Fergus Donaldson and Grayden, 5, bask in the light. Three skylights and the reflective quality of the white cabinets contribute to the brightness of the new kitchen. Photos by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

The Light Fantastic

A number of years ago, Liz Prestridge grew tired of living in a town house downtown. Then her mother fell ill. So Liz decided to buy a house in Chevy Chase, D.C., with a downstairs bedroom and bath in case her mother needed to move in.

Liz—whose career has taken her from a space policy council in the George H.W. Bush White House to a position now as director of finance for International Launch Services in Reston, Va.—had a number of friends who lived in Chevy Chase.

“I looked and looked and looked, trying to find something with a first-floor bedroom and bath that had some privacy,” she says. It didn’t seem to exist.

Then she noticed a “for sale” sign next door to a friend’s house. Like the other houses she’d seen, it didn’t have a downstairs bedroom, but it did have potential.

“It had never been added onto, so it was perfect to do a from-scratch addition,” she says.

The two-story house had a small footprint—about 24 feet by 30 feet—but it had a long, narrow yard out back with space to add on and still have a garden.

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Liz purchased the house in 2004 and started working with architect Thomas Ahmann of University Park soon after, asking him to expand the kitchen and add a downstairs bedroom and bath.

By 2006, the project was largely complete.

Today, the former kitchen is more of a butler’s pantry. Immediately behind the original house is the kitchen addition, which is nearly as wide as the rest of the house. And beyond that is the bedroom/bathroom area, which can open up to the kitchen or be closed off by sliding doors. Liz’s mother passed away before it was finished, so Liz now uses it as a den.

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The ceiling became a focal point in the new kitchen. A large skylight was added above the kitchen table. With the touch of a button, a translucent blind slides across to allow just enough light into the room without heating it up during the summer. Otherwise, “you could roast a pig on this table,” Liz says.

To open up the kitchen to the outside and incorporate even more light, Ahmann added a deck onto the side of the house in addition to the one that’s off the back.

The new addition follows the line of the original house on the right side, and the bedroom/bathroom area is the same width as the original house. But in between, the kitchen is inset 6 feet on the left, leaving room for a deck that extends 14 feet from the side of the house and is partially enclosed by the exterior walls of the dining room, kitchen and den. Peer out at the deck from the windows and glass doors of the kitchen, and to your left you can see another glass door leading from the deck to the dining room. To your right, a matching, door-size window looks out onto the deck from the den.

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Liz says Ahmann’s idea for the side deck was a “masterstroke,” as it connects different parts of the house as well as the yard and brings light into three rooms.

The new space works well for parties, too. “I’ve had a couple of parties with 30 or 40 people,” she says. “There aren’t any dead ends [to the house]. It has a nice flow.”