Robert Gurney Architects remake a classic

Nick Myall
Friday 23 Sep 2016

With a modest budget Robert Gurney Architects have achieved a simple and classic renovation of this colonial revivalist home

Lyon Park, in Arlington, Virginia is an “urban village” near Washington, DC. Most of the houses in this established neighbourhood were constructed in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The houses vary in style, ranging from small single-story bungalows to larger wood and brick colonial revivalist houses. Streets are tree lined and the topography is gently rolling. After living in their house for about seven years, a young family of four hoped to transform their colonial house to better fit their lifestyle. A series of small but cozy rooms failed to connect with each other and to the deep, sloping landscaped backyard. Excluding the basement, the existing house comprised less than 1400 sq ft, with two bedrooms and only one full bathroom. Ideally, the transformation would retain the “sense of home” while providing spaces open to each other, additional bedrooms and a better connection to the landscaped site. A building that avoided stylistic mimicry with modern light filled spaces was desired. Sustainable construction techniques and the use of environmentally sensitive materials were expected. 

The budget for this project was moderate. The result is a modest, restrained and compact modern renovation project that respects the scale and rhythm of the street. The project combines three small additions, totalling two hundred fifty square feet with a complete reconfiguration of the existing spaces.  The existing second floor exterior walls and roof were removed and rebuilt to provide spaces on the second floor with high ceilings and light filled spaces. On the main level, floor to ceiling windows allow expansive views to the backyard, while large windows on the street side insure a connection to the neighbourhood. The previously dark and compartmentalized house is now open and flooded with light.

The FSC-certified wood siding, combined with gray stucco and charcoal fibre cement panels provide a quiet, warm exterior that recedes into the tree lined streetscape. The compact massing with simple fenestration is organized to respect the scale of adjacent houses.  A rain screen system is employed to provide a ventilated envelope. Windows with high level efficiency ratings provide transparency and light transmission without compromising the performance of the envelope. 

Ultimately this is a modest project with a moderate budget. Although this project is very small on many levels, the impact on the lives of this family of four is substantial. 

Nick Myall

News editor

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