A Potomac couple has given new life to their 1970s-era home
Cindy and Bob Hurley’s old home had a lot of doors. In their reimagined home, they opted for open spaces and natural light from the kitchen to the dining and family rooms. Photo by Michael Ventura.
Once their three children were grown and college tuition was behind them, Cindy and Bob Hurley looked closely at the colonial where they had lived for nearly 20 years and wondered what to do next.
The Potomac couple had considered moving to Georgetown, where they could walk to restaurants, but decided the hassle of parking and city life wasn’t for them. The Hurleys have good friends in their River Falls neighborhood and like having space to entertain. So they decided to stay put and update their 1970s-era home, which was getting tired and in need of some repairs.
At first, they looked at what was wrong with their house and took a “Band-Aid approach,” fixing up the basement in 2012 and an upstairs master bedroom and bath in 2013. “Then we thought, why not do this holistically, look at everything and have the same company do it all so that you got continuity,” says Bob, the chief financial officer at EJF Capital in Arlington, Virginia.
The Hurleys began working with Anthony Wilder Design/Build, an architecture, design and construction firm based in Cabin John. The first phase, in 2014, focused on the interior—renovating the kitchen and opening up the dining room and family room. The second phase in the following year created outdoor living space in the backyard, transformed the front entrance and included renovations of the upstairs bathrooms.
“When they thoughtfully listened to how we live our life and how we would like to live our life, the world kind of opened up a bit,” Cindy says. The energy and ideas of Anthony Wilder’s team helped the Hurleys begin to envision using their house and yard in new ways that exceeded their expectations.
While the focal point of the Hurleys’ new kitchen is the island (opposite), which features a marble top and barstools, the custom-made Lacanche range was a priority for the homeowners. Photo by John Cole.
Way to Flow
Cindy, a homemaker and part-time freelance photographer, is an avid cook. She spends a lot of time hosting everything from small dinners to big parties—once having 90 swimmers and coaches of her daughter’s college swim team over for dinner.
The Hurleys’ priority was to freshen up the kitchen, make it function better and improve the traffic pattern on the first floor. The kitchen originally had a small door that led to the dining room, another door that led to the foyer, and a door to the hallway and family room—and the hallway had doors on each end to the laundry and powder rooms. “Way too many doors,” Bob says.
The designers removed the doors, knocking down walls to widen the spaces leading into the kitchen from the dining room and family room. Standing at the island sink, Cindy now has a clear view into the family room, where a television was installed above the mantel. Although not a big Super Bowl fan, she says it was nice to be able to catch the game while making wings in the kitchen.
“[The designers] brought in light and created flow we never had,” Cindy says.
A walk-in pantry, built-in china cabinet, coffee bar area and wine cooler replaced the laundry room, which was moved to the basement. Soft neutral colors and natural textures were used for a simple, modern look.
A centerpiece of the kitchen is an island with a marble top and barstools set up along one side for informal dining. “The marble is reminiscent of a French country villa,” says Shannon Kadwell, an interior designer with Anthony Wilder. “She wanted a look that was going to be casual but still [be] able to entertain.”
The Hurleys bought a custom-made Lacanche range imported from France. The 600-pound unit with cast iron plates on top was a “bear” to get inside, Cindy says, but worth the effort. The variation in the heat on each burner allows her to get sauces just right, and the gas oven roasts meat like no other. “There is tremendous power in this machine,” Cindy says.
The reconfigured kitchen space, with larger windows and wider openings to the adjacent rooms, welcomes additional light. It has made being in the kitchen so enjoyable that Cindy says she’s entertaining more than ever and feeling inspired, taking pictures of her food and sharing them on Instagram. “My friends have given up on cooking—we’re all in our early 60s now—but they come here all the time,” she says. Although the Hurleys’ kids are older (ages 28, 32 and 34), they come home often and invite friends.
The Hurleys moved the laundry room downstairs to make room for a walk-in pantry, coffee bar area, wine cooler and built-in china cabinet. Photo by John Cole.
With the kitchen opening up to the dining room, there is more room for entertaining. The red wall paint and mahogany furniture are gone from the dining room, replaced with a lighter color palette, creating a breezy feel. Keira St. Claire-Bowery, an interior designer with Anthony Wilder, used a variety of natural materials—linen, cotton, iron, wood, sisal—“to create a home that would put [the Hurleys] and their guests at ease, an elegant yet carefree and welcoming home,” St. Claire-Bowery says.
“Opening up spaces within an existing footprint can provide better flow within a home,” Anthony Wilder says. “In this house, we visually expanded the lines of sight by opening doorways from the first-floor living and dining rooms to the kitchen, the nerve center of the home where neighbors, friends and family gather. We established a visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces by converting windows to glass doorways, which allowed more natural light to fill the newly opened kitchen and dining spaces.”
There were some surprises, as is often the case with interior renovations. As the team tried to install new support beams in the basement to accommodate the wider door openings in the kitchen, they discovered standing water under the concrete slab. The soil was too soft to support the new load, a serious problem if not addressed. “We had to put anchors deep below on firm soil, attach steel columns and fill the holes with concrete,” says lead carpenter George Noble.
The Hurleys’ renovation included improved outdoor entertaining options. A new deck, which seats eight to 10, leads to another area, which has a wood-burning fireplace. Trees on three sides of the yard create privacy for gatherings of friends and family. Photo by John Cole.
Although there were some minor glitches, the Hurleys were pleased with the first-floor interior upgrades, which took about five months to complete. In May 2015, they began considering changes beyond the walls of their home. Windows in the dining room were replaced with French doors that brought in light and invited guests outdoors. The new access to outside led to a bit of “project creep” and a decision to replace and enlarge their deck, Bob says.
Being on a corner lot, the Hurleys felt exposed and rarely spent time in their yard. Bob says they wanted to make better use of their half acre but weren’t sure how.
The second phase, which was completed in August 2015, was all about the outside. Walking down from the new deck, they added a patio and seating area with a fireplace. Initially, the backyard was open with no trees or gates. Trees were planted around three sides of the yard to provide needed privacy. To solve some drainage issues, several drainpipes were installed to direct water away from the house. An 8-foot-high deer fence was added around most of the yard, along with two gates—one wood and one wrought iron.
“When we created this space and stepped out to experience outdoor living, we were in shock,” Cindy says. “It was a joy to see it evolve.”
These days, the Hurleys say dinner parties often start and end in their refurbished backyard. There are two entrances directly onto the deck now—one from the kitchen, another from the dining room. They can seat eight to 10 people comfortably around the fireplace. On the deck, there is room for another eight to 10. The couple often grill or smoke meats outside and enjoy a glass of wine by the wood-burning fireplace where they can bake pizzas or s’mores without having the wind blow smoke in their face, as is often the case with a fire pit. “That area is very cozy and comfortable,” Bob says.
The Hurleys opted to paint the house’s brick off-white to match the lighter look of the home’s interior. A portico was constructed with steps that are easy to access. A walkway from the front door to the street was softened with a circle pathway and accompanying hedges. One path off the circle leads to the driveway. Photo by John Cole.
An Open Door
The Hurleys wanted to end the practice of guests often coming into their house through the garage, so they began to rethink their front entrance. The steps on the front stoop were too steep and in need of repair and the lighting was poor, so it seemed like a good time for an exterior facelift.
A portico with a copper roof was constructed, and a custom-made glass door was installed to draw focus to the central entry. A brick and flagstone walkway was built from the driveway, and another from the street up the center of the yard. Both pathways met and formed a circle. Lighting and bushes were added along each side of the central pathway from the street. “Landscaping was a way to formalize the entrance,” Wilder says. “The hedge gives you a nice straight line, and the circle in the center softens it.”
New railings on either side of the steps leading up to the house flare toward the bottom to open up and convey a welcoming feel, says Maria Fanjul, an architect on the project. “We added big volume to the front, but it looks like it belongs to the house; it doesn’t look like it was added,” she says.
The design team had recommended painting the exterior brick surface. Bob was initially against the idea; Cindy was open to it. After seeing a mock-up of the painted house, the Hurleys agreed to turn the orangey brick to off-white. With a shift in the interior design and furnishings from dark wood to a lighter, textured feel, Bob says it made sense to lighten up the exterior to match.
The new look is a hit with neighbors and passersby, some of whom slow down to take in the house’s new appearance and even knock on the door to ask about the color (Benjamin Moore’s Seattle Mist).
Overall, the Hurleys say the projects went smoothly. They learned a lot about materials and the renovation process, and they developed a good rapport with the team. Carpenter George Noble was on-site every day and became like family, Cindy says. In 2015, the Hurleys even named their new Maine coon kitten after him. With their Potomac home complete, the Hurleys have hired Wilder to consult with them on a second home they are building on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in St. Michaels.
Caralee Adams is a freelance writer in Bethesda.