A modern classic
How Chevy Chase Village homeowners renovated an 1890s house to accommodate their busy family life
Most structurally challenging was expanding the basement to accommodate an exercise area and a game room under the kitchen addition and porch. The Grahams wanted higher ceilings, so the basement floor was dug out and dropped, requiring the existing footings to be underpinned with new concrete foundation walls. Those improvements allowed the ceiling height to be extended from 7 feet to 9 feet, making the underground space feel as spacious as the upper floors.
The basement features a rec room where the kids can watch TV, and includes a corner guest suite and a laundry room. A tiny brick-lined wine cellar built around the chimney base is fitted with shelving for bottles. The space is just large enough to include a pair of chairs for sampling the vintages.
Inside the home’s grand entranceway, the rooms on the first floor feel surprisingly casual and comfortable for family living. A curving sectional sofa for watching TV is the centerpiece of the living room on one side of the entrance hall. The flat-screen is hidden behind a framed photograph until the photo is automatically raised above the TV. Adjoining the living room is a side porch where the family gathers to read and relax.
Across the hall, the cozy library appears to be original in design but is newly paneled in oak. Decorative moldings extend across the painted ceiling. Shelving that encircled the room was removed, and new bookcases were installed to flank a window seat. Another side porch next to the library was enclosed and turned into Dean Graham’s home office.
Behind the living area, the dining room opens through glass doors to the new rear porch, creating the type of expansive entertaining space sought by the homeowners. Pale blue wallpaper, patterned to resemble watercolor brushstrokes, and metal-fringed chandeliers suspended over the 13-foot table convey a more relaxed atmosphere than is typical in such a formal space.
The adjacent kitchen with a marble-topped island provides ample room for cooking and dining. “We have family dinners here with a rotating cast of kids from my sons’ and daughter’s schools,” says Debra Graham, pointing to the large circular wooden table at one end of the kitchen. “When we entertain, we’ll use the table as buffet space and the island as a bar.”
On the second floor, front bedrooms for son Joey and daughter Katie have access to a remodeled shared bathroom. Down the hall, the Grahams’ bedroom on the upper floor of the rear addition adjoins his-and-her bathrooms, each with a walk-in closet. Debra Graham converted one of the four bedrooms on the second floor into her office, where she works on her current volunteer duties.
At the top of the house, the attic was completely gutted to provide a bedroom suite for eldest son Jack that is arranged around the top of the chimney. A space extending into the front gable is fitted with a casual daybed for visiting friends, and a separate guest room is tucked into one corner of the attic.
Furnishings throughout the house are contemporary, and custom built-in benches, desks and cabinets reinforce the streamlined look. Glossy painted walls in the front stairwell and second-floor home office supply a luxe, light-reflective finish reminiscent of layers of lacquer.
“Our last house had traditional décor and we didn’t want that this time around,” Debra Graham says. Adds Amy Zantzinger: “We wanted the design to fit this modern family so they use every room—and they do.”
Like their Bethesda renovation, the Grahams’ transformation of the Chevy Chase house took more than a year, but “we got what we wanted with careful attention to detail,” Dean Graham says. His advice for renovating homeowners? “Select a great team of people to work with. Then let them do their jobs.”
Deborah K. Dietsch is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Architecture for Dummies.