Renovate in the midst of the pandemic with must-haves tailored to their needs

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Jim Huizinga and his wife Karen lived in a large colonial-style house in Chevy Chase, Maryland that had become unmanageable.

“I’ve wanted to move for a while,” says Karen, 57. “We had a house that we had lived in for 30 years, it was almost 100 years old and had seven bedrooms.” Jim, 65, was about to retire from his job as a lawyer, the children had left the nest and the couple were considering a new home with three details.

“The big things were creating a master suite on one level,” says Charles Warren, design director at TeassWarren ArchitectsDC-based “Jim turns bowls on a lathe, so we had to have a place to do that, and Karen loves baking, so cooking was important.”

Warren was involved in the renovation process before there was a house to renovate as the couple called him on as a consultant when they were looking for a repairman. “We wanted something renovated, new and easy to live in, and we wanted to stay in the neighborhood,” says Jim.

Bringing a neglected neighborhood property back to life

The team began their search hoping to find something resembling a modern farmhouse. They looked at several candidates, rejected most of them and lost an offer on a bungalow. Through a friend, they heard about a house nearby that was about to come on the market. They passed through a mid-century modern brick, two-level, six-bedroom, four-bathroom house with its original shelter. It was about a mile from the house they lived in.

“I could see the potential,” says Karen. “I love mid-century modern, but I wasn’t dying to have a mid-century house.” The architect gave the house a thumbs up and told his clients that if they didn’t buy it, he could.

The deal closed in August 2019 for $1,169,000, bringing the number of homes they owned to three, including an east coast vacation home. The design process began in earnest, and by March 2020 the couple were ready to sign a listing contract with their real estate agent for their original home where they still lived. The agent told them she already had someone interested. The sale went faster than anyone expected and came with the contingency of the Huizingas being released within six weeks. Then the first wave of the pandemic hit.

“Everything has been stopped”

“We had a house full of traditional furniture,” says Karen. “Everything has been closed; you couldn’t even give anything to charity. We donated pianos and dining tables. What was left was put away. The family used the Nextdoor app to sell furniture to neighbors. During all the confusion, a pallet full of furniture the family wanted to keep for the new place went missing in the warehouse but was eventually recovered.

After the original house was cleaned up and sold, the couple settled on the east coast, a 90-minute drive from suburban Maryland. Design meetings were held via Zoom with the team exchanging ideas back and forth. “I spoke to Charles almost every day,” Karen says. “In some ways, the pandemic has been good for us. Charles’ business had slowed down and I had nothing to do but sit and think about it.

The thought included a renovation that would not spoil the simple, clean lines hatched in the late 1950s. The house was habitable but not suitable for the family’s needs. Warren’s update included losing the carport, capturing the space, framing it and transforming it into a more spacious interior.

The driveway under the carport was removed and dug out to make way for what would be Jim’s bowl-making workshop. The front entry, which was recessed, was also framed to allow the design team to eliminate a troublesome foyer that opened up steps to the basement or three steps to the main level.

Rockville Hiker’s ‘Witch House’ Gets New Life With Mid-Century Flair

All of the extra space captured has been turned into a large coat closet, home offices for Jim and Karen, and a mudroom that all run the length of the front of the house. The mudroom is fully functional and complete with a refrigerator and dishwasher salvaged from the old house. Directly from the front door is the living room.

The living room, dining room and kitchen are laid out in an open plan which keeps the kitchen out of direct view from the main living area. A large kitchen island offers plenty of room for casual meals and rolling dough. Karen, who is British, was partly inspired by a kitchen design called “Herondale” that she had seen on the website of Blakes Londona kitchen and carpentry company based in Great Britain.

She inquired about Blakes shipping to the United States, but that wasn’t happening, so she borrowed the blue color and door treatments for her own slice of baking heaven.

The floors in the renovated main salon are a mix of Brazilian slate and white oak. The kitchen cabinets are painted wood, the counters are Caesarstone. The kitchen appliances, which include a steam oven used to leaven the dough, are of honey.

The architect also made a slight bump in the back of the house to free up a few more feet and built a new back wall with windows and fixed glass panels that illuminate the space with natural light. A rear terrace has been rebuilt from the living room.

The master suite is located in the back corner of the house starting with the master bedroom, which connects to the master bathroom. More blue appears in the master bathroom in the form of ceramic wall tiles laid in a running bond pattern. The floor is covered with square-patterned natural marble tiles.

Upscale Redux for a Georgetown Homestay

There is a thresholdless, doorless bath and shower that drains via a sloping floor and a drain running along the exterior wall. The room is equipped with a double sink and a separate toilet. Another nod to life on one level, the washer and dryer are installed inside the walk-in closet.

The extra-wide staircase trimmed with a natural wood trellis takes visitors to the lower level which features a living room, workout room, three bedrooms, a shared bathroom (a full-size bathroom that is taken in sandwich between two bedrooms and is accessible by both bedrooms) and another full bathroom. Jim’s carpentry workshop is equipped with a lathe for turning bowls, a band saw, a stock of raw wood and dust-proof mechanisms. The backyard is on a lower level allowing for a full basement. The design team also added a screened porch outside the basement.

“The Biggest Challenge”

The couple declined to disclose renovation costs. But they say they believe if they were to sell, they would be roughly on par with current home prices in the neighborhood. The architect and owners were in phase before demolition began. They also saved a lot of headaches by having a designer come in to look at what they were buying before making the purchase.

The timing of the transition was partly related to Jim’s retirement, but another life change made things more difficult. “The biggest challenge was that there was an ongoing pandemic,” Karen says. “Each sample had to be ordered and I had to have it shipped. I couldn’t enter the showrooms. If I came to town it was a 90 minute drive, one way. One day I spent two hours with the painter who had covid and didn’t reveal it. My interior designer had it too.

Grand views and exquisite design in one of DC’s most expensive residences

The good news is that the renovation process, despite the pandemic, was completed in April 2021, during a year that many are still trying to recover from. The architect is delighted that the mid-century period is still preserved on the block.

“The ground floor entry sequence and its street presence have not changed significantly,” Warren explains. “I love the facade. We highlighted the best parts of the house and fixed the parts that didn’t work, without destroying it. »

Karen says she is also happy with the result. “It’s exactly how I wanted it. It’s warm and inviting and suits our needs perfectly.”


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