For mid-century Modern houses a desirable in-town lot can be a very dangerous place. With homeowner tastes running more toward the traditional, the vertical, and the grandiose, teardowns are a continuous threat. This 1950s original by noted local architect Clothiel Woodard Smith got lucky, first falling into the hands of a couple that understood and appreciated Modernism, then with this adept and respectful remodel by architect Robert Gurney.
One problem with the original house lay in the way one was forced to approach it. “You couldn't find the entry space,” says Gurney, who gave the front door some presence with a tall, flat-roofed entry addition and opened up the path to the house with a detached carport whose abstract geometry echoes that of the main building. Concrete block—used at the back of the carport and in low landscape walls—weaves the building into its steeply sloping site. Gurney added volume and light to the living room by replacing a low butterfly roof with a higher flat roof. At the rear of the house, a high concrete block wall integrates the main level's outdoor deck with the pool deck, a full story below.
Inside, Gurney smoothed out kinks in the original floor plan, applying a sophisticated and restrained schedule of finishes. Floors are black slate and maple. Stark white walls contrast with dark wenge wood trim. Heavy aluminum plate provides an unusual and appealing accent material for shelves and a kitchen counter and backsplash. Our judges admired the way the remodeled building nestles into its mature landscape, rated the pool addition “awesome,” and deemed the result “a very controlled composition with a very sophisticated color palette.”
Entrant/Architect: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect, Alexandria, Va.
Builder: Prill Construction, Bethesda, Md.
Living space: 3,200 square feet
Site: .75 acre
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Anice Hoachlander
Resources: Bathroom plumbing fittings: Vola; Bathroom plumbing fixtures: Kohler; Dishwasher: Miele; Hardware: FSB; HVAC equipment: Carrier; Insulation: Owens Corning; Kitchen plumbing fittings: Vola; Kitchen plumbing fixtures: Franke; Lighting fixtures: Bruck and Lightolier; Oven: Thermador; Paint: Sherwin Williams; Patio doors/windows: Weathershield; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero; Roofing: EPDM.