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Bethesda Architects & Home Remodelers Build a “Sympathetic Addition”

“A Sympathetic Addition With Panache” – From House to Home Chapter One, Part One

Whenever a project involves adding on to a house, I like to aim for a “sympathetic addition” – a new space that’s functional, fresh, and attractive, but also responds to the style of the original house. A thoughtful addition can often enhance a home’s appearance, not just add more room. Sometimes this visual effect is subtle. But every once in a while, it can be spectacular.

Bethesda Kitchen Remodel

The ample glass allows a visual connection with the landscape. The new family room offers views through a new wall of glass at left, the light-filled breakfast room, and the original kitchen window.

Consider, for example, a striking breakfast room that I and my design-build studio added to a house in Bethesda’s Carderock Springs neighborhood. Topped by a butterfly roof that tilts away from the house, the breakfast room extends like a small, gleaming peninsula into the wooded backyard. On all three sides, floor-to-ceiling glass provides sight lines to the tops of the trees and fills the room with sunlight. As dramatic as it is, this addition fits right into my clients’ modern 1960s house, built in the contemporary style. A more traditional design, which might be well-suited to another house, would feel stodgy and unfitting here.

Carderock Springs is one of a handful of architect-designed 1960s neighborhoods in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs that have kept their original appearance, and are increasingly valued for that reason. The modern, one- and two-story houses are designed to fit seamlessly into the landscape, with natural or neutral colors, clean, unornamented lines, and plenty of glass at the back to encourage visual connections to the outdoors. Embracing that aesthetic led my design team to this practical and beautiful result.

Layout of the Bethesda Home: Initial Remodeling Plans

In our first meeting with the owners, the breakfast room was almost an afterthought – one possible option within a bigger remodeling scheme. We had worked with the same couple a year earlier, when they and their young son were living in a different house in Carderock Springs. Unfortunately, the limitations of the site made that project unrealistic. But my clients liked the neighborhood and their short commutes, so they simply moved to another house nearby. The new house still required an update and expansion, but it could better accommodate the changes. With their second child, a daughter, now on the way, they were eager to set the remodeling process in motion. We met just as they went to settlement on the house.

My clients’ new home essentially consisted of two wings: a two-story wing to the right of the central stair hall and a one-story wing to the left. The one-story section, the focus of our meeting, was simply not laid out for a young family of today. The rooms felt isolated and boxed in, with little visibility or communication among them. From the stair hall, a single door opened into the small dining room. Across the dining room, another door led to the family room, which was otherwise literally cut off from the rest of the house with an unpainted brick wall. The family room shared another wall with the garage but had no direct access to it. Walking from one to the other required going outdoors.

The kitchen (the third room in the one-story wing) only connected to the dining room. That meant someone in the kitchen couldn’t see, hear, or speak to children playing in the family room – or anyone else there, either. Last remodeled in the 1980s, the kitchen was also more than ready for a major redesign. It featured a sheet vinyl floor, plastic laminate countertops, laminate cabinet doors with finger pulls, and bulky track lighting.

Bethesda Breakfast Room Addition Renovation

The butterfly roof breakfast room is a
sympathetic addition with panache,
employing the clean lines, glass walls,
and lack of ornamentation of the
contemporary style in a 21st-century
room for kids playtime and family dining.

A List of Goals for the Bethesda Home Remodeling Project

As we began our conversation, I was happy to see that my clients had prepared a list of their remodeling goals ahead of time. It’s always great to work with clients who take time to make lists and carefully review plans as we go along, helping to ensure that we resolve any issues or miscommunications while the project is still on paper.

First of all, as their list indicated, the couple wanted better access, visibility, and flow among the dining room, kitchen, and family room. In addition, they wanted:

  • A new kitchen with better quality materials, gas appliances instead of electric ones, and an island
  • A mudroom to connect the family room and garage
  • Aesthetic and functional updates to the family room
  • A breakfast area, which might be either an addition or simply an area inside the house.

Following the example of several neighbors with the same house model, they also wanted to move the rear wall of the family room back about four feet, by converting a covered patio to indoor space.

Interested in learning more? Read all of chapter one of our online remodeling book, From House to Home.

Be sure to check back soon – chapter one, part two is coming next!

“ I LOVE the new space. LOVE it. ”

Peggy M., Glover Park, Washington, DC
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