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  • Writer's pictureThe PJ Team

Houzz Tour: Urban Farmhouse With Many Rooms for Gathering

A remodel creates privacy and improves flow in a family’s Virginia home

The owners of this home in the Rosemont neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, wanted to improve both its style and its function. A previous addition to the back of the house had created a family room with too many windows. This left the owners feeling as though they were sitting inside a fish bowl. Also, the master suite on the second floor was far bigger than the homeowners needed. To solve these problems, architect Laura Campbell designed a thoughtful addition to replace the old one.

House at a Glance Who lives here: A couple with a daughter in third grade Size: 3,664 square feet (340 square meters) Location: Rosemont neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia Designers: Laura Campbell of Laura Campbell Architecture and Kristin Try of Gingham & Grosgrain

Before: Here is the side of the house prior to the renovation. The old addition is on the left, jutting out from the peaked roofline; the front porch is on the right.

After: This is the home from the same vantage point after the renovation. You can see that the rear of the home (shown on the left in this photo) has been pushed out farther. Campbell added a small porch with a door that leads directly into the mudroom; this now acts as the family’s main entrance to the home.

The renovation gave the house a more attractive roofline and a modern farmhouse look. The homeowners and design team think of this as an urban farmhouse since an urban, walkable lifestyle is important to this family and is part of the reason they chose their neighborhood.

The owners and design team considered a variety of palettes for the exterior, including gray with white trim and navy with white trim, before ultimately settling on white with black windows. This color scheme then set the tone for the inside of the home “so that the outside and inside are speaking the same language,” Campbell says.

The front porch got both cosmetic and functional upgrades. Prior to the renovation, there was no insulation above the ceiling, which made for a very cold bedroom on the second floor. The builder added insulation and replaced the old ceiling with a new beaded-board one. The building crew also replaced the rotting wood floor with a PVC flooring material and swapped out the wood porch railings for new ones made of durable fiberglass.

The new porch swing and blue-and-white decor gives this space the lake house feel that one of the homeowners, who grew up in Michigan, wanted to sprinkle throughout the home.

We’ll begin our tour inside the renovated home in the entry. This drawing shows the porch and first-floor plan as the house stands now.

Before: The home previously had a small entryway, crowded by a coat closet. Prior to the renovation, the narrow, steep stairs were a “tripping hazard,” Campbell says.

After: Campbell expanded the entry by removing the coat closet and extending the wall behind the bench. Campbell also reworked the staircase, widening it and adding an extra riser and tread to make it less steep. And she added a new front door with a window that brings in light and adds a welcoming touch to the front porch.

Just off the entryway is the small living room. The builder recommended the vendor who supplied this reclaimed oak flooring, which is used throughout the first floor. Try added a slipcover to the homeowners’ existing sofa and a Roman shade to the windows. The ottoman in the center of the room is custom. The walls are painted a white (White Christmas, Benjamin Moore) that is used in much of the home.

This room is at the front of the house, and since the homeowners prefer not to be on display to their neighbors at night, they use the room primarily in the daytime, when lamp lighting and the natural light from the windows provide plenty of illumination. Campbell got rid of four can lights that were previously in the ceiling. “They drew your eye up and weren’t giving the right light to the room,” Campbell says.

The living room opens onto the dining room, and beyond it the island area, which is its own room (see next photo). The doors to the right of the dining table open onto an outdoor patio.

Here’s a closer look at the island room — a first for the pros who worked on this home. “The client really came up with this idea and floated it with us,” Campbell says. “It works perfectly for entertaining.”

In fact, one of the homeowners works in a furniture store and is quite passionate about design, and she was very involved in the design process. Campbell and Try felt that the creative chemistry of architect, designer, homeowner and builder resulted in a strong outcome. “It created this energetic and devoted team, and we all feel like the collaborations really worked to make the final product a home the client loves and cherishes,” Campbell says.

The homeowners store their linens for entertaining on the front of the island (the side without bar stools) and use the island as a buffet when they have guests. The wife also likes to sit on a bar stool there and work on her laptop.

The island base is painted a custom navy color and has brass hardware. The countertop is marble venatino, the same material used in the kitchen backsplash.

Before: Here is the kitchen prior to the renovation.

After: Here is the remodeled kitchen. Through the opening to the left of the range hood wall you can see a portion of the living room.

The range wall features a custom plastered hood, trimmed with the same boards used for the flooring. “It gives it a European, old vintage feel,” Try says. Again, the backsplash is the same marble venatino used for the countertop in the island room. The kitchen counters are black granite with a honed leather finish that Try and the homeowners chose for its looks as well as its durability. The cabinets are Shaker-style and painted a custom white.

This photo shows the view of the kitchen from the dining room. The kitchen window wall features a 36-inch apron-front sink and three vertical windows. Try added white enamel Ralph Lauren pendants from Circa Lighting with polished nickel details.

To the right of the sink, a portion of the ceiling juts forward in space. This ceiling is lower due to a load-bearing beam that helps to keep the home structurally sound. Campbell used this beam as a dividing line between zones in the kitchen: To the left is the working area, to the right, storage space. You can catch just a glimpse of the storage zone in the photo of the island room.

Wall paint: Stonington Gray, Benjamin Moore

The new family room is located directly behind the island area and three steps down. This is the family’s primary hangout spot. This room is the replacement for the old family room, which had too many windows for the homeowners’ desire for privacy.

For the renovation, the homeowners had asked for a light-filled home that allowed for privacy and had places to hang art. Campbell’s “aha moment” for achieving this balance in the new family room was deciding to bring in light via multiple vertical windows, with wall space in between for art. Try selected linen inverted pinch-pleat panels that complement the symmetry of the windows without overpowering them.

To the right of the blue bench is a fireplace with a TV mounted above it. “One client didn’t want a TV in the space and one did,” Try says. She worked to make this room’s decor interesting enough that the TV didn’t steal all the visual focus. “We were trying to maximize looking elsewhere with the windows and beautiful furnishings,” Try says.

The blue art on the back wall is by John Robshaw.

Directly off the family room is the mudroom. This is the family’s main entrance to the home, accessed through the new side porch (shown in the third photo in this story).

Most of the furnishings in the mudroom are vintage pieces that the homeowners had collected, though the console table on the left is new. The door in the foreground leads to a closet that the family uses to store coats, scarves and boots.

Down a short hallway from the family room is this charming powder room, which features floral wallpaper, wainscoting and a Ferguson sink that looks vintage but isn’t.

Past the powder room is what the family calls the “blue room,” which serves as a small playroom for the couple’s daughter. On the left side of the room is a desk where she keeps her Legos.

On the other side of the room is an area that the husband uses when he works from home. The navy console table that displays the art is new, and the shades were custom-made for the space. Try, the designer, created the gray piece of art on the console table. The desks are vintage and were owned already by the homeowner.

The blue paint gave the homeowner from Michigan a touch of that lakeside effect she wanted.

Wall paint: Newburyport Blue, Benjamin Moore

Before: Prior to the renovation, the home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor. The homeowners felt the master bedroom was too large.

After: This floor plan shows the new second story. The new master bedroom is smaller than the old one, and Campbell added a fourth bedroom and a third bathroom to this level.

This guest room is above the kitchen and was changed to accommodate the kitchen’s new range hood vent. Workers needed to fur out the wall to make room for the duct from the stove exhaust. Try used the indents created on either side of the bed for recessed shelving. The shelves are made from the same reclaimed wood as the flooring downstairs.

This room and another bedroom were the only rooms in the house with the original flooring in good enough condition to preserve. As part of the renovation it was refinished.

The homeowners already had the bed linens shown in this photo; they selected and purchased the artwork with Try’s input.

This is the bathroom between the guest bedroom and the daughter’s bedroom. A door on either end leads into the two bedrooms. (The door shown here leads to the guest room.)

The vanity is custom-built with a custom paint. A bench seat covered in indoor/oudoor fabric provides a place to sit and chat while getting ready for the day. The mother and daughter spend time together here quite often, Try says.

The countertops are made from a remnant piece of engineered quartz. The floor tile is marble. Since the window in the space is new, “we could place it exactly where we wanted it to work with the inside,” Campbell says.

Beyond the bathroom is the new bedroom for the couple’s daughter. The dormer gives the room “the character this owner wanted,” Try says. It was also a practical solution that worked with the City of Alexandria’s height restrictions. “At edge of room it’s only 6 feet 5 inches,” she says. “It goes up quickly.” At the highest point the ceiling is 10 feet 8 inches.

The floral wallpaper on the accent wall is removable so it can be swapped out as the girl grows and her tastes change. For now the built-in bench seat serves as toy storage, but eventually it may serve mostly as a reading space.

The walls are a soft pink. A relaxed Roman shade and a floral pendant complete the look.

Wall paint: Silky Smooth, Benjamin Moore

he new master bedroom features reclaimed barn wood beams from the same company that provided the flooring for the main level. The walls have soft gray paint (Shoreline, Benjamin Moore).

The furnishings in this space are all new. The white linen window shades are custom with a gray border. The rug is from Caitlin Wilson. The homeowners found the art (by Mary-Catheryn of Copper Corners) at an art fair in Michigan.

This long space (5 feet 9 inches wide by 21 feet 6 inches long) allowed room for a walk-in shower that would create a spa-like feel.

The custom vanity is 8 feet long and was designed to look like a piece of furniture. It is made from oak with a distressed finish. The hexagon floor tile is marble, as is the 12-by-24-inch tile on the shower partition, the baseboards and the vanity countertop.

The walk-in shower’s subway tile is 4 by 8 inches, which was surprisingly hard to find in navy, Try says.

Prior to the renovation the basement was unfinished. This is the floor plan after the remodel.

The basement now contains a finished rec room, bathroom and laundry room. This photo shows the rec room, which is 15 feet by 15 feet. The clients figured this space could be a good teenage hangout spot when their daughter gets older. The husband uses it as a TV room when he wants to watch golf or a game. The room also doubles as a second guest room, and to that end the couch contains a pullout bed.

The flooring, just visible beneath the rug, is commercial-grade vinyl acrylic tiles laid out in a gingham pattern.

Here is the laundry room, which is also in the basement. The homeowners wanted this space to be attractive, since you see it when you come down the stairs. This space features the same vinyl floor tiles as the rec room.

General contractor: Harry Braswell

Erin Carlyle August 15, 2019


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