The homeowners, a young professional husband and wife, had lived in this house for several years before they decided to expand it as their family grew,” says interior designer Liz Mearns, referencing the five-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot home that absorbed the original three-bedroom, 1950s brick rambler that sat on the hilltop site. Mearns came on board shortly after the homeowners had begun working with Falls Church-based architect Charles Moore AIA; they had decided to reimagine and create the home of their dreams, rather than give up their Arlington neighborhood.
“It was always a very challenging site,” Moore recalls of the rambler that was perched atop a hill 10 feet above street level, with narrow poured-cement steps running up on one side. “We sought to minimize the significant grade change by breaking up the stairs that lead up to the brand-new columned porch and front door; the latter opens into a small foyer niche that expands onto the main living area on the first floor.”
The home’s original brick facade still faces the remodeled home’s first floor and basement-garage level, while the newly added second floor features lap siding. All are painted in a fresh, soft gray, replacing the old, lemony yellow to blend into a seamless whole.
“The interior concept was to open up the first floor with living, eating, and cooking spaces,” Moore says of gutting the floor plan and expanding it. “The other critical component of this concept was to move the kitchen from its traditional rear location to the front of the house.”
The open kitchen now sits high above the street, facing out west, with expansive views of the neighborhood and sunny streams of afternoon light reaching into the house. The main living areas (dining and sitting) are now located on the much more private rear side of the house, overlooking the newly redesigned backyard with its stone terrace, which replaced a wood deck, and its landscaped lawn. A large new screened-in porch with a vaulted ceiling now connects the inside and outside spaces.
“I’d say the kitchen is in a clean, classic, Craftsman style, with Shaker-style, crisp-white cabinetry and a warm, butcher-block island top,” Mearns says, referencing the kitchen’s placement in the front of the house in a wide, cased opening.
Directly across from the kitchen, there’s an eat-in area that’s set off within the open-plan layout by a chandelier, dining table, and chairs.
“We incorporated many of the family’s existing heirlooms, while integrating our own twist, such as reupholstering the dining chairs in a bright, patterned, whimsical fabric,” Mearns says.
In the adjacent screened porch, with its shiplap ceiling and gas fireplace with space for a TV above, the decorating vibe is decidedly more California-contemporary, with a pair of curved woven chairs and a clean-lined slipcovered white sofa. “It’s all about comfortable seating and neutral fabrics,” continues Mearns. “We definitely kept the larger design elements neutral, quiet, and textural, which enabled us to add collected items.”
The open floor plan inside resulted in the living area’s footprint becoming rectilinear and a bit narrow, so the design team decided to bump out the bay of the quartet of sashed windows overlooking the garden. Then, a 20-foot custom banquette was added beneath them, creating a more square-shaped furniture layout and a backless sofa that seats many.
“It’s become a favorite family spot,” Mearns says. “Our clients have two school-aged children who like to sit on this perch to do homework, or curl up with a good book, or lounge and watch TV.”
Catty-corner to the window seat is a large, contemporary leather sofa facing a pair of midcentury-modern-inspired chairs, as well as a custom wall of storage that incorporates open shelves, lower cupboards, and space for the television.
Other built-ins include a large square-shaped window seat with a custom chunky cushion, as well as low bookshelves on the second-floor landing, creating yet another reading nook for the family.
“Our clients wanted a unique, yet timeless, open-planned home that felt very family-friendly, and I believe that’s exactly what our team gave them. For furnishings, the homeowner also wanted things that were modern and fresh, but classic enough to bring in the mix of family heirlooms and antiques,” Mearns says.
The resulting house can withstand the test of time and be there for years to come for the family that chose to make it their home.