The Suburbs Beckoned, however They Discovered a Option to Keep within the Metropolis


For Ralph and Shamita Etienne-Cummings, the suburbs have lengthy held a sure attract — particularly since 2010, when their son, Blaze, was born and Mr. Etienne-Cummings’s mom moved into their 1876 rowhouse in Washington, D.C.

“House grew to become extra of a premium,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings mentioned. Her husband, she defined, is “from Seychelles; I’m from India. Culturally, we all the time have household that lives with us.”

However the advantages of dwelling outdoors the town — having a giant yard and an even bigger home — couldn’t compete with comfort of their life in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood, on a blocklong road coveted for its historic properties and central location.

Credit score…Jennifer Chase for The New York Occasions

“Our son grew up strolling all over the place together with his grandmother,” mentioned Ms. Etienne-Cummings, 52, a lawyer. “We actually wished to remain in our neighborhood, however positively wanted extra space, and that was tough to do in an space that’s already crammed up.”

In a stroke of luck, the rowhouse subsequent door got here in the marketplace in 2016, and so they had been capable of purchase it for $1.4 million, creating an unusual alternative to develop laterally and enhance their whole dwelling house to round 7,000 sq. toes.

Their concept was to merge the 2 homes right into a cohesive complete, with gentle, open areas for entertaining. However they knew it wouldn’t be simple.

The home subsequent door was barely older, and neither of the street-facing facades may very well be altered, due to strict preservation guidelines. Additionally, the extra house that got here with it — barely greater than 2,100 sq. toes — was on flooring that didn’t align with these within the couple’s present home.

“The properties are greater than a century outdated,” mentioned V.W. Fowlkes, a principal at Fowlkes Studio, the structure agency the couple employed. “And the joists buried throughout the flooring plates are traditionally protected. We needed to do some negotiating with the town about the way to be part of the properties, and be even handed about how the constructions had been going to be altered.”

Nonetheless, he mentioned, “We had been extraordinarily excited by the design problem.”

One impediment that instantly introduced itself was a brick wall dividing the 2 homes, which couldn’t be eliminated. So the architects preserved it underneath drywall and used it to anchor a contemporary glass-and-steel staircase with white-oak treads, illuminated by 4 skylights overhead.

“We wished to have a monumental, light-drenched stair that might join the three ranges,” Mr. Fowlkes mentioned.

An advanced engineering feat, it is among the most putting options of the design — and one of the crucial costly. The staircase required “a number of man hours and redesign,” mentioned Mr. Etienne-Cummings, 54, a professor on the Johns Hopkins Whiting College of Engineering, who described the six-figure price as “the largest single price-shock of the construct.”

Surrounding the staircase are open, merely furnished areas embellished in soothing neutrals — a serene, cocoon-like setting that Ms. Etienne-Cummings described as “nearly minimalist with out being too extreme.”

With only a few key items, together with a contemporary couch upholstered in wool and a disguise rug, the lounge is comparatively spare. A fire adorned with handmade zellige tile and completed in Venetian plaster serves as a focus.

“It’s fashionable, however useful,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings mentioned of the house.

The eating room is pared down as nicely, with a custom-made desk that has a live-edge walnut prime and bronze legs in a pewter end. A fragile gentle fixture of black steel arcs with brass heads dangles above.

To create a correct entry, which the couple’s unique dwelling lacked due to its slim footprint, the architects erected a wall separating the doorway from the lounge. Painted a deep grey and illuminated by a halo-like chandelier, it’s the one darkish house in the home.

“We wished to have a little bit extra ceremony related to the entry,” Mr. Fowlkes mentioned. “The entry expertise is moody, till you flip the nook and the home form of explodes.”

The again of the home — the place the kitchen and an elevated mudroom are — allowed for extra flexibility in design, together with an addition on one facet, to create a way of symmetry, and the set up of extra home windows.

The kitchen, which now has bleached-walnut cupboards with bronze {hardware} and a 12-foot-long waterfall island clad in Caesarstone, “has actually grow to be the point of interest round which our household engages,” Ms. Etienne-Cummings mentioned. “Ralph is the chef, and on most Sundays he’ll prepare dinner, and we sit round and speak.”

In a minor feat of engineering, the architects suspended a 500-pound vary hood sheathed in quartz from the ceiling, full with a {custom} metal armature to assist the stone panels. “That vary hood will stay there eternally,” Mr. Fowlkes mentioned.

All in, the renovation price about $2.2 million, however so far as Mr. Etienne-Cummings is anxious, it was price it. “There’s a number of hustle and bustle in our lives,” he mentioned. “It’s good to come back into an area and really feel like every part is straightforward and matches like a glove.”

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