Linear and layered, this house’s fluent response to a complicated urban site earned high praise from the judges. On a narrow corner lot, the sectionally inventive design funnels in light while connecting a series of beautifully detailed interiors to an outdoor pool. “They barely allude to the constraints of the site,” a judge said of the entry description. “They succeeded in an almost effortless fashion to make something beautiful out of something tough.”
For Mark McInturff, FAIA, the conditions were not that unusual. “Every site we’re building on anymore is complicated,” he says. Perhaps more than most, however, this project was defined by its setbacks. Zoning regulations dictated that the house could cover only 10 percent of the lot. “By the time you come in from the street on two sides of the corner, you’re left with a rectangle, which we built,” Mark says. “You couldn’t move that house two inches in any direction. We touched every boundary we were allowed to touch.”
The unusually long pool—the owner requested 75 feet—presented the thorniest challenge on the slightly sloping lot. Mark was inspired by Charleston’s historic homes whose long sides run perpendicular to the street, their porches facing a side yard. Here, too, he pushed the bar-shaped house’s long southern exposure against the side yard setback, 15 feet away from a neighbor, and opened the northern exposure to the pool and—surprise—the street. “The idea with the north-facing garden is that it makes use of borrowed landscape; most of that land isn’t the owner’s—it’s the city’s,” Mark says, referring to the setback. “The plantings on the street now make it almost hard to see the house.”
There are only a few windows on the south side, to escape glimpses of close neighbors, but a clerestory in the middle of the two-story home scoops in southern light. Steel beams and columns create a rhythm along the glazed northern walls, as do louvers that shield an upstairs hallway from the street. Inside the front door, one can see the entire garden and to the far end of the floor plan, which culminates in a guest room and screened porch, “a little hanging basket overlooking the pool,” Mark says. Exterior cladding combines white stucco and black-painted fiber cement siding, and the interiors continue that understated palette with steel and white oak.
“I find this project refreshing. It really stands out on its own,” said a judge. “I would have imagined they would turn their back on the street, but they didn’t. It’s a powerful project.”
Residential Special Constraints
House. Pool. Garden
Architect: Mark McInturff, FAIA, principal in charge; Colleen Healey, AIA, project architect, McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Maryland
Builder: Zantzinger, Inc., Washington, D.C.
Landscape architect: Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Structural engineer: Christopher Cobb, PE, Matteo Cobb Collaborative, Alexandria, Virginia
Pool contractor: Crystal Pools, Potomac, Maryland
Metalwork: AK Metal Fabricators, Alexandria, Virginia; Northeast Iron Works, Washington, D.C.
Project size: 4,500 square feet
Site size: 0.15 acre
Construction cost: Withheld
Photography: Anice Hoachlander,
Cooktop/Ovens/Warming Drawer: Wolf
Faucets: Grohe, Hansgrohe
Lighting control: Powerhouse DC
Sinks: Blanco, Kohler
Window shading systems: Lutron