The owners wanted to transform this former brick commercial building, and the open lot next door, into a residential structure that respected the neighboring historic row houses. Architect Rebecca Swanston achieved this objective in part by fitting a two-car garage into the front of the open lot, leaving space in the back for a private courtyard.

Michael Dersin

The judges praised the renovation for how it completes the street elevation and provides the courtyard for the owners to enjoy. They liked how Swanston took the opportunity to create the “secret” exterior space in an urban setting and made the view accessible from all areas of the home.

Swanston used a full window wall facing the courtyard and a double-height dining room in the center to flood the existing building with natural light. The double-sided fireplace between the dining and living rooms provides a strong vertical core to the open interior. The new floor plan, the judges said, works for both living and entertaining.

Michael Dersin

Both inside and outside, Swanston blended new and existing elements to produce a modern urban dwelling. She integrated existing exposed brick walls, wood joists, and steel beams with new, painted steel railings, the stone fireplace, and maple kitchen cabinets. One jurist noted that the mix of materials and small interior details creates an overall slick, loftlike interior that suits the home's urban location.

Category: Whole-house remodeling, over $500,000
Location: Baltimore
Contractor: Donal Doyle, Emerald Contracting, Baltimore
Designer: Rebecca Swanston, AIA, Swanston & Associates, Baltimore