Location: Washington, D.C.
Contractor: George Fritz , Horizon Builders, Crofton, Md.
Designer: Stephen Muse, FAIA, Muse Architects, Bethesda, Md.
Landscape architect: Lila Fendrick , Landscape Architects , Chevy Chase, Md.
Even though this 1930s house was in terrible condition, the owners and the architect were drawn to its strong geometry, simple forms, and select detailing. It also sits on an acre of land — a rare find in this Washington, D.C., neighborhood.
The family hired architect Stephen Muse to expand the small building to make it suitable for a household of nine, and required an in-law suite, a room for foreign exchange students, and an area for live-in staff. The family also entertains and holds fundraisers, so the renovation had to accommodate large groups.
Muse carefully analyzed the context of the core 40-foot-by-40-foot structure and the two one-story wings to decide what to maintain, reinforce, and extend from the existing design. “In this case, it was the strong geometry, the simple forms of the brick boxes with a copper roof, steel windows, a tile band, a neat front door with stone surround. The selective detailing makes it interesting,” Muse says.
He decided to create a grand two-story “courtyard” of shared living and entertainment space on the footprint of the 40-foot-by-40-foot terrace behind the house — a space that would better tie in to the large rear lawn.
“This area handles all the circulation. I want these owners to walk through this room as often as possible,” Muse says.
One judge said that the addition could have overpowered the original structure, but instead it is secondary to it and enhances it.
The unifying element of the courtyard design is the textured pre-cast block designed by Muse and made by a company in California, which provides similar blocks for Frank Lloyd Wright building restoration projects.
The judges commented that the sophisticated design carries the detail and pattern throughout the house. Muse attributes this to the homeowners’ willingness to invest time and money in custom features. For him, the courtyard room is “by far the most precise, fully detailed room we have ever made.”
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.