At 3,276 square feet, this 1980s Arlington home originally boasted a generous footprint but had a complex design that just did not flow.
DC-based architecture firm EL Studio helped revamp the center-hall colonial into an open, modern, and convenient space perfect for an active family of five.
“It’s not a small house,” says Elizabeth Emerson, principal and co-founder of EL Studio. “There’s a lot of square footage, but the rooms just didn’t work well altogether. It was bunched up in the middle, with spaces pushed to the peripheral, and the entry hall was congested and plugged up. It all just felt quite claustrophobic.” And with three young boys, there was a strong need for a more open floor plan for better sight lines.
“When you were in the sitting area, you couldn’t see the kitchen, and when you were in the kitchen, you couldn’t see the playroom,” says Mark Lawrence, principal and co-founder of EL Studio. “There just needed to be a lot more connectivity in the plan.”
By opening up the wall between the previous addition and the original house, the architects created more space for the family’s everyday use, taking the home from an isolated feel to a more cohesive one.
They moved back the kitchen into the existing addition, opening up the center of the house and making much more room for family activities.
“Sitting in the kitchen looking out toward the living room now brings a small joy in what is otherwise a usually hectic day,” notes homeowner Phillips Ross. “This was our first-ever renovation, so we didn’t know the specifics of what we wanted, just abstract concepts of light, openness, and modernity — and we got that in spades.”
Perfect for Family Life
How a design project can benefit a family’s lifestyle is often a significant consideration when discussing a renovation project, Emerson explains.
For instance, this family has children who are involved in sports and often bring home muddy uniforms from games and other outdoor activities. To accommodate the kids, the family opted to move the laundry room down to the first floor.
In turn, the relocated laundry room opened up an opportunity to expand the vanity in the upstairs shared bathroom, allowing for more space for the kids to get ready in the morning.
Also part of the renovation, the ceiling received its own special attention.
Above the kitchen, a low gambrel roof with wooden trusses was replaced with thin steel channel trusses that created a larger and airier vertical space. The renovation also added two large skylights to help accentuate the ceiling’s graceful sloping surfaces at night.
Another existing skylight in the home helped determine the placement for the guest bathroom, another part of the project. A shower was placed directly underneath, creating a subtle connection to the outdoors.
Quite possibly the most unusual part of this renovation is the staircase handrail leading to the entryway, which was prototyped and fabricated using a 3D printer.
The existing staircase had previously acted as a barrier in the center of the ground floor. To increase the visual flow between the living room and the kitchen-and-dining space, workers removed large areas of the drywall and contractor-grade details.
The newly designed handrail features a large curve that works to smooth out the trajectory of energetic young boys rounding corners at top speed — and fulfills the family’s ergonomic and safety requirements.
While EL Studio often uses its 3D printer in various stages of their design projects, Lawrence notes this was the first time they took advantage of it during the actual construction process.
“The handrail is definitely a statement piece, both for its elegance and fun,” says Ross, adding that everyone is enjoying the handrail. “The kids like to slide their stuffed animals down it.”