A modern classic
How Chevy Chase Village homeowners renovated an 1890s house to accommodate their busy family life
In 2006, Debra and Dean Graham extensively updated their 1950s colonial in Bethesda and, unlike many homeowners who grow impatient waiting for remodelers to finish, they found the process to be smooth, even rewarding.
“It was a great experience the first time around,” says Dean Graham, CEO and founder of Sector Financial in Chevy Chase. “We found the builder and architect to be skilled and trustworthy.”
The renovation went so well that the Grahams purchased their next home in May 2016 from the project’s builder, Richard Zantzinger, and his wife, Amy, an interior designer who had also worked on the Bethesda project. The Grahams then hired the Zantzingers and their Washington, D.C., architect, Anthony “Ankie” Barnes, to refresh their new digs, a stately neoclassical 1890s house in Chevy Chase.
The Grahams, both 54, bought the historic five-bedroom home (it now has seven) to have more space for family life and entertaining. The parents of two sons, Jack, 20, and Joey, 18, and a daughter, Katie, 16, they often host their children’s sports teams, get-togethers with friends, and fundraisers for their private schools.
“The Chevy Chase house has many distinctive architectural features,” says Debra Graham, a former marketing executive. “We love that it has large rooms, fireplaces and enormous charm.”
Outside, neoclassical design elements are combined into an impressive facade. The entrance is defined by a colossal portico with Ionic columns, a graceful pediment around the front door, and a Palladian window set into the second floor.
The historic pedigree of the 1890s home, one of the first to be built in Chevy Chase Village, attracted such previous owners as the late Flora Gill Jacobs, whose collection of antique miniatures became the Washington Dolls’ House and Toy Museum (now closed).
“This home is my favorite in the village,” says Amy Zantzinger. “It has been clearly lived in and loved.” The Zantzingers bought the house in October 2015 and worked with Barnes and his D.C. firm, BarnesVanze Architects, on a plan to expand and remodel the house before selling it to the Grahams.
“They wanted to take a tired old house and make it suitable for today,” Barnes says. “We went so far as to secure project approvals from local and county preservation review boards and a building permit.”
Then the Zantzingers had second thoughts about the ambitious project.
“We did not want to move our kids twice during our daughter’s high school years, first to a rental during the renovation and then to the Chevy Chase house,” Amy Zantzinger says. “My mother had a stroke in 2015, and I was spending a great deal of time in California. For those two reasons, we had a change of heart about doing a major renovation project at that time in our lives and decided to sell the house.”