How Two Houses Became One in Washington, D.C.

The Suburbs Beckoned, but They Found a Way to Stay in the City

For Ralph and Shamita Etienne-Cummings, the suburbs have very long held a specific allure — primarily since 2010, when their son, Blaze, was born and Mr. Etienne-Cummings’s mother moved into their 1876 rowhouse in Washington, D.C.

“Space grew to become far more of a quality,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings stated. Her spouse, she stated, is “from Seychelles I’m from India. Culturally, we often have family members that lives with us.”

But the gains of dwelling outdoors the metropolis — acquiring a huge yard and a even bigger dwelling — couldn’t contend with comfort of their everyday living in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood, on a blocklong avenue coveted for its historic properties and central place.

Credit…Jennifer Chase for The New York Times

“Our son grew up walking almost everywhere with his grandmother,” mentioned Ms. Etienne-Cummings, 52, a lawyer. “We actually wished to continue to be in our neighborhood, but unquestionably necessary more house, and that was hard to do in an spot that’s now crammed up.”

In a stroke of luck, the rowhouse following door came on the marketplace in 2016, and they were equipped to invest in it for $1.4 million, generating an unheard of prospect to expand laterally and increase their total living area to all over 7,000 square ft.

Their idea was to merge the two residences into a cohesive total, with light, open spaces for entertaining. But they realized it would not be uncomplicated.

The household upcoming doorway was a little bit more mature, and neither of the avenue-experiencing facades could be altered, many thanks to strict preservation procedures. Also, the more house that came with it — a little much more than 2,100 sq. toes — was on flooring that didn’t align with people in the couple’s present-day household.

“The properties are far more than a century old,” mentioned V.W. Fowlkes, a principal at Fowlkes Studio, the architecture organization the pair employed. “And the joists buried inside of the flooring plates are historically shielded. We had to do some negotiating with the city about how to be part of the households, and be even handed about how the buildings were being heading to be altered.”

Nevertheless, he stated, “We ended up particularly thrilled by the style and design challenge.”

A single obstacle that immediately introduced itself was a brick wall dividing the two residences, which couldn’t be removed. So the architects preserved it less than drywall and applied it to anchor a contemporary glass-and-metal staircase with white-oak treads, illuminated by 4 skylights overhead.

“We required to have a monumental, gentle-drenched stair that could join the a few concentrations,” Mr. Fowlkes reported.

A challenging engineering feat, it is one of the most putting functions of the style — and a single of the most highly-priced. The staircase demanded “a whole lot of man hours and redesign,” reported Mr. Etienne-Cummings, 54, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting College of Engineering, who explained the six-figure charge as “the most significant solitary selling price-shock of the make.”

Encompassing the staircase are open, only furnished spaces decorated in soothing neutrals — a serene, cocoon-like natural environment that Ms. Etienne-Cummings explained as “almost minimalist with no currently being also significant.”

With just a handful of key items, like a modern day couch upholstered in wool and a conceal rug, the residing home is rather spare. A fire adorned with handmade zellige tile and finished in Venetian plaster serves as a focal position.

“It’s modern-day, but practical,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings explained of the room.

The dining room is pared down as perfectly, with a personalized-created table that has a are living-edge walnut top and bronze legs in a pewter finish. A delicate light fixture of black metallic arcs with brass heads dangles higher than.

To produce a proper entry, which the couple’s initial property lacked simply because of its slim footprint, the architects erected a wall separating the entrance from the residing room. Painted a deep gray and illuminated by a halo-like chandelier, it is the only dim house in the household.

“We wanted to have a small much more ceremony affiliated with the entry,” Mr. Fowlkes stated. “The entry expertise is moody, until eventually you turn the corner and the dwelling variety of explodes.”

The back of the residence — where by the kitchen area and an elevated mudroom are — allowed for more versatility in design and style, like an addition on 1 aspect, to develop a feeling of symmetry, and the set up of extra home windows.

The kitchen area, which now has bleached-walnut cabinets with bronze components and a 12-foot-extensive waterfall island clad in Caesarstone, “has seriously become the focal stage all-around which our household engages,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings reported. “Ralph is the chef, and on most Sundays he’ll cook, and we sit around and communicate.”

In a minimal feat of engineering, the architects suspended a 500-pound vary hood sheathed in quartz from the ceiling, finish with a tailor made steel armature to assistance the stone panels. “That selection hood will continue to be there endlessly,” Mr. Fowlkes stated.

All in, the renovation charge about $2.2 million, but as considerably as Mr. Etienne-Cummings is worried, it was worth it. “There’s a great deal of hustle and bustle in our lives,” he reported. “It’s nice to occur into a house and sense like every little thing is effortless and matches like a glove.”

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