A Victorian Reimagined

Preserving History in Modern Makeovers

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Kitchen with Dining Room Beyond. Photo: Joshua Hill

This 1895 row house in Washington’s Bloomingdale neighborhood was reasonably well maintained over the years, but several interior renovations had left it with oddly-laid-out spaces that were disconnected from the exterior.

Kitchen looking to Garden. Photo: Joshua Hill

Houses of this era were designed with criteria specific to their time, which rarely focused on how to maximize daylight and exterior connections in a middle-block rowhouse. While the current owners preferred an open concept plan, they also loved the high ceilings, original floors, and period details present throughout the house. Their quest was for a fresh design that would both highlight the historic parts of the house and create a more open and integrated floor plan to accommodate their lifestyle.

Hill & Hurtt Architects, PLLC and Buffalo Construction worked together to make the owners’ vision a reality. Since natural light was a critical concern, a goal was to give every space in the house access to windows or skylights and to modify the floor plan in order to create visual sight lines and a sense of spaciousness and connections.

The back of the house was redesigned to greatly increase the size and number of windows to inhance natural light while creating a clear connection to the rear garden. Instead of being an afterthought, the resulting back façade is critical to the overall design. Larger openings were created between rooms to allow for better flow while maintaining the style of the original house. A raised ceiling in the master bedroom provides for a spacious and airy feeling that is also felt throughout the house.

Cem Sevim owner of Buffalo Construction featuring an original staircase rail after restoration.
Mentor of Cem Sevim, architect Turhan Kaso

Cem Sevim, owner of the local firm Buffalo Construction, explains how his training was a perfect match for this project. “I love history and learned my craft from an award-winning Turkish architect named Mr. Turhan Kaso, who designed masterpieces like the Patara Prince Hotel Resort in the Turkish Riviera. He taught me the importance of preserving original designs in construction and respecting historical integrity to keep the architectural character of older homes.

“Due to my training, I was excited when these owners approached me with the same vision. Keeping the original parts required patience and craftsmanship; like preserving an 80-year-old window trim under a tight deadline. It may be easier and even cheaper to just tear down and buy new, but the results won’t be the same. Although it was very challenging, this has been one of the most rewarding jobs in my 18 years in business.”

Eric Hurtt and Joshua Hill of Hill & Hurtt Architects

Eric Hurtt and Joshua Hill from the firm Hill & Hurtt Architects left out no details including the colors and finishes of both the interior and exterior of the house. The front façade is a bright, vibrant color that fits into the colorful streetscape. A palate of neutrals was selected for the main rooms on the first floor, with lighter pastels and whites for the second floor to convey a brighter and warmer feel. Historic tiles were chosen to accent and highlight the wall colors.

Great care was taken to preserve the home’s original features, while matching its historic details with the new wood trim, doors, staircase, ceiling beams, and hardware. Built-in cabinetry was designed to have a more transitional and modern look to play off the period details of the house and merge the different aesthetic preferences of the owners. The result is a beautiful historic rowhouse with cleverly integrated modern features that can truly be called their own. 

Resources
Buffalo Construction | 703-786-3863 | www.buffalocompanyusa.com
Hill & Hurtt Architects, PLLC | 202-854-1495 | www.hillandhurtt.com