of view, there are many eco-friendly aspects to remodeling, and materials are only one of them. On this project, for example, the green remodeling aspects also included energy-efficient appliances and preserving the life and health of that grand old tree. Above all, the decision to remodel an existing home is itself far greener than the common alternative of tearing down an old house and building a new one in its place. Remodeling not only preserves the look and feeling of an old house and its neighborhood, but it also avoids wasting the material, energy, and labor that went into building the house to begin with. Even when there isn't a special tree in the vicinity, remodeling also causes far less disruption to the site, including soil compaction. Of course, there's also a need to take a hard look at such products, which are often new to the market. We and our clients agreed to keep our choices simple and budget-conscious— but still found several fun and very successful options. Recycled glass tiles (from glass otherwise destined for a landfill) proved to be a beautiful choice for the backsplash, which became, as it often does, the aesthetic highlight of the kitchen. For this project, we specified a custom mix of 2-by-2-inch tile in three colors

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with a diagonal orientation. The wife says she especially likes the minor imperfections in the tiles—a little bit of chaos, she says, that reflects the spirit of a busy family. Bamboo, a quick-growing renewable resource, was the veneer of choice for the island, the kitchen cabinets, and the family room built-ins. For the floors, however, we chose more traditional oak, which complemented the house's existing flooring and stands up well to active wear. Our most exciting find was a countertop material fabricated from post-consumer waste paper and a resin made from cashew nutshell liquid. Functioning much like honed granite, this surprising substance came in large sheets (reducing the number of joints) and a variety of thicknesses. Unlike other counter materials, it could be cut, sanded, and installed by our staff carpenters, a substantial savings in lead time. We used it on every counter and for the top of the island. The counters, which must be periodically rubbed with food-grade oil, are bearing up well in the tough kitchen environment, says my female client, who reports, "You cannot kill them." In just a few years, the family has unintentionally set down hot pots and cut vegetables on the counters; the children have been found applying glitter glue and drawing pictures on them. Yet despite these real-life torture tests, I'm told, the counters remain unharmed.

A Rearranged Second Floor The top floor of the addition would be a new large new master suite, taking the place of a master bedroom and bath in the existing house. Changing the old master bedroom to a guest bedroom gave us extra space within the old house to create a central hall to the new suite and gave us room, as planned, for the washer and dryer. At the end of the hall, two steps up to the new master suite accommodated the difference in floor level that resulted from the 9-foot ceiling below. Within the master suite, we created vaulted ceilings in the bathroom and bedroom, where the large bed nestled into a fitted wall niche. The master bath features a freestanding, rounded white tub, which the owners enjoyed selecting from a wealth of options. The chosen tub is free flowing in shape, with no feet, no base—visually, it just floats into position. By contrasting it with light tan walls, we made the most of it. We also mounted the tub filler faucet and handles separately to keep the lines of the tub free and clear. Like the tub, the other elements of the bathroom tend to be large, upscale, and very simple—an exercise in understated high quality that reflects my clients' chosen aesthetic. The substantial two-sink vanity has small drawer and door pulls, a striking, dark brown

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above: Wood floors unify the new, open-plan kitchen and family room, both equipped with bamboo-veneer cabinets.

The built-in shelves and cabinets at right have space for a television if needed, but are filled for now with books, art, candles, and toys.

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above: Thoughtful details in the understated vanity include a dark brown countertop that complements the bathroom

walls, modest drawer and door pulls, and streamlined faucets and handles. Above it, two wall sconces and a framed mirror complete the classic design.

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Clear glass walls with no metal framing give this shower its distinctive style; large wall tiles with vertically oriented striations add a sense of height. The shelves in the inset niche provide handy storage without stooping.

above left:

above right: The owners were drawn to the simplicity of this freestanding tub, with no feet or visible base. The tub filler, seen here beside the white towel, is mounted separately to keep the tub’s lines clean.

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counter, and a large framed wall mirror with sconces but no side light strips. The shower enclosure consists of clear glass with no metal frame, joining it visually with the bathroom instead of compartmentalizing the space. A multi-shelf niche in a shower wall supplies space for shampoo and necessities at a convenient height.

A Family at Home Although the addition offers a wealth of updated elements, the owners rightly desired an exterior that fit well with the original Colonial Revival design. The idea was not to replicate, but to complement what was already there. Thus, for example, we selected modern, substantially larger windows, but chose a style with the same proportions and number of panes and double-hung sashes. The gable roof matches the angle of the old house's roof, and a foot-high band of whitewashed brick marks the base of the new addition, matching the exterior of the old house. For the siding, we chose to imitate another common Colonial Revival exterior—clapboard. Instead of wood, we installed a paintable, cementious board that looks like clapboard siding but will last much longer. With work on the addition complete, the family has found much to enjoy in their new home. The husband's office, where the kitchen used to be, has the advantage of southern sunlight at the front of the house. But the entire family spends a lot of time in the two rooms at the back, just as planned. Best of all, the tree still flourishes in the backyard, unscathed by the construction project and with a few small improvements to the tree fort. A tulip poplar that stood in the same place while Washington was converting from gas lighting to electricity, now casts its shade on a 21st-century addition. f

Old Floor Plans right, above: The old first floor included an open plan living room and dining room combination, an add-on sunroom, and, at the front of the house, a powder room, foyer, and galley kitchen. Stairs beside the front door lead up to second-floor bedrooms and down to the basement. The existing second floor had a study space accessible only from the master bedroom, which included a small, en suite master bath with a shower but only one small closet. The landing area provided access to a hall bathroom and two bedrooms for the boys, with no guest bedroom.

New Floor Plans right, below Connecting the new master suite to the old second floor required adding a hall using space carved out of the old master suite (now a guest bedroom). In the new master suite, doors at each side of the bed allow access to the walk-in closet and master bath, which also share a connecting door of their own. A new wall at the foyer sets off the husband’s home office at the front of the house. At the rear, a pantry tucks beside the existing chimney and serves a large, open plan kitchen linked to the family room. 37

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NEW KITCHEN

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A Discreet Upgrade for a Classic Bungalow SOMETIMES PART OF THE SUCCESS OF AN ADDITION PROJECT is that you can hardly tell it happened. Such was the case with a 1922 bungalow in Silver Spring, Maryland. Once the work was complete, a glance from the street showed a residence very much in the familiar bungalow spirit, with a big front porch, suitable materials and windows, and a front dormer for an upstairs bedroom—all framed by the home's original shade trees. Without before-and-after photos, a casual observer might not notice any change at all. This quiet, appropriate scene, however, is the result of some intense, careful planning and activity. In the course of the project, my design-build studio demolished and removed the house's roof, a high rear deck, and the entire upper floor (a converted attic)—with the sole exception of a bathroom, which was reused in the remodeled house. Once the deck, the roof, and the upper story were gone, we constructed a brand-new, full-height second floor, a new roof with front and back dormers, and a far more usable screen porch at the rear. Inside the house, the change on the second floor is like night and day. Family members can comfortably stand and move around freely in more spacious bedrooms, equipped with convenient, custom built-ins and added closets. But from the front, with the work now in place, the house doesn't look much different. And that is exactly what the owners desired.

left: Framed by trees, the finished project still looks and feels like a bungalow. While the new second floor would not

be found on an original bungalow, which would be a one-story design, it fits the house sympathetically with suitable materials and a front dormer for the bedroom.

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The Joy of the Bungalow

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As an architect who often remodels historic as well as more recent homes, I am well aware of the special world of bungalows and bungalow enthusiasts. Often built during or before the 1920s, American bungalows are loved by many owners for their distinctive style, which includes a full-width front porch, low-sloping roof, and large, overhanging eaves. A bungalow (the name came originally from British India) is typically a one-story home with an attic, which has often been converted to living space. The limited room means that bungalow interiors have plenty of built-ins, another feature of this architectural style. The owners of this house were not bungalow enthusiasts when they first bought it; they were simply looking for a home in the vicinity for themselves and their infant son and liked the look of the place. But once they moved in, they got interested in the style and appreciated how well it fit the neighborhood, which included a mix of bungalows and Colonial Revivals from the 1920s and 30s. Several years later, with their son now in elementary school, life in the bungalow was fairly cramped. The family's bedrooms in the converted attic were particularly snug, with inadequate space, low, 6' 10" ceilings, and springy floors (attic floors aren't framed as sturdily as those intended for living space). Both parents were 6 feet tall, making the low ceilings particularly irksome. As with many projects, it was a repair problem—in this case, a major required roof repair—that ultimately triggered the process of remodeling. Rather than rebuilding the existing roof and locking in those unsatisfactory attic rooms, the couple decided to combine the new roof with a greatly improved second floor, all while preserving the look of the original house. After reading an article of mine in American Bungalow magazine that described another bungalow project, they asked me to meet them at the house to explore the possibilities. Technically, of course, turning the attic into a proper second floor would not be quite in keeping with the traditional one-story—or, with the attic, one-and-a-half-story— bungalow style. The couple's goal was to bring their living space up to a more comfortable standard while keeping the look and feel of the original bungalow. As long as their house still looked right for the neighborhood, a second floor with normal-height ceilings, added closets, and more elbow room would be much appreciated.

right: Among the many details included in the project are a heightened brick chimney, all new gutters and downspouts,

and a new front door better suited to the style of the house. New Prairie-style windows match those already on the first floor.

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Defining the Project As they began to think more about remodeling, the owners concluded that building a new porch to replace the old back deck was almost equally important. I was not surprised to hear it. Especially in a small house, outdoor family areas like decks and porches are essential to get right, since they serve as auxiliary living space in warm weather. We designed a classic screen porch with a beadboard ceiling, Casablanca fan, and traditional wood framing and rear screen door. The roof, screens, and breezes aided by the fan made this outdoor space far more useful to the family than the former deck.

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The main part of the project would start, of course, by removing the old roof and secondfloor rooms. As we discussed with the clients, an often-overlooked advantage of that process is the fact that it exposes the framing above the first floor, which becomes completely accessible. The family was eager to add central air conditioning to their bungalow, which currently had none, and to run hot-water heating lines to the new rooms from their recently upgraded boiler. Because we could easily get into the space over the first floor, we would be able to run ductwork and hot-water lines just as in new construction—a more satisfactory solution than retrofitting lines in an intact house, through closed-in ceilings, floors, walls, and even, in some cases, closets. Although the current project did not include a master bathroom, my clients wanted to keep that option open. We ran plumbing lines to that space as well, although it would remain a large closet for now. Unlike many bungalows, this one had the advantage of a good, solid staircase to the converted attic level, allowing us to reuse the stairs, rather than replace them. In the designs we presented to the clients, we suggested a wide, floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookcase at the top of the stairs. This idea, which proved very successful, came together out of our awareness of bungalow style, with its emphasis on built-ins, and the observation that the family had more books than shelves. As my studio develops designs, I always try to include such smaller, personal details or options for homeowners to consider, in addition to the big changes we know the remodeling project will achieve. This painted bookcase proved to be a great example—and has become one of the wife's favorite parts of the finished project.

This classic American bungalow warmed its owners’ hearts, but was too small for the family. Changing the converted attic bedrooms to modern living space with adequate headroom meant building a replacement second floor and heightening the brick chimney.

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Tackling the Second Floor The design alternatives for the new second floor were, as always, based on detailed assessments and measurements of the old building. To raise the ceiling from about 6' 10" to 8 feet, we proposed adding knee walls directly above the existing first-floor walls and slightly increasing the pitch of the roof. At the rear, the knee walls along the sides of the house also captured added space for the two rear bedrooms, which together had been considerably narrower than the first floor, but would now have the same total width. At the front of the house, a new master bedroom dormer would be wider and taller than the original, but with proportions that were carefully studied to protect the look of the bungalow. Within the new space that all of this provided, we expanded the floor space of all three bedrooms as well as the ceiling height and added several closets. Closets and shelves were, in true bungalow style, built into the sloping roof to fully use the space. The plans emphasized the historic bungalow style, recommending modern, larger bedroom windows in a Prairie style, beadboard soffits, and new siding for the second floor that emulated a board-and-batten look, yet would go well with the first-floor aluminum siding, which remained for the time being. Fortunately, a mix of two siding styles is a common element of bungalow style.

A 21st-Century Bungalow Today, the finished house still looks like a bungalow and fits well into its 1920s and 30s era neighborhood. But what at a glance may not seem like a big difference, is a new world inside. New heating and cooling for the second floor, proper closets and a built-in bookcase, 8-foot ceilings, and three bedrooms with more-than-adequate dimensions, make real differences in daily life.

Before the project, the upstairs bedrooms were inset significantly from the sides of the first floor, making them much narrower than necessary. The old deck was too exposed to insects and direct sun.

right, above:

right, below: A happy replacement for the overly hot rear deck, the new screen porch also evokes the bungalow era

of the 1920s. A beadboard ceiling, Casablanca fan, and traditional wood door and framing add an outdoor family space that suits the house.

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At the rear of the house, the screen porch, as we had hoped, has become "a family place," in the wife's words, "like another room in the house." The screens, of course, keep out mosquitoes and the shade makes it ideal for family meals during spring and fall. An advocate for ceiling fans, which she used to sell, the wife finds that the fan on the porch have been a big help for greater energy efficiency. Upstairs, the new, 8-foot ceilings can also safely accommodate ceiling fans that would have been too low before. As for the enlarged master bedroom, she says, "We love it!" Previously, there was literally a foot of floor space between her bed and the wall; now there is a normal, roomy amount. The new closets have added a huge amount of storage compared to what was available before, and the bigger windows, more sunlight. A tightly wedged former attic space has become a brightly lit, appropriately sized room where it's a pleasure to spend time. f

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Old Floor Plan Originally, the front bedroom was a small room with a modest dormer and one undersized closet; the back bedrooms had sidewalls inset from the wider first floor. Although a floor plan doesn’t show it, the ceilings were awkwardly low—and the underframed floors were bouncy.

New Floor Plan The new plan expands the total width of the rear bedrooms to match the width of the first floor, adds closets, and widens the space for the master bedroom as well as adding a much larger dormer. Higher ceilings increase the usable space for each room. From House to Home

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From Split-Foyer House to Modern Architecture FOR TWO OF MY CLIENTS WITH A LONG-STANDING INTEREST IN modern architecture, replacing an outdated single-car carport with an oversize two-car garage became an occasion to refresh and improve their home’s appearance, too. Their 1960s split-foyer home in Silver Spring, Maryland, was located on a generous two-acre suburban lot that could easily handle a more substantial home, large garage included. As I learned when I met with them, they also wanted to use this moment to add a large, more front entry porch and a façade with handsome touches, giving their home more presence with a more assertive architectural style. My design-build team was delighted to meet the challenge. The new garage meets the demands of an active, multi-car family and provides additional storage, while adding architectural interest to the home. The new entry porch, with an intriguing cube-like form open on multiple sides, provides the home with an impressive entrance, a gathering spot for family and friends, and a look that is unlike anything in the neighborhood, yet a successful complement to the home’s underlying style. In designing the addition, we took into consideration the scale and mass of the home, starting with the home’s twoblock existing structure, with a two-story bedroom wing on the right and a one-story wing with living spaces on the left. This became the basis for a three-block design in which the new garage is the third block or component. The added garage also created a stepped roof rhythm, allowing for a low-pitched gable roof that unified the new with the old. As we planned the project, the original brick house served as both a contrast and a complement to the addition’s striking new statement. The home’s existing brick was utilized as a unifying material, and matching brick was added to the front of the garage. The home’s existing stone, which was from a local, and now defunct, quarry, inspired the replication of similar stone for the foundation-base, and a horizontal wall now stretches the length of the house, concealing three unattractive basement windows. The new porch’s use of stucco became a strong, effective contrast with the plain brick house and the rugged stone base. In addition to its fresh take on commonly used building materials, the entry porch includes a large skylight and an exposed, minimalist painted pipe column at one corner, helping to anchor the light, open stucco cube. Glass and steel porch railings express a lean, modern architectural sense that exactly met the homeowners’ intentions. With the garage, entry porch, and façade complete, the formerly dated house exterior has been transformed to a sophisticated and modern work of architecture and art, adding value and functionality to make it fresh and new. f

left: Rugged stone, slate, stucco, and brick materials create a striking new entrance to the house. A skylight and bench add to the welcoming shelter of the new entry porch, designed as an open, modernist cube.

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BEFORE: This typical 1960s split-foyer house included an inadequate, single-vehicle carport and serviceable but dated

materials like the porch and stair railing. Plain brick walls, conventional windows, and other details add to the home’s older, unremarkable appearance.

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AFTER: What a difference an addition project can make! The new two-car garage adds functionality and creates a more substantial appearance, while a dramatic new open-sided entry porch makes a bold but welcoming statement. Additional changes to the faรงade help to transform a typical 1960s suburban house into a striking, visually engaging home.

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Old Floor Plan The original house, a typical 1960s split-foyer home, was divided between a low one-story block at left and a two-story section at right; the small carport was a visual afterthought open to the elements. The front-door stairs, pointed toward the street, did not relate to the driveway where visitors would actually arrive; they were also narrow and short, providing no comfortable opportunity to linger with arriving or departing guests. 53

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New Floor Plan A substantial, oversize two-car garage immediately lends substance and presence to the mass of the house. Open on multiple sides, the new entry porch still presents the front door to public view from the street, but provides access to guests through a thoughtfully planned flagstone patio, broad, low stairway, and the substantial—and striking— porch, complete with skylight. From House to Home

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Finding Potential in an Unfinished Basement AN UNFINISHED BASEMENT CAN OFTEN FEEL LIKE A DARK AND DAMP CAVE, even if the basement is merely used for storage or laundry. But sometimes, with a smart remodel and unique design aesthetic, a basement can become a chic and airy loft-like space. This was the case for a recent 1920s townhouse basement remodeling project in the historic Woodley Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington DC. A family of four, with two young children, wanted to turn their dark and gloomy basement into a multi-functional space with defined areas for play, TV, and work. The homeowners specifically desired an office space with a built-in desk, a laundry closest for their stack washer/dryer, ample storage units, and an enclosure to conceal the mechanical equipment. Despite its location below ground, the new basement feels like a modern, airy space that maintains the charm from the historic townhouse above. This light, open feeling was made possible in large part because of a clever design for the typically low ceiling. The removal of the old ceiling allowed for the exposure of the floor joists, cross bracing, and diagonal subfloor above. What some may see as the innards of a home became the basement’s most exciting design feature: the exposed ceiling was painted white, thus enhancing the sense of space and creating a seamless integration from the walls to the ceilings. Redundant wiring and piping were removed or relocated to minimize the visual congestion. A new bulkhead, running from the front of the basement to the back, now holds a majority of the ductwork and piping. What was once a dark basement with a sloping floor, is now a modern, functional, and charming space with a leveled floor (thanks to a liquid floor leveler poured over the uneven 1920s floor slab). The basement is perfect for a busy family on-the-go, a family who now doesn’t mind spending all of their time in the basement. f

left: An open, white painted ceiling becomes an attractive focal point in this “basement loft,” a family room designed to maximize a sense of openness and light.

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ABOVE: This unfinished basement room offered storage space, and not much else, when the project began.

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ABOVE: The basement is almost unrecognizable in its new role as the center of family life. Internal walls are gone

and fresh new stairs invite family members into a carefully planned space that includes a media center, open ceiling, and plenty of light.

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Old Floor Plan The old, unfinished basement was broken up into laundry and storage spaces rather than room for family life.

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New Floor Plan The newly reconfigured basement works for living/TV viewing, the children’s playroom, laundry, and a home office.

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BATHS & MASTER SUITES


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A Client’s Vision for Three Elegant Small Baths OVER THE YEARS, I’VE FOUND THAT EVERY CLIENT BRINGS HIS OR HER own preferences to any remodeling project. Even a homeowner who claims to have “no opinion” usually turns out to have very clear ideas, once I ask the right questions. With knowledge of a client’s tastes, my design-build studio can then work within a budget to produce a more pleasant, comfortable, custom result—the type of hand-tailored project that makes a house more truly a home. In the Washington area, with its museums and active art scene, I sometimes work with clients who have a special background in art or design. One great example was the owner of a modern-style brick townhouse, built in about 1967 during urban renewal in the Southwest Waterfront area. A senior federal official, she was also an avid textile enthusiast, with a sophisticated eye for color; since the time I worked with her, she has become a trustee of the Textile Museum. When we met at the house, she showed me her sewing room, draped with amazing fabrics that glistened in the sun. This client’s aesthetic sense made it a joy to work with her on the project at hand: transforming three dated, small bathrooms into upscale, elegant, and modern spaces.

A well-appointed shower, pedestal sink, and modern toilet make the hall bathroom—used as a master bath— contemporary, elegant, and more spacious. Thoughtfully chosen tile textures, sizes, and colors provide a variety of finish surfaces, accented by a Turkish rug.

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Small, badly worn bathrooms, although a common problem for homeowners, might not seem like a great creative opportunity. My client disagreed. In her previous homes, she had often handled renovations by hiring contractors directly. For these bathrooms, however, she had decided that an architect’s eye was essential, for the very reason that the rooms were so small. Her insight was that in a modest-size space, both the opportunities and risks of any design choice were magnified. There was, quite literally, no room for error. A light switch that was off by an inch, or a slightly too-large or too-small pattern in some surface finish, could easily ruin the whole effect. She had looked for an architect-led studio, she said, because visually and functionally, everything had to be just right.

A Triple Challenge The bathrooms were certainly modest in size. As a rule, a small American bathroom is 5 by 8 feet. The first floor bathroom in this house was a claustrophobic 4 by 7 feet. The other two bathrooms, both on the third floor, were not much larger: 6 by 7 feet and 6’ 6” by 6’ 8”. There was also no realistic way to expand them, given the size and layout of the house. Despite their small scale, all three bathrooms were also full baths; the first floor bathroom had a shower and both third floor bathrooms included tub and shower combinations. These upstairs bathrooms were entered, respectively, from the hall and from the front bedroom. Since my client preferred the sunlight and quiet of the rear bedroom, she used the hall bathroom as her master bath. The front bedroom and its en suite bathroom served as her guest room. She asked initially about the option of combining the third floor bathrooms, which shared a common wall, into one larger bath that could, on occasion, be shared with a houseguest. Our design team looked seriously at this idea and developed a compartmentalized plan, but in the end, it proved unrealistic. Ensuring the privacy of hostess and guest would have chopped up the space too much, losing the advantage of a larger bathroom. Combining the bathrooms would also have incurred the expense of moving the plumbing lines, for

right: The long, sculptural lines of the tub, distinctive 12 by 24 inch wall tiles, and two dark tile bands above the tub all help to expand and lengthen the apparent dimensions of the guest bathroom.

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very little gain. Instead, we went back to the idea of keeping each bathroom in place, while transforming each into a space that felt bigger and less confined.

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Upscale Design in Small Spaces As in any small room, the scale of the materials and fixtures was a vital consideration. The existing bathrooms, for example, used small, 1-inch floor and wall tiles, which were common when the house was built in the 1960s. Our design approach called for large tiles for the floors and most of the walls, opening up the rooms visually and make them appear larger. (Within the showers, however, we used small floor tiles to help avoid slipping.) Also typical of the 1960s, the bathrooms used vanities for storage. But the vanities were just too bulky for such small rooms, adding to the sense of cramped space. In the third floor bathrooms, our design used pedestal sinks instead. The floor around a pedestal feels far more open, and a good pedestal sink has a sculptural quality that can become a visual focal point. To create needed storage, we used the fact that the upstairs bathrooms were against the townhouse’s party wall, the wall adjoining the next unit. The greater depth of that wall allowed us to inset 6-inch-deep medicine cabinets that protruded by only the usual small amount into the room. Elegantly narrow, vertical, and very deep, the mirrored cabinets worked well over each of the pedestal sinks, leading the eye to a sconce on the wall above. A sleeker, more open, and more modern look was starting to come together. Since the tiny first floor bathroom wasn’t on the party wall, we decided to use a wall mirror there, supplying any storage needs with a very small but upscale vanity. We were delighted at first to discover an elegant Philippe Starck design, only to find it had been discontinued. Fortunately, my lead carpenter was able to create a small-scale, tapered custom vanity inspired by the Starck model.

See-through “invisible” shower doors and a richly textured mosaic wall of glass and ceramic tiles increase the apparent size of the tiny first floor bathroom. My design-build studio’s lead carpenter built the small, stylish vanity, inspired by a Philippe Starck model that was no longer available.

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A Vision for Each Room

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Next came some additional choices to set each bathroom apart. Like many clients, this homeowner felt no need for more than one bathtub in the house; she gladly gave up the tub in her hall bathroom for a shower. This decision allowed us to design a shower with a clear, “invisible” enclosure, creating a more open feeling for the room. We also suggested tiling the wall behind the sink and toilet from floor to ceiling. Not only did this make a nice backdrop for the fixtures, but it gave more importance to this wall, which one sees every day while using the sink. Given her interest in color, texture, and pattern, my client was particularly pleased by the diverse tiles we suggested for this hall bathroom. The large wall tile we recommended is an unusual, 20-inch-square ceramic tile with directional markings that make it resemble wood or cork. She has since found that guests invariably touch it when she gives them a tour. Within the shower, two nicely bumpy inset bands of clear glass tile offer a visual and tactile contrast to the ceramic tile. On the floor outside the shower, a light, 18-inch-square Italian tile is a neutral setting for a rug chosen by the client. In the adjacent guest bathroom, we proposed replacing the old, 1960s bathtub with a contemporary soaking tub with a striking sculpted exterior. At 12 by 24 inches, the suggested horizontal wall tiles for the guest bath were the largest in any of the bathrooms. Imported from Italy, they have a directional quality, with lightly colored, contrasting markings. As we all noticed when we and the client examined the samples, the markings were almost like threads in a fabric, once again echoing her interests and tastes. On the long wall above the tub, we continued the strong horizontal theme with decorative bands of rectangular, rugged glass tile in a deep amber hue. On the floor, 12-inch tiles in a complementary color could suitably showcase a selected rug. In the first floor bathroom, the old shower had a frosted glass enclosure that visually cut off even more of the limited space in the room. The new shower, like the one upstairs, incorporated a clear glass enclosure, letting the eye travel easily to the far wall of the shower. There we planned a visual treat—a floor-to-ceiling mosaic wall of 1-inch tiles in contrasting glass and stone, the only large wall surface in all three bathrooms where small tiles were used. Other walls in the bathroom would be adorned with 12-inch tiles. On the floor, almost white 16-inch tiles echoed the very light colors of the entire space. The finished effect, says our satisfied client today, is quite simply “a really exquisite little bath.”

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Final Steps Although the walls and plumbing locations in each bathroom would stay put for this project, a close look at the spaces showed that all three bathrooms had to be gutted, reframed, and rebuilt. This is often, though not always, necessary in older homes, partly due to issues with the original construction and partly because of settling over time. With the design and plans in place and the few supplier difficulties resolved, we started the process of tearing out and rebuilding while our client left for a spring vacation in Turkey.

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At this point, a key element was still to come from the owner herself: the collectible rugs envisioned for each room. The first of these fell into place on her travels when she found a yastik, a traditional regional rug variety, in a Turkish junk shop. Although the yastik was filthy and hard to see clearly, she suspected it would be perfect for the hall bathroom, the one she used as her master bath. On her return, as she expected, it took her several days to wash her purchase thoroughly. But as soon as she set the cleaned yastik on the new tile floor, it was obviously just right, immediately becoming the hall bathroom’s new focal point. For the bathroom off the guest bedroom, by contrast, she selected a rug with an unknown provenance but great family significance. The rug, which had been her mother’s, used to lie in front of the fireplace in her parents’ home. This unexpected choice also felt right in its space, she said, describing this placement as a homecoming of sorts. As of this writing, her chosen rug, if any, for the first-floor bathroom remains an open question. When I compare all three new bathrooms with the cramped, dingy rooms they replaced, the contrast could not be more extreme, even though no space was added or reconfigured. Working with a client with a strong aesthetic sense and a vision of small-scale elegance helped to make this project special. But these three small bathrooms also illustrate a broader point. All three offer abundant proof that small spaces, thoughtfully considered and created, can sparkle with originality, high functionality, and panache. f

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The Luxury (and Challenge) of Extra Space IT DOESN’T OFTEN HAPPEN THAT A CLIENT’S BATHROOM HAS TOO MUCH space, but such was the case with a cavernous master bath in a brick, five-story Northwest Washington house built in 1986. At 14 by 16 feet, this bathroom was the size of a modest living room. Yet its inefficient arrangement and outdated materials made the bathroom feel clumsy, awkward, and empty, rather than luxurious and roomy. The 9’ 6” ceiling and large stretches of open floor overwhelmed the existing cabinets and fixtures, leaving them visually adrift in the over-size space. As if that weren’t enough, the bathroom was also a relic of the 1980s, with gold-plated fixtures, mirrored walls, pink-veined marble, and a massive platform tub, which stood like an altar at the far end of the room. The owners—a partner in a venture capital firm and his wife, who was staying home with their two daughters—had never liked the bathroom from the time they bought the house. But with young children to raise, they had other priorities for the first few years. That changed unexpectedly during a family vacation, when a small pipe burst under the sink while they were away. The bathroom was on the fourth floor, so the results were far-reaching. I and the staff of my design-build studio first met the family as we repaired, restored, and replaced water-damaged walls, ceilings, and hardwood floors on the levels below. With the rest of the house back in good condition, the couple decided against simply restoring the bathroom where the flood began. Instead, they asked me to develop and then execute a new design for the space, aiming for a more functional, attractive bathroom that better reflected their own tastes.

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before: Plants and exercise gear surround the rarely used platform tub in the old bathroom; at right, counters and a single-sink vanity fill a corner of the bathroom, which had mirrored walls. There was no shower.

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The process began, as always, with a conversation about the clients’ goals and preferences. Given that the current bathroom did not have any shower, a modern, walk-in shower was at the top of their list. The wife, who would be the main user of the new bathroom, was also frustrated by the small, single-sink vanity in the existing bathroom. For the new room, she envisioned a substantial vanity with two sinks, more counter space, and far more storage. With two sinks, she could soak a hand-washed item, for example, while running water in the other sink. Both clients were looking for a comfortable but high-end bathroom in a transitional style, not too traditional and not too modern—just the reverse of the dated, pink-and-gold-accented fixtures and materials in the existing space. Stepping back from these and other important specifics, the couple’s overall goal for the project was simple. The old bathroom just didn’t work. They wanted a new design that was cohesive, organized, pulled together, and functional, making good use of the available space—a bathroom, in other words, that made sense. Ironically, the biggest challenge in meeting that goal was also the room’s nicest feature: a wall with a large sliding glass door and big windows, which opened onto a balcony with a spectacular view of the city, including the Washington Monument. The room’s current arrangement embraced this wonderful view, although it lacked appropriate privacy for a bathroom and admitted too much hot sun. Somehow the new plan would also have to accommodate the superb vista, which was sacred. Yet there was no good way to properly place all of the bathroom functions in one large room adjacent to a wall of glass.

A Two-Room Solution After measuring and further assessing the old bathroom, my design team proposed a new, zoned layout divided into private and public spaces—in effect, an inner and outer room. A toilet and a new, tiled shower would occupy the private zone, an inner sanctum shielded by a new wall with a wide pocket door. The larger public zone, where one entered the bathroom, would include the full 16-footwide wall of glass and retain a generous width of about 10 feet. Key elements of this public space included a modern, freestanding bath placed parallel to the outer wall, and a substantial, two-sink vanity suited to the scale of the room. Along the glass wall, 7-foot tall sliding louvered panels would provide privacy and sun control. By covering the entire wall, the louvers created a sleek, clean look that replaced the old separate blinds. 73

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The team offered several design alternatives and ideas, including an 8-inch band of clerestory glass to admit natural light to the shower. For the clients, however, the extra sunlight didn’t justify adding this interior window. Natural light would enter the private zone, instead, through the large pocket door, which we made of frosted glass.

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The new, two-room approach surprised and pleased both homeowners. As our female client later said of the finished result, she’s thrilled with it. Because of the improved design, the public zone doesn’t feel any smaller to her than the original bathroom.

Filling Out the Details With strong support for the two-room idea, we developed the specifics to make it work. In the public zone, we used architectural details to pull in the high ceiling, which previously felt distant and almost isolated. Crown molding at the ceiling, a traditional way to connect a ceiling with a room, was paired with equally substantial molding around the pocket door opening. At 8 feet tall and 42 inches wide, the unusually large pocket door also helped to keep the ceiling in scale. The line of the upper door molding was continued by a substantial architrave, an overmantle feature that framed the mirrors and sconces above the new vanity. In such a large room, this treatment helped to ground the vanity and give it a visual sense of place. On the wall facing the entrance to the bathroom, paneling and two-toned paint created a strong visual focal point in lieu of a featureless surface. Having divided the old bathroom into rectangular zones, we used a diagonal layout of large, 18-by-18-inch porcelain floor tiles to break up the rectilinear feeling and pull the space together. Our clients enjoyed choosing one of the many available freestanding, contemporary tubs we recommended, which held just as much water as the old platform tub. To preserve the clean, sculptural lines of their chosen tub, we mounted the faucet on a separate, marbletopped mahogany frame. Above the tub, we re-used a lantern-like fixture that an interior decorator had found for them for this bathroom some years earlier. As the decorator must have intended, this intriguing, nicely scaled piece helped lower the ceiling visually and created another point of interest and contrast.

following pages: Adjustable louvers control light and privacy along a wall of glass with a stunning view. Within the public zone of the new bathroom, a freestanding tub, large custom vanity, and wide frosted-glass pocket door create an elegant, comfortable space in appropriate scale.

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On the inside wall, across the public zone from the balcony, the custom vanity became, in effect, a large piece of furniture well suited to the scale of the room. Six drawers and six cabinet doors defined a wealth of storage space, while the vanity’s curved faucets and elegantly simple drawer and door pulls were in visual sympathy with the faucet at the tub. The gray manmade stone countertop formed a fitting contrast to the relatively light palette of the rest of the room. Wall-mounted mirrors, paired sconces, and glass shelves filled out the wide wall space defined by the substantial architrave.

Step Inside Inside the frosted glass pocket door was the private zone that held the toilet and shower. Like many clients, the owners requested a built-in bench within the shower. In daily life, a bench can be enormously useful as a place to keep shampoo bottles or as a support to shave a leg. As my female client noted, it’s a great aid to washing a child’s hair. She and her husband also talked about the value of a bench in case of a sports injury, or for future owners who might have a frail or elderly family member. Within the shower, large wall tiles honored the couple’s preferences for relatively neutral, quiet decor, while horizontal glass mosaic bands—more intense, but in the same color range—added visual interest. A clear glass, frameless shower enclosure avoided visually separating the shower space from the rest of the private zone. In a satisfying touch, the curb at the shower entrance and the shower bench were topped with matching limestone. The net result feels elegant but also cozy, a shower with extra privacy that’s clean, tasteful, much more functional than the disliked platform bath, and entirely user-friendly. Aesthetically and functionally, this cheerful new bathroom with its dual zones has met and exceeded the goals that my clients discussed as we looked over the old, too-large 1980s bathroom. When asked what she likes most about the new space, my female client mentions the louvers on the glass wall, the wonderful view (needless to say!), the pretty, sculptural tub, and the paneled wall that catches one’s eye on entering the bathroom. Most of all, though, she loves the roomy, well-appointed shower, a welcome private space within the newly functional master bath. f

right: Bands of mosaic tile add interest to this ample shower that includes a built-in bench, custom showerheads, and frameless, clear glass enclosure.

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A Master Suite Updates a 1960s Home I GET A KICK OUT OF BEING AN ARCHITECT WHO SPECIALIZES in remodeling because I like helping people improve their daily lives. For example, one of my clients liked her 1960 Neocolonial house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, except for two bothersome flaws. The first was the unappealing façade, which was discouraging to come home to and didn’t match her home’s attractive interior. The other problem, to which she woke up every morning, was a first-floor master bedroom with limited storage and a small attached bathroom. This arrangement, although common in the 1960s, no longer made much sense. For lack of closet space, my client had to rotate many of her clothes in and out of seasonal storage elsewhere in the house; her partner simply kept his clothes in the basement. The rooms were also arranged so that the bathroom could only be reached through the bedroom, making it hard for one person to shower and get ready for the day without disturbing the other. The bathroom, which measured 5 by 7 feet, was fitted with a sink, a toilet, a shower, and not much else. My client, a corporate vice president, put our goal simply: “make my house look and feel upscale.” She originally hired me and my design-build studio to make the front of her house more substantial and inviting. Our façade design pleased her so much, however, that she decided to put off construction. Instead, she asked us to design a modern master suite to replace the existing bedroom-with-bath. My studio could then build the master suite and the new façade at the same time, resolving both of her issues with the house at once.

right: A new curbless walk-in shower features garden views.

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A Suite of Their Own Master suites come in many varieties, but generally speaking, a master suite is a private, linked group of rooms that includes a home’s master bedroom, a large, high-end master bathroom, and a generously sized walk-in closet. New master suites are popular remodeling projects that can, as in this case, solve practical problems in an older home. For many couples, a master suite is also something more: a shared private retreat that is a bit glamorous, a bit sexy, and above all, restful.

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As we sat down with this couple to discuss goals for their suite, I learned that they already had thought through how it might be laid out. Their idea, which was a good one, was to build an addition along the side of the house to make room for the new bathroom and walk-in closet. To access these new rooms, they envisioned removing the existing, small master bathroom and replacing it with a central hallway inside the suite. This hall would link directly to each of the suite’s main areas: the master bedroom, the new master bathroom, and the walk-in closet. With this plan, there would be no more traipsing across the bedroom to reach the bathroom, and no more need to stow clothes around the house. Because the house was on a hill, the proposed first-floor addition would actually be well above ground level at the rear. They liked our suggestion of enclosing the space underneath the addition as a new, lower-level room that would open to the backyard.

A Double-Gable Solution Our discussion with the couple gave us a clear direction for the master suite. Now we needed a plan to make it work. As with most additions to the side of a house, our first concern was the required zoning setback from the property line, which in this case restricted the addition to a width of about 7 feet. The setback was also at a slight angle, making the allowed width narrower toward the front of the proposed addition and wider toward the rear. My design team suggested using that quirk to our advantage by creating a staggered, two-width addition. The front of the addition would be 6’ 9” wide for the first 15 feet. At that point, we would bump out the remaining 15 feet of the addition, complete with its own gable roof, to a 7’ 6” width.

A swing-arm light and pull-out tray make this the perfect spot for bedtime reading. A tall niche on each side of the bed replaces a traditional nightstand with display space above and storage cubbies below—all without taking up floor space.

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Architecturally, the combination of two gables added visual interest and a pleasing complexity to the addition. Inside the addition, the plan worked well, too. The narrower front portion would be largely occupied by the walk-in closet. As a rule, such a closet should be at least 6 feet wide in order to hang clothes along each side, making the 6’ 9” dimension an excellent fit. The wider, rear part of the addition would house most of the new bathroom, with rear windows overlooking the private backyard.

Built-Ins for a More Spacious Feel Even with the addition, this first-floor suite in an existing house would be relatively snug, making it important to use every inch wisely. For both the hall and the master bedroom, this meant extensive use of custom built-ins, a choice that eliminated extra furniture and left the floors pleasingly open. In the bedroom, a relocated door allowed us to center the king-size bed between the two former closets, which we converted to built-in armoires with drawers at the bottom. Rather than using bedside tables, we flanked the bed with tall, elegant wall niches that housed pullout trays on which to perch a pair of glasses or a book. On the wall above, swing-arm lights made it easy and comfortable to read in bed. For television viewing, we supplied a built-in media center on the adjoining wall. Throughout the bedroom, vivid wall colors contrasted with the fresh white built-ins and moldings. The finished effect, as intended, was no longer just another bedroom, but a distinctive, upscale, and functional shared personal space—a true master bedroom. Getting up in the morning in this new room, my client reports, is “a great lift” to her spirits.

A Bathroom Oriented to the Outdoors In the new addition, the star of the show was clearly the new 18-foot-long bathroom. Given the wonderful, private view overlooking the tree-filled backyard at the rear of the bathroom, we and our client soon focused on enhancing the connections between this new bathroom and the outdoors. The signature element of our outdoor-oriented design was a custom shower with large windows at the back wall that could be opened. Windows can be a visually stunning addition to a shower, if they’re installed correctly. To avoid the obvious dangers of rot and mildew, we chose vinyl windows, paired with limestone sills carefully tilted away to drain off moisture. A long, custom bench, also topped with limestone, ran across the entire width of the shower. To maintain an open, spacious feeling throughout the bathroom, my client 83

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Translucent panels define the areas of the new bathroom without cutting up the visual expanse of a room that’s nearly 18 feet long. A curbless shower entrance enhances the sense of openness, as do windows that can be opened on both exterior walls.

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requested a curbless entry to the shower, a detail that is much easier to achieve in a new addition through adjustments to the slope of the floor. From the beginning, my client had liked the look of a long vanity with two sinks, which we topped with a limestone counter to coordinate with the shower. Here, too, we added windows that could be opened, choosing frosted glass because the view to the side was less private. For the vanity, our client preferred traditional details in keeping with the house’s Neocolonial style. The finished vanity incorporates paneled cabinet doors, small glass pulls, and a simple, classic faucet design. Wall-mounted lights and mirrors above the vanity make it a pleasant place to start the day.

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With the shower’s placement dictated by the view at the rear of the house, the central location of the vanity left the toilet in a less than ideal position near the bathroom entrance. We offered the couple several design alternatives to set the toilet apart without crowding the space, and they ultimately chose a translucent glass panel that would de-emphasize it just enough. In a bit of serendipity, this panel inspired my design team to add a matching translucent panel beside the shower. The pair of frosted glass panels not only solved the toilet issue, but became a pleasing visual touch, gently demarcating spaces within the bathroom while preserving an uninterrupted line of sight from the entry door to the windows in the shower.

A Successful Result With its high roof, the new bathroom had the potential for one more connection to the outdoors—a 10-foot-high ceiling shaft to a motorized skylight, equipped with a sensor that caused it to close automatically in case of rain. Combined with the windows at the shower and the vanity, this skylight has been a big hit with my client, who found within months that it made a huge difference to the circulation of air throughout the house. Leaving the doors to the bathroom and hallway wide open, she could feel the summer heat in the rest of the house drop by several degrees as the fresh air moved through. For her, she says, this cross ventilation was “the most unexpected, amazing thing” of all the improvements the new suite has added to her and her partner’s daily life. Today, this couple enjoys a house with a welcoming façade, a fresh new master suite that my client calls a wonderful place to end the day, a bathroom with a refreshing view, greatly increased storage, a new lower-level room, and as an added bonus, better ventilation and temperature control. No wonder I get such satisfaction from remodeling projects. Working with my client, my studio helped change a well-loved house into a home. f

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Old Floor Plan In the existing house, the first-floor master bedroom was entered through a door across from the powder room and beside a linen closet. Within the bedroom, two small closets provided inadequate storage; a small bathroom could only be reached through the bedroom.

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New Floor Plan Behind the new door to the master suite, a wide central hall packed with storage replaces the old linen closet and master bathroom. The hall connects directly to the suite’s three major areas: the master bedroom, a new master bathroom, and a new walk-in closet.

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A Capitol Hill Bathroom, Art Deco Style IT’S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO REALIZE A CLIENT’S VISION. A husband and wife who are long-time clients of mine asked me to create a contemporary Art Deco bathroom for the second floor of their 1870s Capitol Hill townhouse, replacing a cramped, dark 1960s bathroom. The husband had fallen in love with Art Deco (see below) in part because of his travels to New York, where he encountered spectacular Art Deco lobbies in many older hotels. For him, Art Deco was clean, timeless, and distinctive. To lighten the room, I chose a white palette with geometric black and silver accents. At the wife’s request, I added a touch of color in Art Deco style with a geometric tile border high on the walls and classic chevrons on a tiled wall in the new shower. Other Art Deco elements include stepped forms—among them, layered horizontal panels around the tub, a ceiling surrounded by stepped layers, staggered glass shelves above the sink, stepped edges around the countertop, and custom ziggurat crown molding at plate rail height, above the tiles on the walls. A beveled circular mirror layered on top of a square mirror is paired with a custom vanity with sculpted legs, chamfered corners, and hexagonal sink, offering a modern take on 1930s glamour. The overall effect? An upscale, modern space that employs Art Deco style to make a strong but welcoming statement. As my male client says, the family’s old “miserable, dark, ugly bathroom” of the past has become a pleasing “room that you like to go into.” f

Art Deco (1925-1940) A design movement that flourished around the world in the late 1920s and the 1930s, Art Deco regained its popularity as a retro design style in the 1980s and 1990s and remains well liked today. As the name suggests, Art Deco is an opulent modern style that emphasizes ornamentation. Art Deco designs may be found in many other fields besides architecture, including jewelry design, fashion, automotive and industrial design, and the visual arts. Common elements of Art Deco designs include modern, non-organic materials; stepped or layered forms; certain motifs, such as chevrons and sunbursts; and a hard-edged look that emphasizes linear geometry. 89

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before (above left): The old, dark bathroom, a 1960s remodel, included dated wallpaper and small, dark floor tiles, walls and a shower enclosure tiled in dark blue, and dated, poor-quality fixtures like this vanity. A window on the north wall (retained in the new bathroom) added only limited light.

after (above right): Evoking classic 1930s Hollywood glamour, this custom vanity with octagonal legs is topped by a counter with chamfered corners and a hexagonal sink. The round-on-square double mirror reinforces the bathroom’s layered motif; cabinets and shelves add useful but elegant storage. From House to Home

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above: Art Deco chevrons, in colors that match the horizontal tile band on the walls, ornament the tiled shower, which includes a built-in bench and handheld showerhead. Within the shower, a wall of frosted-glass blocks catches the morning sun, creating a burst of light in a once-dark bathroom

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above: Beside the hexagonal sink, slim glass shelves and an unobtrusive ledge add useful storage without overwhelming the space. The luxurious whirlpool bath includes its own ledge along the far wall.

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Old Floor Plan n the old plan, a smaller bathroom space included a tightly enclosed tub with shower, a toilet, and an oversized vanity. I

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New Floor Plan A slightly expanded bathroom keeps the existing north window, but adds a wall of glass block in the shower to admit morning sunlight (a gap between the rowhouses allows the light to enter). A corner tub, tiled shower with built-in bench, and custom, legged vanity add to the room’s new look.

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A Modern Kitchen on Capitol Hill ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT ARCHITECTURE-BASED REMODELING is that every project is different, for the simple reason that every home and every homeowner is unique. Whether it is twenty years old or 120, each house has its own history, style, and peculiarities. Each homeowner brings to the process his or her goals, needs, tastes, budget, and timeframe. The result is that every project is a custom project, a one-of-a-kind endeavor with its own challenges and design opportunities. That being said, I found myself on pleasingly familiar ground a few years ago when I visited a potential client at her 1880s rowhouse on Capitol Hill, located within an easy walk from the city’s historic Eastern Market. As she told me, she wanted a more functional, friendly, and attractive kitchen for herself and her husband, one that would be better integrated with the rest of the house, but not detract from her home’s historic character. It was a type of assignment—although, as always, differing in the details—that I knew very well.

left: A wide glass door and overhead transom beckon visitors to the rear patio and garden, reinforcing the front-toback flow of the coffered-beam ceiling, top cabinets, pendant lights, custom island, and heart pine floor.

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Capitol Hill, after all, is where I cut my teeth as an architect. In the 1980s, I started my first firm there. I redesigned, tore apart, and rebuilt dozens of historic rowhouses, learning to work sympathetically with their existing styles while updating tired, cramped kitchens and other rooms. I got to know the smell of cutting into old wood and the sensation of breathing century-old dust. I lived on the Hill myself for ten years in two successive houses, and renovated both. I even wrote an architecture and remodeling column for the local newspaper, the Hill Rag.

Capitol Hill Revisited This latest assignment on the Hill turned out to be, quite literally, close to home—or at least, a former home. I had once lived right around the corner, on another side of the same block. I walked my dog for years past this very house, then owned by a friend of the current owner, automatically noting the exterior details as I strolled by. The house, I knew, was a brick Queen Anne design, a classic style for the neighborhood. Meeting the client at her home (as with many couples, I worked primarily with one spouse), I learned more about what set this Capitol Hill project apart. The homeowner, a Foreign Service employee, told me that her career took her overseas so often that she had learned to “plan for impermanence.” The house was a case in point. She had bought it from her friend a decade earlier, but had only lived in it once for nine or ten months between assignments, renting it the rest of the time. She and her husband, who was about to retire, looked forward to living there, and to the alterations that would make it a more pleasant home. But with her chosen career, nothing was certain, something that the project needed to respect. She emphasized, for example, that the new kitchen should include neutral, natural earth tones, insuring that the house would be suitable to sell, or perhaps to rent to more upscale tenants, should the need arise. In addition to improving the worn-out kitchen, her main goal was to open up its connection to the dining room, creating a sense of flow from the front to the back of the house. She also wanted the kitchen to take better advantage of the view of the back garden, which was being redone after high winds split a big tree. She was looking for understated, low-key elegance, “smart casual” arrangements suited to informal entertaining and enjoying time together.

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above: A refrigerator by the back door, cheap flooring, dark false ceiling beams, dated materials, and undersized cabinets were some of the issues in the existing kitchen.

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She loved the heart pine floors and the original banister of the living room stairway, and she wanted the new kitchen to work with these and other elements of the historic interior. As we talked in detail, I learned of some other requirements. Besides feeling lighter and more modern, the new kitchen needed to provide space for laptops, cell phone chargers, and the mail. It should also be a friendly space, with room for the couple to enjoy breakfast or morning coffee.

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Existing Conditions After our conversation, we walked through the dining room and kitchen for a closer look. The layout of the house, as I expected, was what’s called a dogleg, in which the L-shaped rear of the house is narrowed and extends farther back on the kitchen side. (Although the dogleg design gives up some interior space, it was a great idea before the advent of air conditioning, admitting fresh air into the house’s middle rooms while isolating the heat and smells of the kitchen.) The state of the kitchen, a tired remodel from the late 1960s, was fairly typical, too. Back then, remodeling in any neighborhood rarely included professional design. Add to that the fact that property on Capitol Hill was not yet a good investment, and low-budget choices made sense. Renovations in the neighborhood often emphasized then-popular materials like vinyl tile and plastic laminate. Usually the work of homeowners or builders, these older remodels tended to preserve a kitchen’s old layout, even as they added appliances and other elements. The result was often an inefficient use of space and a cramped, uncomfortable kitchen. In this kitchen, I found that a bulky refrigerator and a stove occupied inconvenient corners within the tight 11’ 4” by 14-foot space. The awkwardly located back door was almost in the corner, and the dining room door was even farther to one side; as a result, it was nearly impossible to place anything against the outer wall of the kitchen. The 9’ 6” ceiling had been ornamented with false beams in a dark color. The floor was covered with layers of worn linoleum. Later measurements showed that the walls and floor were neither square nor plumb, requiring us to gut the space and reframe them from scratch.

left: Relocated and enlarged, the wide back door joins kitchen and garden on a fine day. Turned table legs at the end of the island provide comfortable seating space for a shared breakfast.

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As always, there was much for both of us to consider during this initial visit, so I was flattered and a little surprised that after all of our discussion my client walked me back to my car, which was parked about a block away. I took this, correctly, as a sign that she was enthusiastic about the possibilities of the project and the chance to make her house into the home she desired.

A Modern Solution Once our client gave the go-ahead, my design-build studio went to work, moving steadily forward through a process that included measuring and assessment of the existing space, alternative design proposals and sketches, discussions of specific materials, and increasingly detailed plans and estimates. These consultations with the client and supporting documents also laid the groundwork for a final budget, permits and approvals, and, of course, construction. As in any row-house kitchen, we worked hard to maximize every inch of space, a strategy that included relocating and enlarging the back door, the dining room doorway, and a window on the north wall, as well as selecting suitably scaled, better quality appliances. A counter and shelf along the previously underused south wall accommodated the laptops, mail cubbies, and cell phone charging; foot-deep pantry cabinets filled the rest of the wall, adding crucial storage. An interesting design development was the long, slender kitchen island, which became the centerpiece of the finished project, physically embodying the client’s wish for a stronger front-to-back flow through the house. An earlier idea, reflected in our first sketches, was a countertop peninsula between the dining room and kitchen. As we considered alternatives, that concept gave way to this custom island within the kitchen. Table legs at one end of the island offer legroom for a shared meal, while the rest of the island unobtrusively houses a microwave oven, two waste bins, and additional storage. The top surface, a thick layer of cherry-stained maple, contrasts with the kitchen’s stone countertops and makes the island feel more like a table. The long shape of the island leads the eye through the kitchen and out to the garden view,

right: A dappled mosaic backsplash of glass and limestone tiles adds a modern accent to the kitchen’s paneled cabinet doors and traditional wood floor. The over-sink window at left was moved and enlarged to suit the new layout.

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an idea we reinforced with a new coffered-beam ceiling that echoes the shape of the island. Along one wall, a line of glass-door top cabinets also leads from front to back, as does the trio of custom hand-blown glass pendant lights over the island.

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Complementing those pendants are recessed ceiling lights and undercabinet lighting, allowing many light levels and combinations for different occasions. Today, our client calls the flexible mix of artificial and natural light one of her favorite aspects of the project.

Setting the Mood The choice of materials also respect the historic style of the house. A heart pine floor in the kitchen creates a continuous sweep of flooring all the way from the front door through the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Flat paneled cabinet doors suggests the house’s period. For the doorway to the dining room and the new door at the back, we chose a traditional molding that is well suited to a Queen Anne house. The name of the molding makes me laugh, since it is actually sold and used around the country: Capitol Hill casing. But this classic trim is a good choice for many houses in the area, and it can, indeed, be found throughout Capitol Hill. The client also adjusted the furniture in the dining room, at our suggestion, to include two cozy stuffed armchairs for shared meals by the fireplace, coupled with a drop-leaf table for occasional entertaining. (Given Washington’s hot summers, she has since found she does more entertaining indoors, leading to a larger table for sit-down dinners.) As she anticipated, the wider opening between the kitchen and dining room keeps those in the kitchen included in the conversation. Guests move easily through the kitchen to enjoy the new backyard. Although it’s a small-scale house, this Capitol Hill Queen Anne now feels spacious inside. The living spaces flow front to back as the client had requested, with the kitchen acting as the link to the rear garden that completes the home in good weather. The island provides a comfortable space for breakfast, a cup of coffee, and reading the mail. The carefully planned, upscale detailing gives the kitchen a sense of understated, practical luxury while preserving the house’s sense of history. And by suiting the space to its new occupants, the project brings tangible form to the old saying: Home is where the heart is. f

left: The once-underutilized south wall now offers cubbies and work space for laptops, cell phones, chargers, mail, and other oddments, surrounded by banks of foot-deep pantry closets.

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Old Floor Plan Doors to the garden and the dining room were so close to the outer wall that it was unusable for storage or other needs, while the dining room door also isolated the kitchen from the rest of the house. The kitchen’s other side wall lacked adequate storage and had awkwardly placed appliances.

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New Floor Plan Changes to the rear door, the dining room opening, and a over-sink window were key to the new layout. The visual centerpiece, a custom-built island, allows ample passage on each side. An appropriately sized refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, oven, and cooktop share the north wall with a wealth of cabinets. On the south wall, pantry cabinets surround a window-lit counter and shelf of cubbies.

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A Trio of Family-Friendly Spaces SOMETIMES THE SOLUTIONS FOR A PROBLEM KITCHEN CAN BE FOUND —at least in part—in the rooms next door. A great illustration of this “nearby rooms” strategy was a project that my studio undertook for a 1970s house in an upscale Potomac, Maryland, housing development. By adding a large mudroom while expanding and updating the kitchen and a separate breakfast room, the design created three fresh, airy spaces that work smoothly together, restoring order, comfort, and more elbow room to an active family’s daily life. The key was to rethink how all of the existing space was used, reallocate it, and then add just enough more, through a modest rear addition, to make the kitchen and its adjacent rooms far more livable. Along the way, thoughtful choices about the exterior details of the addition complemented the home’s Neocolonial style, while enhancing the rear exterior of the house.

right: Shoe drawers, hooks, and shelves along the side wall of the new mudroom supply storage for every family

member. At right, a sink allows clean-up outside of the kitchen; large windows overlook the yard, accessed by a back door.

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The family, who learned of my studio through an employee who lived nearby, consisted of a husband, a wife, and their two sons, aged seven and nine. The husband was a lawyer; the wife was staying at home with the boys. A cheerful, solution-oriented, and naturally neat person who worked hard to maintain an orderly home, she was frustrated by the current kitchen and its equally cramped and dated surrounding rooms, whose limitations had become ever more apparent as the children grew. At their initial meeting with my employee, she and her husband, a wine connoisseur who likes to cook, described their modest-size kitchen as dark, poorly ventilated, and prone to traffic jams—an open refrigerator or dishwasher door could bring everything to a halt. Each member of this outgoing family enjoyed hosting guests, whether through large, informal parties (the parents) or after-school visits (the boys), which made the layout, space, and traffic concerns even more of an issue. Meanwhile, with each new sport, activity, or school project, the children brought home additional equipment and supplies, many of which were inevitably left on the kitchen floor when they came home. Next to the kitchen, a worn, somewhat dated breakfast room was simply not big enough for the family and a few guests to comfortably share sit-down meals. Both the kitchen and the breakfast room could clearly benefit from more front-toback space, which a small addition at the rear of the house could supply. But there was also some significant space to be captured within the existing footprint of the house. A narrow, hall-size room between the garage and the kitchen, usually called the mudroom or pantry, was too small for practical use, yet took up valuable square feet. Just beyond it was a screened-in porch rarely used by the family—a potentially helpful space that was essentially going to waste.

Island Living The couple already knew the broad outlines of what they’d like to do. Certainly, they wanted to update the kitchen both functionally and aesthetically, improving the ventilation, updating the materials and appliances, and lightening the color scheme. But their top priority for the kitchen was to make it big enough for a large island, giving

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the boys and their friends a place to eat snacks, do homework, and tackle projects while cooking and cleaning went on nearby. While the children were very welcome in the kitchen, their backpacks and sports equipment were not. The parents wanted to move those items out of the kitchen and into an arrival area—a new, indoor mudroom that would replace the existing porch. (The old, tiny, and useless mudroom would go away, with that space becoming part of the new kitchen.) Meanwhile, the breakfast room would expand to a more suitable size, completing the trio of new and enlarged spaces.

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With those plans in mind, it would be our job to find ways to make it work, pulling together the complex details of architecture, design, layout, and construction to make the dream a successful reality.

Fine-Tuning the Design Our next step was to analyze and measure the existing spaces, a process that often turns up both opportunities and limits. In this case, one constraint was outside the house—a retaining wall that ran parallel to the rear of the house. A long but shallow addition was clearly the best way to preserve adequate outdoor space between the house and the retaining wall, while still adding sufficient room inside. Ultimately, we found we could meet the clients’ requirements with an addition that was 30 feet long but only 4 feet deep. At the next meeting with the clients, we presented alternative designs and more specific ideas, all within the same general approach. They liked our corner placement for the oven and cooktop and our suggestion of a large bay window around the kitchen sink, adding substantial counter space. Unusually, they asked us to place the kitchen refrigerator well away from the cooking area, a family-friendly notion that would allow children to rummage in the fridge without disturbing the cooking process. Along the way, we tucked a small wine refrigerator into the island. For the countertops and cabinets, we discussed upscale materials that fulfilled their wish for simple, clean lines without fussy details. Final choices included cameo-white cabinets, dark gray granite countertops, glass cabinet doors, and pendant light fixtures. Hardwood

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floors in the kitchen and the breakfast room provided continuity with the adjacent family room while reflecting the home’s Neocolonial style. Much time and attention were devoted to plans for the new mudroom, which came to include a utility sink for washing up, a refrigerator that could be filled with after-school beverages, and individual cubbies, coat hooks, and shoe drawers. High clerestory windows preserved the family’s privacy on the side wall, while larger windows beckoned youngsters to the backyard. For the mudroom floor, we chose porcelain tile, a contrast to the wood floor of the kitchen that seemed better suited to soccer cleats or tracked-in mud and snow. For the ceiling, we were able to leave in place the porch’s existing beadboard ceiling. Painted white to suit the new design, the beadboard was a useful and attractive element that didn’t need to be replaced.

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In the breakfast room, the solution of choice was a banquette (a built-in, wrap-around bench) and a long table. For our female client, this roomy, informal arrangement brought back good memories of the picnic table in her grandmother’s kitchen, where generations of children crowded along the benches. She and her husband also knew of our studio’s recent butterfly-roof addition to another local home and were eager to incorporate some of the same elements, particularly the plentiful use of windows. We suggested filling the breakfast room’s outer wall with floor to ceiling windows, enhancing the visual appeal of the addition from the outside, while adding light within. To maximize the effect, we made the banquette open underneath, allowing natural light to spill across the floor.

From the Outside In Often, the exterior details of an addition are chosen for a single reason: to blend easily and unobtrusively with the original house. For this project, however, we sensed the opportunity to do a little more. The front view of the house was architecturally charming, with interesting detail and good aesthetics. The back wall, by contrast, was a disappointment: flat, plain, and nearly featureless, with hardboard clapboard siding. We envisioned an addition that would add visual interest and detail, while respecting the home’s existing style.

left: Tall windows flood the breakfast room with light, uninterrupted by the open framing under the banquette. The rugged, colorful banquette fabric laughs off stains and wear.

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The clients liked our idea of using stucco-like cementitious panels and dimensional trim to complement the large windows of the addition. The panels and trim suggest half timbering, which is more associated with the Tudor style. Because the Neocolonial style is so eclectic, however, we found that the existing rear wall could readily receive this look, and even welcome it. Once completed, the small, 30-foot addition worked just as we hoped, transforming the back of the house into a more pleasing and visually sophisticated architectural statement. The new addition became the focal point and the existing house the visual backdrop for the new work.

A Successful Outcome Detailed estimates and plans came next, including all the practical aspects of construction. Converting the outdoor porch to an indoor mudroom, for example, meant we would have to raise the old floor 6 inches to match the level of the house floor. This yielded a framed, insulated space underneath that we used for pipes and ductwork. At the back of the house, the 30-foot-long addition required a hidden steel beam to bridge the gap in the old rear wall. A supporting steel column partway along the beam was hidden in a short partition wall. As we began building, the clients realized that the small wing wall concealing this steel column would affect the view from the sink to the breakfast room in a way they hadn’t expected. Together, we arrived at a solution: a punched opening that we designed to blend in with the new kitchen. The top and bottom of the opening aligned with the kitchen bay window, and the opening’s sill was dark granite, matching the counters. Problem solved. For the family, each room of the completed project has been a happy success. As it should, the kitchen remains at the core of the enterprise, freed to function as a center of family life with plenty of room to move around. The wall of windows in the breakfast room behind the welcoming banquette has become a favorite element of the project. But for visiting mothers, our clients report, it’s all about the mudroom. Some guests come by just to see it. The simple fact is that it is rare to find a mudroom like this. Seldom do homeowners have the pleasure of ample space and storage that it provides. The materials and finishes of the mudroom, although practical, are also beautiful. An unusual and satisfying solution to a common problem, the mudroom, for active mothers, is unquestionably the high point of this kitchen remodel. f

right: An oak floor emphasizes the wide open space of the new kitchen, with its island situated front and center. A handsome metal hood and recessed shelf set off the cooking area, while a bay window adds space around the sink. At far left, a door leads in from the mudroom. 115

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Old Floor Plan In the existing house, a screened-in porch and a narrow indoor mudroom were rarely used, impractical spaces. The kitchen was too small to accommodate an island, and the breakfast room was just too snug. Family members entered the kitchen through the old, small mudroom, but had nowhere to store supplies there.

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New Floor Plan Entry into the kitchen from either the backyard or the garage now goes through the new, well-appointed mudroom. A 30-foot-wide, 4-foot-deep addition expands the kitchen and the breakfast room into large, practical rooms, with the space from the old mudroom reallocated to the kitchen.

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Room to Grow

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THE FINAL OUTCOME OF A REMODELING PROJECT IS SOMETIMES VERY different from the original idea. When I first met the owners of a 13-foot-wide townhouse located a block from Washington’s newly hip U Street corridor, their kitchen wasn’t even on the agenda. Instead, they were eager to gain some living space with an upper-floor addition at the rear of the house. With one infant daughter and another on the way, their city home had gone from snug to much too small. Since they didn’t wish to move, the addition was a natural choice. They had several ideas for it, including some sketches from an architect friend, and had approached my studio to develop a fully realized design that we could then build. Unfortunately, however, as I soon learned from the city’s zoning office, adding on was just not an option. Any addition would interfere with a required setback behind the house. As I discussed this major disappointment with the owners, I realized just how much they wanted to keep their home, a three-story brick Italianate townhouse from the 1880s. They loved their neighborhood, their street, and even their block. The husband, a lawyer, could walk to work at a small law firm nearby. Both he and his wife, who would be staying home with the girls, wanted their children to grow up, as they put it, where there was lots to do and people who weren’t all like them. They relished the urban hustle and bustle and saw Washington as a very livable city.

left: Viewed from the new living room, the wide-open kitchen welcomes friends and family members with a table for dining and conversation. The bamboo floor, running from front to back, ties the spaces together.

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Finding Space, Not Building More

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The owners’ real goal, in other words, was not to build an addition. It was to find some way to stay in the house. With this in mind, I proposed a new approach. The ground floor of their small townhouse included just two rooms—a kitchen and a dining room—laid out in a way that wasted an extraordinary amount of space. The second floor held a formal living room, hardly a priority for a family that needed room to grow. I suggested reallocating the space on the ground floor in an open plan that would accommodate a far more functional and pleasant kitchen, dining area, and living room. The second floor living room could then become a playroom for the girls. Together, these changes would add enough usable, well-planned space to let the family remain in their home in comfort. A project that had started out as an upstairs addition would now change, rather radically, into a remodeled kitchen and adjacent ground-floor space. Intrigued by this possible way out of their dilemma, the owners asked my studio to give it a try by preparing some possible designs.

Room for Improvement Our first step was to examine the ground floor in more detail, a process that revealed plenty of opportunities for improvement. The current kitchen was a poorly conceived, low-budget 1980s remodel, closed off by walls that made it isolated and inconvenient. Add in its cramped size, and this kitchen felt like a box within a box. Outside the kitchen, an entry hall that was almost 12 feet long and a big, empty area at the foot of the home’s central staircase both took up potentially valuable space. Amazingly, the only entrance to the kitchen was from the entry hall. An opening in another wall, referred to in the family as the “short-order window,” allowed someone in the kitchen to hand food or drinks into the space near the stairs. Any conversation with those in the kitchen required shouting through this window or the side door. Even during a party, anyone in this kitchen was on their own. Next to the stairs, the house’s water heater occupied a closet that was twice as large as required, taking away still more space. The three-story staircase would stay in the same place, of course, but it was in very poor shape. The stair treads and risers were badly worn and loose, many with open gaps and visible nails; in addition, the heights of the risers varied significantly. We later agreed to rebuild the staircase when we did the rest of the project. In the meantime, our lead carpenter screwed the existing stairs together to tighten them enough for safe daily use. 121

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above: Taken during an early visit, with an inspection ladder in the hall, this view includes the odd “short-order

window� into the enclosed kitchen, with the grand, overly large closet for the water heater to its left. The entry hall to the right of the kitchen served no purpose except to hang some coats.

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At the rear of the ground floor was a “sunken” dining room with a step down from the rest of the interior and a corresponding step up to the back patio door. These unnecessary level changes and the wide steps associated with them made it especially difficult to place furniture in the tight dining room space. Even a four-legged chair couldn’t go where the owners wanted it to.

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A Livable Open Plan Our proposed designs for a friendlier, smarter floor plan had many broad elements in common, while offering a choice of details. Each design freed the captive kitchen by removing the walls around it, but then presented a different way to arrange its key elements. The clients liked an approach that grouped the stove, microwave oven, and refrigerator along the kitchen’s western wall, which for reasons of space would also retain the stacked washer and dryer. Beside them, the overly large closet for the water heater would be replaced with one of appropriate scale. From the center of the kitchen, a handsome new island and table combination spilled out into the surrounding space. The custom-built island held the dishwasher and kitchen sink, with work space on top and some storage below. The dining table beside it had room for four and a drop-leaf extension that could seat two more. Visually, the paired island and table became a sculptural element as well as a practical solution for family dining. Cabinets placed near the appliances on the western wall added essential storage, as did an array of foot-deep cabinets on the facing wall to the east. There was so much room for cabinets on the eastern wall, in fact, that we suggested breaking up the pattern a bit with a large magnetic chalkboard. Created by coating ordinary wood with black magnetic paint, the surface easily held metallic household items while functioning as a conventional chalkboard as well. All of our design alternatives also raised the previously sunken dining room to the same level as the rest of the ground floor, eliminating the risks and restrictions of those annoying steps up and down. In our plans, it became a family, media, and social area—a living room. Within that concept, we offered several alternative arrangements of built-in cabinets

left: The wall of maple pantry cabinets is playfully interrupted by the giant black magnetic chalkboard, offering room for notes and a magnetic surface that’s shown here holding spice jars.

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and shelves, space for a flat-screen television, an area rug, and comfortable seating. The low-hanging, unattractive chandelier was retired in favor of a central ceiling light and additional recessed ceiling lights, which we suggested using throughout the ground floor.

A Choice of Materials At the clients’ request, flooring for the entire ground level would be bamboo, a renewable resource that’s also fairly rugged. For the materials in the kitchen, we proposed a judicious mix of moderately priced, off-the-shelf maple cabinets, black honed granite for the counters and the top of the island, a cost-effective plastic laminate top for the dining table, and, in an extravagant touch, a sea glass backsplash for the stove. Given the open plan, the backsplash would be especially visible, and this touch of color seemed like the perfect highlight for the kitchen. Although they saw its appeal, our clients put up some resistance to the backsplash, requesting some more affordable alternatives, which we duly researched and presented. However, nothing quite equaled the stunning look of sea glass. In the end, they decided to splurge on the backsplash, and they are glad they did. To quote our male client, it looks fantastic, and visitors comment on it all the time. Although I’m very glad the backsplash has worked so well, I have to admit I’m not surprised. In my experience, a kitchen backsplash is a smart place to spend some additional money and some extra thought. It can have a huge impact aesthetically, yet it occupies a relatively small area, allowing for the option of more expensive materials. Owners can always update a backsplash, too, if tastes change or new ideas arise.

Family and Friends With an agreed-on design and plans and permits in hand, construction of the newly reconfigured space went smoothly. Even as we gutted and rebuilt the entire entry floor of the house, the family was able to live at home during the project, cooking in a temporary second-floor kitchen for the duration.

right: The tapered drop leaf at the end of the table is extended for a fifth diner and place setting. At left, cabinets all the way to the ceiling ensure that no space is unused.

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They did have to depart briefly, however, for the staircase repair, since the stairs were the only connection between the house floors. To minimize the disruption, our lead carpenter created, and successfully followed, a demanding five-day, multi-person plan that began at 7 a.m. one Friday morning, lasted from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. four days in a row, and ended in time for the family’s return on Tuesday afternoon. The first Friday alone, the team ripped out the old staircase, made adjustments to the framing, and put up new drywall as needed. The next day was spent cutting the stringers—the boards to which the risers and treads attach—and attaching them to the walls, priming the drywall, and starting work on the treads and risers. As in many small historic homes, these were winder stairs, which continue to rise around each corner rather than using landings. In such stairs, the steps (treads and risers) vary in size and shape around the turns and must be measured and cut individually. On Tuesday, the family came home to a custom-built staircase, with evenly spaced stairs and new risers, treads, railings, and hand-turned newels—the posts at the base of the staircase. It was a vivid reminder of the value of having a design-build firm with skilled employees and associates. Less than four months after work on the project started, the new space was complete. The finished ground floor has become a busy center of family and social life, reflecting the energy and excitement of city life that the owners value. Members of the family use the table for every meal; in between, it’s a frequent play space and offers additional room for food preparation. The drop-leaf extension to the table sees frequent use to make room for visitors. The chalkboard regularly fills with the girls’ scribbles and drawings and with notes from friends. Underfoot, the bamboo floor is living up to its sturdy reputation. Friends and family can now be together in one place at one time, eating dinner, watching television, and sharing conversation—a far cry from the days when the television was upstairs, the kitchen was walled away, and there was no logical place to play. With a thoughtful reallocation of space in this tight, but beloved, urban setting, the house is far more efficient and better suited to the family’s needs—crucial changes that have allowed them to keep living there. And what had been an outdated kitchen in a box that was embarrassing to have on view is now a modern, friendly kitchen that is happily displayed. f

right: The freestanding island and dining table are a focal point for the kitchen, as is the sea glass backsplash on the wall at right. Beyond the table are the custom staircase and new, comfortably appointed living room.

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DINING

Old Floor Plan In the existing house, space was squandered on a long hall leading from the front door to a space at the bottom of the stairs, while walls enclosed the small kitchen. A step down led to the sunken dining room; a step up at the rear of the house occupied still more space.

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New Floor Plan By removing the partition walls, the new plan connects family activities throughout the floor and makes traffic flow and communication easy. Built-in storage along the side walls occupies less space and offers greater organization.

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before (above): Tiny, inconvenient pulls almost vanish against the old, very dated cabinet doors, matched by panels attached to the refrigerator doors. To modern eyes, this washed-out kitchen in pale, once-popular shades lacked even a hint of pizzazz.

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Colorful Spaces for a Senior Gardener SENIORS OFTEN CHOOSE A SMALLER HOME WHEN THEY MOVE, but one of my clients in her 80s made the opposite decision for her later years. To provide room for a live-in assistant, she sold her small condo at Washington’s historic Woodley Park Towers and purchased a three-bedroom unit in the same building. The advantages of a bigger space with large rooms became even clearer when she later had a bad fall, requiring her to use a wheelchair as she recovered. Her new condo, for the most part, was stunning. Designed by local architect Louis Rouleau, Woodley Park Towers opened in 1931 as a luxury apartment house near the National Zoo. According to James Goode’s classic book Best Addresses, three of its four developers moved in with their families to large apartments with the same floor plan as my client’s condo. This was a grand layout that included a long, wide foyer, large living room, formal dining room, and open porch (converted to a plant-filled sunroom in my client’s unit), as well as the three bedrooms and related baths. Like many older condos, however, my client’s new residence also included some rooms in need of attention. The kitchen and three small nearby rooms—an unneeded pantry, a former maid’s room, and a half bath—were poorly fitted out, dated, and worn, completely out of keeping with the rest of this nice home. The client, who knew of my design-build studio through one of my employees, met me and my employee in her condo to discuss what to do.

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As I could see during our visit, the existing kitchen and related rooms were “just not doable,” in my client’s words. In the kitchen, dispiriting details included linoleum flooring, fluorescent light fixtures, outmoded cabinet doors, old appliances, and faux cabinet-style panels on the refrigerator. Many of the aesthetic problems spilled over into the other rooms. In addition, the small half bath contained a washer and dryer, making it feel more like a laundry room than a powder room. The rooms’ drab colors and outdated look were especially ill suited to a highly visual person like my client, who was an avid gardener and a talented painter. Making the space more visually energetic and engaging became a key goal for this condo kitchen remodel.

A Fresh Look on a Small Budget As we discussed options for the multi-room project, it became clear that the budget was extremely modest. We focused the design, therefore, on relatively less expensive changes with a high impact, whether visually or functionally. For example, we stripped away the original 1931 canvas wall treatment in favor of painted walls in strong colors—a simple but dramatic change that helped to bring the space forward by decades. The vibrant paint colors also deemphasized awkward corners created by duct-concealing bulkheads, a common feature of older buildings. The old linoleum floor was replaced with diagonally laid 19-by-19 inch porcelain tiles, creating a high quality, easily maintained surface that was convenient for a wheelchair, too. Throughout the kitchen, better ceiling lights and new undercabinet lighting (which is especially helpful for seniors) made the room more functional and pleasant. To save money, we reused some of the rooms’ existing elements. We left the good, solidsurface counters in place, for example, although this meant that the cabinets and sink had to stay in the same locations as before. For the most part, we also retained the cabinet and drawer boxes, creating a very different look by refinishing the boxes and installing more modern, elegant doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. Just one full row of base cabinets had to be replaced, in part to eliminate an unused wine rack and add a pullout waste bin. Above those cabinets, metal and glass doors updated a row of existing wall cabinets, creating a focal point for the room. The client decided to use some of the remaining budget to replace all of the appliances (both kitchen and laundry), which is almost always a good idea during a remodel project. Since her live-in helper would be doing most of the cooking and laundry, she sensibly

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above: On the north wall of the kitchen, glass doors with metal frames transform the existing top cabinets; the backsplash of strongly horizontal tiles deemphasizes a wall bump-out at far right. A striking paint color, Navajo red, takes attention away from the ungainly bulkheads and corners overhead.

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above: The garden room (at left) and kitchen are, in effect, parallel galleys that share a common wall. At left, a

counter with repainted supports provides space for gardening tasks; at right, the same dark finish, new fronts, and new door and drawer pulls rejuvenated old kitchen cabinets.

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above: A deep, wide sink inset into the gerden room counter is crucial for washing pots and filling watering cans. Beside it is plenty of work space to fill clay pots with soil and plants for display.

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asked her to weigh in on these new selections. At the client’s request, we also added a wealth of electrical outlets near each counter, reflecting her frustration with a lack of outlets in past homes. Above the two kitchen counters, strongly horizontal tile mosaics added a visual flourish and helped to minimize yet another wall bump-out.

Adapting Nearby Rooms In the former pantry, we used a few key changes to create a useful and enjoyable garden room for our client, who wanted a space to work with plants for her sunroom. A deep, rugged, fiberglass sink allows her to wash pots and fill watering cans; the high, gooseneck faucet stays out of the way of bulky pots and plants. A counter has became a useful workspace for working with pots, plants, and soil. On the opposite wall, floor-to-ceiling wood shelves displays pots, plants, photos, and knick-knacks. The sink has since proved useful for other household purposes, too, including in-home visits by a hairdresser. Our solution for the other two rooms was a common sense, but highly successful, improvement. The former maid’s room, which was serving as a storage space, became a laundry room, complete with a large counter for sorting and folding and the new washer and dryer. The half bath, from which the old washer and dryer were removed, could now become an attractive powder room. A strong, lichen-green paint unifies the laundry room and powder room, once again diverting attention from awkward bulkheads while reflecting our client’s love of color as an artist. Our client worked closely with us on the choice of fixtures and materials for this powder room, which includes a stone-topped rectangular vanity, wall mirror, and horizontal sconce. In both rooms, we also made changes for better access, removing a threshold at the entrance to the powder room and increasing the effective width of the doorway between the kitchen and laundry room by removing the old door.

Suiting the Space to the Client With the work complete, a historic luxury condo with less-than-attractive service rooms was now a modern home in which the kitchen and adjoining spaces were celebrated with strong but tasteful color choices and good quality, contemporary materials. The new rooms, created within a tight budget, reflect the client’s diverse interests in gardening, art, and color—as well as her preference for practical, “doable” arrangements like ample outlets, good lighting, and improved accessibility. Collectively, these fresh and functional rooms enhance a large condo where this senior is at home with her space. f

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Old Floor Plan ABOVE, LEFT: Reflecting the original 1931 floor plan, the space included a back-to-back kitchen and pantry, each ending in outside windows, a nearby storage area that was once a maid’s room, and a half bath with stacked washer and dryer.

New Floor Plan ABOVE, RIGHT: With the walls and kitchen cabinets remaining in place, the new plan includes a work sink in the pantry (now a garden room) and a completely revamped laundry room with new counters and storage and an open doorway to the kitchen. The remodeled powder room has a comfortable vanity with a stone shelf on the opposite wall.

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Revitalizing a Watergate Kitchen THE WATERGATE APARTMENT AND OFFICE COMPLEX ON THE POTOMAC IS well known for many reasons—its prominent residents, its distinctive architecture, its upscale apartments, and, of course, the political scandal that bears its name. It is not, however, particularly famous for its apartment kitchens. During the 1960s and early 1970s, when the Watergate was constructed, residential kitchens were seen in a different light than they are today. A kitchen was not expected to be a publicly visible space in any home, particularly the apartment of a busy professional. Instead, kitchens were utilitarian spaces tucked away out of sight—cramped, back-stage areas used to service the more public parts of the home. The original kitchens at the Watergate were no exception. One good client of mine asked me to redo two different Watergate kitchens as she moved from apartment to apartment within the complex. A long-time Washington resident who worked for the Office of Special Services (OSS) during World War II, she recalls going horseback riding in the rural, undeveloped woodlands where the Watergate complex would later stand. Years later, she moved into the Watergate South soon after it was completed in 1971. She likes the big rooms of the apartments, the long balconies, the convenience and security of life at the Watergate, and the fact that her Catholic church is only a few blocks away. She blended happily into the residential social scene and once introduced me to Senator Bob Dole’s dog, Leader. Having grown up near the Rahway River in New Jersey, she loves the view of the nearby Potomac. As for the kitchens, she says cheerfully, “They (the builders) did the basics. I make them better.” I’m pleased to have been her architect and builder in that process.

left: A glass range hood offers a clear view of the mottled granite backsplash and matching counter of the new kitchen. Buttery-yellow cabinets are set off by the polished black granite floor.

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A Classic Galley Layout

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My design-build studio’s more recent assignment from this client came when she chose to move from a two-level apartment near the ground floor to a smaller, though still spacious, single-floor apartment closer to the top of the building. As she and I met in her new apartment, the need for a kitchen overhaul was self-evident. My client’s good-quality furniture and other possessions meshed well with the generous, attractive living spaces of the apartment to create an elegant, comfortable setting. Next to those rooms, the cramped, worn-out kitchen looked like it was from a different building. The kitchen was laid out in a galley arrangement, a plan that remains common in small apartments, but was not really necessary here. It was a long, narrow rectangle lined with cabinets, counters, and appliances on each side, with limited floor space and nowhere to sit down. An odd, empty hall led from the foyer into the kitchen, which also had a more usual doorway to the dining room. The ductwork that was concealed overhead lowered the kitchen ceiling to 7’ 6”, adding to the sense of restriction and limited scale. Faced with Washington’s restrictions on building height, developers in the past often tried to squeeze in as many floors as they could by planning for 8-foot ceilings in most rooms and, as here, slightly lower kitchen ceilings. This may have been effective in the past, but today, it does not feel luxurious. The materials in the kitchen were not only tired, but also very typical of 1971, the year that the Watergate South was completed. Cabinets were faced with white plastic laminate. The appliances were the relatively low-end units available at that time. The colors of the kitchen also reflected the aesthetics of the early 1970s. Add in 30-plus years of use, and this kitchen was ready for a fresh start. My client’s goals for the project were straightforward. As she said, the current space was “just not my kind of kitchen.” She wanted something easier to use and more upscale, with modern appliances and materials and a more attractive and practical layout that felt more spacious. She was looking for more storage, but also better organization, with everything in its place. And a table with a place to sit would be quite welcome.

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above: A custom wrought-iron leg supports the bullet-shaped kitchen table, equipped with two stylish stools that my studio located as well. The cabinets near the table are carefully notched to allow adequate seating space.

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A Creative Solution Our design solution began by putting the hall from the foyer to more practical use. That once pointless space became an attractive, highly functional butler’s pantry, with 12-inchdeep cabinets and a counter running along one wall. We then added a 4-foot-square opening to the other wall, admitting natural light to the pantry and connecting it visually with the foyer and living room. We also removed the old hall door, further opening up this space. Creating the butler’s pantry allowed us to reallocate some room in the kitchen for a custom-built, bullet-shaped table that could seat two. Although the kitchen would remain within its existing footprint, we widened its opening to the dining room and removed that door, too.

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A narrow, 27-inch-wide refrigerator made far more sense for this apartment kitchen than the original refrigerator, but proper installation required it to be spaced slightly away from the wall to allow the door to swing open freely. We used that necessary gap to create a vertical, 6-inch-wide [ck] storage space for serving trays, a handy detail in any kitchen. Two easily accessed, undercounter freezer drawers and two refrigerator drawers supplement the refrigerator. We also chose an appropriately scaled dishwasher, selected for its quiet operation. New, custom wood cabinets are painted a buttery yellow that reminds my client of her childhood home in New Jersey. Stippled glass installed in the cabinet doors obscures the objects inside, but creates a sense of lightness and space. Crown molding and flat panel doors give an attractive transitional look without excessive detail. For ease of maintenance, my client asked for a solid-surface backsplash in the same neutral, light-colored granite as the countertops. A see-through glass hood for the stove lets the stone show through. On the floor, large black granite tiles provide a contrast to the lighter colors of the cabinets and countertops above. Visually, the long runs of cabinetry, counter, and backsplash help to unify the kitchen, creating a sense of flow and the illusion of greater space. The built-in table, with the cabinets carefully notched back beside it, also signals that this is no longer a galley, but a kitchen in which one can actually sit down. A burgundy cherry top for the table complements the granite and provides visual warmth.

left: This once-empty hall has become an efficient butler’s pantry packed with shallow cabinets and a long countertop. At left, a hand-crafted wrought-iron ornament fills the new wall opening; at the end of the pantry, the kitchen table is just around the corner From House to Home

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Finishing Touches

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Unusually, the new kitchen also incorporates hand-crafted, hammered wrought iron. With the elegant apartment setting in mind, I wanted to include a visual element that would be a bit of a surprise, something unexpected that still served a purpose. Wrought iron came to mind because I had recently been experimenting at home with some pieces for my garden (pages tk-tk). Working with the same firm, I commissioned a twisted wrought-iron leg to support the table top and an original decorative piece for the opening in the pantry wall. The wall opening could have been filled with the wrought iron alone, but my client preferred to add a layer of frosted glass. This material gives the pantry more privacy, while still admitting light. In the day, natural light enters from the balcony windows. At night, turning on the pantry lights makes the wrought-iron and frosted panel glow from within, creating a unique decoration for the foyer and living room. Today, my client says what she likes most about the kitchen is that it is “easy.” Everything is at hand, everything fits, and there’s always a place to set something down. The freezer and refrigerator drawers help to keep food organized. The new table is conveniently close to the stove. Best of all, she says, what was “just an ordinary kitchen” is now, in her view, quite beautiful. Combined with the master bath project that my studio did for her at the same time, the kitchen completes a lovely apartment in the oasis that is the Watergate. f

Old Floor Plan RIGHT, ABOVE: An empty hall from the foyer served little purpose, while doors to the foyer and the dining room closed in the kitchen further. A classic galley plan filled the walls of the kitchen with cabinets and appliances, including an overly large refrigerator, leaving no room to sit down.

New Floor Plan RIGHT, BELOW: Cabinets and a counter turned the hall into a butler’s pantry, making room for a table in the kitchen. Removing the kitchen doors, adding a wall opening, and widening the dining room doorway helped open the space as well.

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At Home: A Wentworth Client Reflects on the Transformation of her Row House

WHEN THE OWNER OF A 1932 BRICK ROW HOUSE in the Glover Park neighborhood of

Washington, DC grew tired of her inadequate kitchen, with no designated place for her collections of fine linens, cookbooks, and china, she knew she only had a few choices. She could pursue her dream of owning a second house in the French or Italian countryside, she could trade her cramped, but beloved, current home for one with more space and more of the features she needed, or she could renovate the home she loved in the neighborhood she loved. Because the homeowner was deeply committed to bringing in modern day conveniences without sacrificing one bit of her home’s original architectural charm, she contacted us to discuss the remodeling possibilities. We walked her through the options for expanding her kitchen, adding a butler’s pantry, creating custom arched-top doors and windows, and remodeling a second-floor sleeping porch—all with an old-world aesthetic and design features consistent with the home’s existing architecture. After a few rounds of “pros and cons” lists, the client felt confident that my design-build studio could bring her vision to life, without dishonoring the original home. No move to a different neighborhood or second home in Europe—her two somewhat playful alternatives to a remodel— would be necessary after all. The final design kept proportions in check, ensured additions to the home appeared seamless, and maintained the home’s original floor plan—a floor plan that embraces demarcated living spaces as opposed to today’s popular open floor plans. Now that the project is done and the construction crews have long gone, we asked our client what life was like in her new space. Did she even think of the former cramped kitchen (the one without a dishwasher)? The answer appears to be a resounding no.

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149 You mentioned that your renovation plans included one “big DON’T.” You wanted to be sure that the new portion of your home appeared seamless to the original and you didn’t want to dishonor your original home. Do you feel that the project accomplished that? I definitely feel this was accomplished, and I can point to a number of design and carpentry decisions that contributed to this achievement. First, the overarching design for the kitchen buildout was in scale to the narrow 1932 row house. The kitchen design theme ‘old Tuscan’ also complemented the existing house. On the carpentry side of things— arches that match existing, molding that matches existing, custom doors that match existing, use of antique door hardware that matches existing, fingering in of new flooring, and paint selections that bring everything together contributed to a seamless addition. This project dramatically changed your home, and more specifically, your cooking space. Now that you’ve lived in the finished space for a while, do you have a favorite feature or room? Picking a favorite is hard, but if pressed I would say the kitchen, as that is the most dramatic change, one that I appreciate daily, and one that frees me to cook without consideration of space constraints. Another change that I appreciate daily is the storage afforded by the hallway bank of floor-to-ceiling cupboards; no longer do I have to hunt in other parts of the house for a particular cookbook or piece of linen. In terms of favorite views I would pick two—and both involve arches. In terms of favorite views, one is when one enters the home and looks back towards the renovation. This view takes in an arched doorway, followed by a door opening framed in molding, and closes in on the arched French doors that lead to the kitchen garden. Can you talk a bit about the design and remodeling process? What was the most surprising part about working with the Wentworth design-build team? At the beginning of the process I gave Wentworth a pile of magazine pictures, which I had collected over the last few years anticipating the renovation, that appealed to me in one way or another. It was a motley assortment. Somehow Wentworth sorted and interpreted these surely conflicting design ideas—combined with their sense of my style gleaned from seeing the rest of my house—and came up with a design that I love. It is pitch-perfect. They packed in a lot into the redesign, yet it doesn’t at all look overdone or overworked. f

right: A large farm sink acts as focal point for the new galley kitchen.

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Old Floor Plan

ABOVE: The homeowner had previously reduced the size of the kitchen by introducing a powder room, resulting in a non-functional kitchen.

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New Floor Plan

ABOVE: The new rear wing addition provides ample space for the new galley kitchen, butler’s pantry and coat closet.

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A Light and Airy Row-House Kitchen 153

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FINDING JUST THE RIGHT RETIREMENT HOME IS IN MANY WAYS JUST LIKE any other home

purchase. It can mean buying a home in the right location, with most of the desired features—and then making some changes to get the rest of the way there. In the case of two clients in Washington’s Foxhall Village neighborhood, their new urban residence home, a brick and stucco Tudor row-house from the 1920s, needed just such an upgrade. Narrow and dark, the existing kitchen impeded my clients’ ability to chat with guests during meal preparation and entertaining. But a creative design and a small addition, coupled with a smart use of space, dramatically, functionally, and aesthetically improved their new home. In order to effectively extend their tiny galley kitchen, my clients willingly sacrificed a rear porch. But what they lost in outdoor space, they gained in usable kitchen space: a sunny breakfast nook with a view of the garden now sits where the porch used to be. Thanks in large part to the kitchen’s energy-efficient radiant heat floors, the cozy space can be enjoyed year round. Removing the wall between the dining room further reconfigured the kitchen’s cramped space and added needed width to the galley kitchen. Two straight runs of kitchen cabinets ensure there are no dead corner cabinets, and a wide low-spring arch divides the dining room from the kitchen, thus retaining a pleasing visual division between the two spaces. Unused space under a stair was the perfect place to tuck a pantry, and white cabinets coupled with a subway tile backsplash keep the kitchen light and airy, while maintaining the townhome’s historic charm. Clever design features—roll-out shelving and a mix of glass and solid cabinet doors—expand space and create a cohesive sense of lightness. What the clients once described as a “gloomy galley kitchen” is now the ideal place to cook and entertain. f

left: A low-spring arch, replicates other arches in the home, and provides a gentle way to open the wall between the kitchen and dining room.

following pages: Widening the galley was essential to the design solution and required that the new peninsula

encroach twelve inches into the dining room. A white on white color palette, cabinets with flat recessed door panels and subway tile backsplash are sympathetic to the 1920s understated vintage home.

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PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS Ron Blunt: pages 7, 10, 11, 14, 15, 29, 34, 35, 36, 63, 66, 67, 75, 76, 78, 80, 81, 84, 85, 97, 101, 104, 105, 110, 113, 116, 119, 123, 126, 128, 134, 135, 136, 139, 142, 143 Victoria Cooper: pages 39, 42, 43, 46 Stacy Zarin Goldberg: pages 4, 55, 58, 147, 150, 153, 155, 156 Morgan Howarth: pages 49, 51, 52 Cady Woody: pages 90 (right), 91, 92

BOOK DESIGN Kris Kendrick / kbk@kbkcreative.com


From House to Home: An Architect's Perspective on Remodeling  

An architect's perspective on remodeing and design in the Washington, DC area.

From House to Home: An Architect's Perspective on Remodeling  

An architect's perspective on remodeing and design in the Washington, DC area.