Age-in-Place Design | Design-Build Company DC
living room with lit fireplace

Staying In Your Home as You Age

People need to plan for their old age. Some do it better than others. And some do so with panache and wisdom. Such is the case for our client living in Southwest Washington, DC in an area known as Tiber Island.

The Client’s Goal

Age-in-Place Bathroom Design

After nearly twenty years in a three-level row house, the client felt it was time to think about creating an environment where she could live on one floor and age in place. Having experience with architects and the building process from years of participating on the Arlington County School Board construction team, she knew a design/build approach was best suited for the project, thus allowing her to work with architects and builders.

Purchasing the New Townhouse

The client’s solution was to purchase the adjacent townhouse and combine her unit and the new into one residence. The neighboring townhouse, which had a mirrored plan of our clients’ townhome, went up for sale when the owners decided to retire and move to Kansas. So with the purchase completed, measurements and photographs were taken to commence the design phase.

The New Age-in-Place Design

Within the newly purchased townhouse, several changes were made. It was agreed that being practical was important and for that reason, the second staircase remained. The kitchen in the newly acquired townhouse was gutted and redesigned as a new master bath, which also serves as a ground floor powder room for guests.

The former dining room was redesigned as a dressing room, fitted out with closets, built-in furniture, and plumbing/electric for a future washer and dryer, and the former living room became the new ground floor master bedroom with its own gas fireplace. Now the homeowner could truly live on one floor if it became necessary.

Linking the Two Townhouses

The load-bearing masonry wall between the units was opened in four locations. A basement door was created at the bottom of the stairs to connect the two basements—one finished and one unfinished, both with laundry. At the designated first floor entry door, we expanded the foyer with a 9-foot-wide opening that linked the two spaces and provided a generous entry and access to the first floor bath for guests. On the second floor, the homeowner deemed the rear two bedrooms  “hobby rooms” and an 8-foot-wide opening was created to connect the spaces. At the front two bedrooms, a connecting door was installed with a lock for privacy.

Exterior alterations were not possible because of the co-op regulations. All windows and doors remained unchanged—the home still looks like two row houses, side by side. The glass doors in the newly acquired unit received a 3M film to make the glass look frosted and provide privacy.


Several embellishments were made inside the newly adjoined townhouses, for luxury, comfort, and safety.

New First Floor Master Bathroom

The new master bathroom is the only bathroom on the first floor. The combined townhomes are well equipped with a total of six standard size bathrooms—but regrettably none were on the first floor or ample in size—which required creating the new master bath. Because of the abundance of bathrooms, the client felt the most important feature of the new master bath should be a soaking tub and not a walk-in shower.

She asked for a large 6-foot soaking tub, cast iron by Kohler. The tub came from the factory with two built-in grab bars for the ease of getting in and out. And, to ensure safety of the homeowner, two additional grab bars were installed on the walls; one grab bar was mounted vertically to hang onto when entering and leaving the tub, the other one horizontally on the wall. The new tub was designed to fit into a platform with enough counter space for soaps, sponges, candles, and other accoutrement. And the platform is large enough that a person can sit on the edge and swing around to get into the tub. A frosted glass panel creates a sense of closure at the tub space. And, for those occasions when the tub doubles as a shower, a custom stainless steel shower rod was fabricated that discretely connects to the glass panel.

Large format  white ceramic wall tile with wavy patterns was chosen to convey the sense of water. It was installed on the wall from floor to ceiling. Smaller scale, green glass, wall tile was selected to convey a watery theme and contrast with the white wall tile.

Dressing Room

Having a large, well organized dressing room is a dream of many homeowners. Most don’t have sufficient space to do so. And this remodeling project was an opportunity for the homeowner to create what she wanted. The large former dining room was able to accommodate nearly 12 linear feet of closet space as well as ample built-in dresser storage. An added bonus was a plumbing and electrical hookup for a future stack washer and dryer concealed in the closet. The client is now able to live on one floor with all the amenities—this kind of layout becomes more important as homeowners age and can’t easily get up and down stairs.

Inspired by expensive custom French wallpaper, the homeowner engaged an artist friend/neighbor to custom paint the four sliding closet doors with a whimsical aluminum leaf and foliage theme. The silvery touch of “bling” embellished with the artist’s abstract scene makes it a unique dressing room. And a full-length mirror framed in glass buttons embellishes the space.

Aging-in-Place Design

Opposite the closet wall is the original staircase, which was to remain. To provide privacy when guests are visiting, the architects specified four sliding glass door panels. Frosted glass provides privacy, the 8-foot-tall glass panels provide aesthetic impact, and the well-crafted panels and track glide easily when the need arises.

Master Bedroom

The master bedroom features an exposed brick wall, original to the 1960s townhouse, a Potomac River view, and a gas fireplace that was newly fitted out with a limestone surround and hearth. A custom walnut bed with matching night stands provides comfort.


At the rear of the house two bedrooms, with river views, were combined as a large hobby space. Two large work tables, each with manmade stone tops, provide work tables for handy crafts, paper work, and many hobby choices. Desks and storage cabinets make it a fully functional space. Other portions of the home, such as the bathrooms, received medicine cabinet updates and plumbing fixture upgrades. And all the home’s wood floors were sanded and refinished, and every room was freshly painted.

An open house, packed with friends and family, who proudly toured the new work, demonstrated the happy success of the project. And now the homeowner is able to age in place safely, comfortably and luxuriously!

View our photo gallery to see pictures of this adjoined townhouse remodel!

“ Everyone has truly done a remarkable job and we couldn’t be happier with the work. The delay was vastly improved by the fact that Sean cleaned up meticulously every single day, and that everyone was so pleasant to be around. And the attention to detail and the care with which everything was done, was truly remarkable. Sean filled us in at every step of the way, always with as much enthusiasm as professionalism - a truly winning combination. It was a pleasure working with someone who takes his job so seriously. Thank you all for all the wonderful work! ”

S.C., NW Washington, DC