Georgetown is among the most desirable neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. Visitors and residents are drawn to its history, human scale, and easy walking distance to restaurants and shopping. Robert Gurney’s clients moved from suburban Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Virginia, for these reasons and to be close to work.
Although they gained Georgetown’s amenities, they sacrificed everything else: living space, a great yard with a swimming pool, and an iconic Midcentury Modern house designed by Charles Goodman. “They’re a young couple with two young kids,” says Bob. “They bought this house for the yard.” They certainly did not buy the tiny traditional row house for its meager two bedrooms, one bath, and the kitchen awkwardly located in the basement.
After two years of living there, they called the firm for a gut renovation. That was a smart call. Bob began his career renovating dilapidated D.C. row houses for himself and his family and is now one of the maestros of the medium. Depending on his clients’ desires, he can tune the renovation more modern or more traditional with nary a missed note.
In this case, the clients were solidly in the modern camp. Their wish list included three bedrooms, an open living/kitchen/dining room, and a better connection to the backyard. There was also some hope for a pool, but the lot is landlocked, making it prohibitively difficult and expensive.
The landlocked lot helped in other ways, however, because it liberated the firm to design a completely modern addition off the back. “The rear is not visible, so we could do anything we wanted back there—as long as we left the front of the house alone,” says Bob. “Well, we were allowed to remove the shutters.” Per the Old Georgetown Board, a chimney seen from the front had to remain, even though the fireplace was removed, and the roof had to be replaced with the same standing seam metal as the original.
That metal is echoed in the copper cladding for a new, narrow addition. The addition solves the connection to the outdoors, while giving breathing room to new, more commodious interiors. What it lacks in width, it makes up for in volume and sight lines through the glazed rear wall, making the spaces feel larger than they are.
European Doug fir flooring, sourced by the client, ties the renovated and new spaces together, while allowing design elements to pop: the original brick and stone wall, the Kalwall connector between old and new buildings, and the dark-stained kitchen cabinetry. New skylights and an uncovered attic dormer usher light down through the middle of the house.
Refreshed and renewed, the best of the old house character remains, amplifying and elevating the modern insertions.
Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect
Architect: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, principal in charge; Claire L. Andreas, project architect, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect, Washington
Builder: Washington Landmark Construction Co., Washington
Landscape Architect: Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland
Project Size: 2,250 square feet
Site Size: .04 acre
Construction Cost: Withheld
Photography: Anice Hoachlander
Bathroom Sinks: Kohler
Faucets: GRAFF, Grohe, Boffi
Kitchen Appliances: Miele
Kitchen Sink: Just Mfg.
Lighting: Europhase, Lightolier, WAC
Lighting Control/Shading: Lutron
Roof Windows: VELUX
Tubs: TOTO (main); Kohler (secondary)
Windows/Window Walls: Windsor, Western Window Systems, Kalwall