Not only did this circa 1960s rambler have split levels inside, it had a split personality between its front, which faces a cul de sac, and the back, which faces a lake.
“There was an imaginary wall between the front and the back. As we developed the diagram, we let go of that absolute,” says architect Charles Moore. “The wall really dissolved, but the challenge [became] connecting the portions of the house.” “Strangely, enough,” adds architect Jill Gilliand, who worked with Moore on the design, “the split mentality helped us unify the house and create defined spaces within each split.”
The clients bought the house on Lake Barcroft in northern Virginia with the idea of renovating it. Although it had been custom-built, the house “could have been on any site on any suburban street,” Moore says.
The clients, who worked closely with Moore and Gilliand as well as contractor Gabe Nassar, “were open to a major transformation from the get-go,” Moore says. They were great participants. And “Gabe was a strong proponent of all the things we were trying to do. When we asked him and his crew [at GN Contracting] to push the envelope or try a different technique, he was always willing to push with us.”
The designers cored out the home and opened it up. The early design, Moore says, was about form and mass and “how to organize the spaces in the house within these splits to create a mass that worked.”
A front-to-back visual axis with a view straight through the front entry to the living room in back helps dissolve the split issue. Stairwells, too, erase the boundary.
“Instead of having a first floor and a second floor, we gave it half flights, which allow the different levels to communicate with one another; you can see the [various rooms] adjacent to you,” Gilliand says.
The original home was Baltimore brick, which is common to the area. “It’ so strongly connected to the [1960s] that we didn’t want any of that material to survive,” Moore says. “It’s still there in the structure, but we wanted to present new materials like cedar siding, stucco, and glass.” Moore and Gilliand allowed those materials, as well as the flat roofs, to define the new masses.
With such a dramatic change, it was important to respect the scale of other neighborhood homes. The boxes still exist, and from the front, the house is still the same height as its neighbors.
Yet, since the yard slopes, even the dramatic four-floor elevation in the back of the house is unobtrusive from the front.
Achieve in Context
Moore Architects, which has won many awards for its designs, often adds contemporary touches to traditional homes. But with this home, Moore says, they were able to push into a more contemporary direction allowing them “to get away with ideas that don’t necessarily fit as well in a traditional context.”
While he has no “signature” style, Moore says there are signature elements of his work: attention to detail for the plan and circulation, light, access, and view. “Those are all things we’re trying to achieve whether the context is more traditional or less traditional,” he says.
Cabinetry: Mouser Custom Cabinetry
Garage doors: Haas
Hardware: Baldwin Estate
Oven: GE Mongram
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Range: GE Monogram Induction range; URL TK!!!!