Remodeling a 1920’s Condo

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1920's Condo Remodel
After – The background arch is seen in the Before Picture Below. The foreground arch is new.


1920's Condo Remodel - BEFORE
Before – Same View. In the after view you can see that we divided & raised one section of the living room to make it feel larger and more connected to the outside


1920's Condo Before
Before - Another Before View Showing How the Windows felt separated from the living area


My client lives in a delightful late-1920’s art-deco building close to Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo — in the neighborhood known as Woodley Park.  The building was converted to condos in 1973 and offers high ceilings and classic details. 

While my client loves the building and her unit, the living room was awkward – long and narrow.  The only natural light comes from windows at one end of the room.  The windows felt seperated from the living area because that section was raised on a platform — probably a former porch.  While Rock Creek Park was right outside, my client felt cut off from it.  She also wanted more built-in bookcases and storage.  She showed me pictures of window seats and built-ins clipped from magazines that she liked. 

During the conceptual design phase, I developed 5 different options for the living area – most of the options – including the one she selected — broke the living room into 2 areas.  The floor height of the area furthest from the foyer and closest to the large windows was raised to the height of the old porch platform.  Raising the floor 5” is hardly noticeable with original 9’ 3” ceilings.  This allowed us to incorporate the natural light into the main living area.  The area closest to the foyer was converted into a “piano” room.  A new arch – that matches the arches original to the unit – divides the reconfigured living room from the newly created piano room. 

All options included a window seat and my client selected my favorite — an asymmetrical window seat that invites you to lounge with a view out the window while still being engaged in conversation within the room.  It also provides additional storage and display space.  The design also has a less formal feel.  The homeowner can sit on the window seat to watch TV or use it as a cozy reading nook with lots of natural light.  And with this summer’s excessive heat, she often sat on the window seat reading and watching the park.  The original design was for a curved seat.  We changed it to straight lines to save a bit of money.   Also to save money, we made the back of the window seat square and plumb and specified the back cushion to be wedge shaped for comfort.  The top of the window seat and surrounding cabinetry became the window sill for a clean look and for function.  The casings around the windows were in bad shape so we replaced them but kept the same profile. 

Window Seat Assymetrical
The asymetrical window seat encourages lounging while looking out the window and still being engaged in conversation


Top of Window Seat is Window Sill
The window sill becomes the top of the window seat & cabinet.


Window Seat with Adjacent Storage & Built-ins
Window Seat with Adjacent Storage & Built-ins


Built-ins surround the window seat plus we designed an additional full wall of built-ins in the reconfigured living room.  Crown molding was added throughout the living room, piano room and foyer adding additional architectural detail to an already rich unit.  The large flat-panel TV plus hidden components were selected before designing the built-ins so they fit-in well.  A perforated metal panel keeps the components out of sight but still allows line of sight for remote controls to operate.  We used a square grid that looks a bit more modern.  We also replaced the metal panel on the radiator to match.  We left the brushed aluminum unpainted. 

Living Room Built-ins
Custom Designed Built-ins


We also updated the paint, fixed lighting and art arrangements throughout the unit.  Originally the living room and foyer were painted in antique white because the homeowner was afraid the unit would feel too dark otherwise.  Even though we used quite saturated colors in the new palette, the unit feels larger and brighter.  The deep reddish brown in the foyer really sets off the living and dining rooms.  The semi-gloss paint of the built-ins – particularly the window seat — reflects light into the room.  The matte finish on the walls and ceiling absorb the reflected light.  As I do for almost all my clients, we used deeper tones in the center of the unit and moved toward lighter tones as you move toward natural light.  This helps make the whole unit feel larger and brighter than when it was painted a single light color. 

My client has a lot of artwork but didn’t have most of it displayed.  To display all the work, we grouped lots of different artworks into large groupings on several walls.  As additional cost-savings measures, we kept the existing frames and deliberately created interesting mixes of art and framing.  We also put a threshold between the foyer and the new piano room, this eliminated the need to refinish the floors in the rest of the unit. 

Paint Can Make Home Look Larger
The New Color Palette Makes Home Feel Larger


Groupings of Artwork
Groupings of Artwork with mis-matched frames lend detail and character


Another Grouping of Artwork
Another Grouping of Artwork


Foyer After
Foyer After - Notice How it Welcomes You Either from the Living Room or as You Enter


Foyer Before
Foyer Before


The Deep Reddish-Brown was used in the hallway as well as the Foyer
The Deep Reddish-Brown was used in the hallway as well as the Foyer Resulting in a Feeling of Expansion as you Enter the Lighter Colored Rooms


My client says she feels happy each time she opens the door to enter her remodeled unit.  “I just can’t believe how great everything looks.  I especially like how the outdoors feels so much closer.  I can’t wait until autumn arrives so I can sit on the window seat and watch the leaves change color.” 

Floor Plan After
Floor Plan After


Floor Plan Before
Floor Plan Before
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