This was an unusual – but fun — remodel for us. The homeowners live in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington DC. They were living on one side of a small duplex but owned both sides. With 3 young children living in less than 700 SqFt, they were literally living on top of each other. A gregarious couple, It bothered them almost as much that they had no place to entertain friends and family. They approached me early in 2012 projecting that by the fall they would have reached a point where they could forego the rental income from the other side of the duplex and would have saved a modest amount of money to convert the home to a single-family detached house.
[Note: all photos taken at the end of construction before cleaning or client move-in.]
I’m particularly delighted by the owner’s response to our work. The husband reported that: “I thought that we were doing a cost-effective renovation that would give our family more space. Soon after we moved back in I realized that we’d actually been creating our family’s dream house. Wow! Jackie started the process by asking: ‘what do we value? what does home mean to us?’ I didn’t appreciate how critical those questions were until we moved back in and I realized that for every decision — big and small — Jackie’s solutions were in the service of our values and our definition of home. Our “new” house perfectly captures our values; we couldn’t be happier.” The wife reports that she “loves the light and the open floor plan on the first floor. It works great for our family!”
We created a bright, open-plan home with good view lines throughout and with visual cues – wall sections, posts and the like — to separate functional spaces. We removed one set of stairs up to the 2nd floor, removed the excess front door, removed the kitchen on the tenant’s side, removed most of the party-wall between the units on the first floor and removed room walls separating the living, stair, and kitchen areas.
Above: the stair to the 2nd floor on the tenant’s side was opened up to create nice views. A stair from the basement to the first floor — previously closed off with floor boards was improved and also opened up. Railings and handrails were added for safety.
The modest amount of their nest-egg meant we had to be creative about how to proceed. Essentially we sacrificed the “normal” finishes in order to keep the extensive job affordable for this young family. Wherever possible, we left original finishes in place and used birch plywood to patch floors, ceiling and walls where finish most of the openings. LVL beams and 4×4 posts were left exposed. The existing stairs were “opened up” by removing plaster walls but leaving the wood studs in place and adding minimal slats of oak to help prevent falls. Very uneven ceiling and floor planes were bridged by reducing strips. We left the kitchen and baths almost completely intact but used items removed from the tenant’s side if they were in better shape or could fill in space. This strategy allowed us to do the work for probably 30% to 35% of what they job would have normally cost.
We oiled the raw plywood, wood posts, and beams to maintain the industrial chic. Our client’s use of bold colors on select walls further enhances the look.
The work was designed with future changes in mind – particularly a wrap-around, covered deck that will be accessed from the living area, kitchen and sunroom. Existing windows are of sufficient size to allow replacement with patio doors under the existing headers. Additional finishing the basement will improve the play and guest rooms and improved storage. Kitchen and bath updating will be done within the existing footprints.
One of my favorite features of the remodeled house is a triangular area under the stairs that’s a perfect future fort, hidey-hole or secret passage for the kids. It was their one request before we started and I’m so happy we were able to create it for them.
On the 2nd floor (no pictures available at this time), we simply opened one passageway that allowed access to all 3 bedrooms and hall bath plus incorporated the area over the removed stairway into the smallest of the bedrooms.