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Row House Basement Maximizes the Efficiency of Its Small Footprint

Donald Lococo Architects, Cornerstone Renovation Management


  • Donald Lococo
  • Michael Myers

Project Status


Room or Space

Specialty Room

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Project Description


• Expose original brickface to highlight the home's history
• Clarify distinct spaces within a small footprint without making the space feel too confined
Create storage and utility spaces yet disguise them as paneling
Create unity throughout these portions with repetitive design concepts


This 119-year-old row house in a historical district of Washington, D.C., was afflicted by a problem common to older homes: It didn’t accommodate a modern lifestyle. With a compact footprint of 959 square feet and a ceiling height of just 6 feet, the space was cramped, and the homeowners were in dire need of space and storage. When the contractor, Michael Myers of Cornerstone Renovation Management, in Vienna, Va., started the job and began to remove some of the interior walls, he was faced with another issue common in renovating old houses: Demolition revealed that the conditions the contractor thought he was dealing with were something else entirely.

When the team removed the interior walls, they quickly realized that architect Donald Lococo’s initial design would need to be overhauled. Once the walls were stripped bare, it was clear that they weren't plumb. (The upside: A “beautiful patina of stone” was revealed, which could potentially be accentuated in parts of the design to help indicate the home’s history.)  The initial design had called for revealing the original walls; in the revised design, teh team strategically decided which sections of wall would be concealed and which would be revealed because some parts were too damaged to work with.

The first step was to lower the floor level by a foot, providing more flexibility in the design and opportunities to be creative with the extremely confined space, which was to house a living room, kitchen, remodeled bathroom, exercise room, and storage areas.

Storage was a key requirement of the design. To create accessible yet thoughtfully designed storage for bikes and other items, Lococo devised a deceptively simple-looking panel system that seamlessly fits together to also create a hallway.

Light-colored walls make the most of the available natural light, and the muted color palette acts as a neutral backdrop for original and colorful furnishings. Lococo says that he didn't want the architecture to be the focal point. He wanted the spaces to look like the architect, interior designer, and contractor were a unified source in creating a seamless, eloquent design.

Judges’ Comments

The judges recognized that the décor and overall aesthetic compliment all the components of the project rather than spotlighting one particular area. They especially enjoyed how the grain and warmth of the wood floors plays off of the simplicity of the white walls. 

Explore this project further in this video walk-through.

Products Used

Bathroom plumbing fittings: Lacava
Bathroom plumbing fixtures: Lacava
Dishwasher: Miele
Kitchen plumbing fittings: Franke
Range: Electrolux
Refrigerator: Electrolux
Windows: Kolbe & Kolbe

Click to see the 17 other winners in the 2014 Remodeling Design Awards.

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