For example, they make the houses look like they belong among the trees, landscaping, and neighboring houses. By expanding into the back yard and/or adding a second story, houses can be built larger without encroaching on the streetscape or eliminating important outdoor spaces.
The Myers house is located in the Kensington Historic District in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was built in the 1890s in the "shingle style." The original house had a small footprint (24 by 30 feet, or 7.3 by 9.1 meters) by today's standards and had fallen into disrepair in recent years. The goal was to renovate it and increase its size to accommodate a family of six.
Although the house grew in size, significant efforts were made during the renovation to match existing forms — most notably the Dutch gables — and details such as the built-in gutters and shingle siding. The original heart pine flooring was salvaged and used in the greatly enlarged upper floor.
On the lower floor, three original windows were used as transoms between the foyer and the study. This detail and the consistently historic-looking trim work throughout were intended to demonstrate a respect for the scale and quality of the original house. As a nod to the contemporary lifestyle of the owners, however, and to add a sense of fluidity and lightness, most of the ground floor is open in plan.
Because the house is in a historic district, the renovation had to comply with regulations by the local historic review board. These constraints occasionally ran up against the owners' desire for modern amenities.
For instance, the owners wanted to "bring the outside in" by greatly increasing the proportion of glazing in the facades. The review board noted this could conflict with historic styles. To resolve the conflict, the architect kept windows to traditional proportions but achieved more glazing by installing French doors — four across on each of the porches.
Some of the changes that Myers made to his own house reflect trends his firm has implemented in many other projects in the region. For instance, the rear elevation is as strong as the street-facing front and mimics its formal qualities.
As another example, the significantly expanded kitchen signifies that room's important role as a central family meeting place. In recognition of the need for serious workplaces in modern homes, Myers designed two home offices on the lower floor, each equipped with high-tech support for telecommuting and self-employment activities.
Architects designing for themselves may add special touches that they are willing to pay extra for but which they might be hesitant to suggest a typical client pay for. In this case, Myers cites the extensive custom millwork and built-ins, which he executed himself.
As his neighbors witness the success of the large, light-filled house that nonetheless satisfies historic standards, perhaps such treatments will become more common in older neighborhoods, an alternative to the proliferation of ungainly "McMansions."
GTM Architects, Inc., located Bethesda, Maryland, has received awards for its work in historic preservation and multifamily housing.
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