Alan Abrams and Janet Kinzer, Silver Spring
When Janet Kinzer and Alan Abrams moved into their first condo in Silver Spring’s Parkside Plaza eight years ago, they had different ideas about how to refurbish it. Both were leaving behind previous marriages and separate single-family homes to make a new life together.
“I wanted something glamorous. Alan wanted something energy efficient,” Kinzer, 57, says of Abrams, 64, a green building expert who owns Abrams Design Build in Takoma Park.
“[He] asked: ‘What does glamour mean to you?’ ” she says. “And I sputtered because…I wasn’t sure. To me, it’s about sophistication, a unique space with unique, carefully chosen decorations, attention to details….and, of course, a big view.”
She wasn’t thrilled about the idea of spending a chunk of their renovation budget on reducing the amount of energy the condo needed to operate. “I mean: Where is the glamour in that?”
High-rise apartment living, which packs more people into less square footage, generally has less environmental impact than sprawling single-family neighborhoods. But there are limits to how “green” you can make a condo in a 1960s-era building like the Parkside. That didn’t deter Abrams. Every project has the potential to be more environmentally friendly, he says. “That’s all green building is: site-specific stuff” that works with what’s already there, he says.
The couple ultimately replaced windows, balcony doors and made adjustments to the heating and cooling, while letting eco-stylishness guide the rest of their decision-making.
They found creative ways to recycle: installing shelves made of old cedar instead of new kitchen cabinets. A pine rafter was repurposed into a countertop. Other fixtures, decorations and furniture were commissioned from artisans who specialize in salvaged wood and scrap yard metals.
Eventually, the couple—who married in 2008—decided they’d downsized a little too much. So last year they sold their 1,200-square-foot unit on the fifth floor and purchased an 1,800-square-foot penthouse in the same building. They reluctantly left behind custom-made pieces such as a “floating desk” that had been built directly into a wall by Kensington artisan Marcus Sims of Treincarnation. But they found that setting up house in the penthouse was easier since they’d already purged themselves of previously accumulated possessions.
A librarian for the Congressional Research Service, Kinzer says she happily ditched just about everything but her mother’s fancy china and a trove of photo albums. She misses the garden of a single-family home and the tiki lights she used to put out for the occasional late-night party. But she doesn’t miss the yard work. And the smaller, more intimate gatherings that she and her husband now host are more conducive to dinner conversation than large parties, she says.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in their 18th-floor penthouse overlook a sea of treetops in Sligo Park. With their free time no longer spent on housework and gardening, Abrams and Kinzer like to hike the park’s trails. There, they keep an eye out for nighthawks and great blue herons before returning to their cozy home.
Bethesda-area professionals tell how to make the process easier
To off-load nicer pieces, Gordon suggests calling auction houses. Keep in mind that most donation centers will not accept mattresses and large, upholstered furniture.