This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 Issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.
Often the best way to honor an old house is simply to highlight its good bones. That principle guided the renovation of this 1925 house, where prized original features remained in place. “It felt like an old-soul house with lots of potential, and I had always wanted a renovation project,” says Scott Moren about why he purchased the place, located in Washington, D.C.
So, after living in the house for eight months and hiring an architect for initial plans and permits, Scott teamed up with designer Evelyn Pierce Smith for the remodel. Her overall approach: Keep the period charm and chestnut woodwork, brighten up with new windows, rework previous rear additions, and better utilize the space. Enlarging the kitchen allowed for the pro-grade appliances Scott wanted, as well as a bright breakfast nook.
Turning a screened porch into a four-season sunroom yielded a favorite hangout for him and his yellow Lab, Grayson. But when company comes over, it’s the living room that beckons.
“The first things that drew me to the house were the woodwork and the fireplace,” says Scott. “It’s nice to have friends over and sit around the fire. It’s now an easy house for people to gather in.”
- A taller, wider doorway with French doors now channels light into the dining room, where two chandeliers from the living room now hang. All the new windows are painted black to set off the chestnut casings. Laura Metzler
- The powder room’s paneled wall was modeled after originals elsewhere, and covers an area once occupied by a window and a radiator. A salvaged sink adds vintage cred (as does a third bronze chandelier, found in pieces in the basement). Stacy Zarin Goldberg
- The original oak floors and chestnut woodwork are set off by warm-white walls and pared-down furnishings. The stair balustrade and chestnut paneling (above) are also original. A paneled door at the landing is now fixed in place; it had led down several steps into the kitchen. Laura Metzler
- The breakfast nook, in the rebuilt family room space, features a window bay where the fireplace had been; the vaulted ceiling was lowered to match the kitchen’s. Wire-brushed reclaimed oak beams are a decorative accent. Laura Metzler
- The range wall now fills in where the kitchen’s old stair entry had been. White cabinets and soft- gray tilework, including a patterned floor of interlocking concrete arabesque shapes, add a light, bright look. Laura Metzler
Moving the front door, swapping radiators for forced-air heat, making the kitchen bigger, and rebuilding rear additions updated the layout.
- Moved the front door toward the stairs to enlarge the living room; shifted two windows.
- Removed steps and a doorway leading into the kitchen to gain a usable range wall.
- Swapped two small closets and a shallow pantry for side-by-side pantry and coat closets.
- Demoed the old sink wall to annex the former family room, enlarging the kitchen and creating a breakfast nook in a new window bay.
- Closed up a window in the powder room and relocated the toilet.
- Made the doorway between the dining room and sunroom wider and a foot taller, at 8 feet; added French doors to invite in more natural light.
- Rebuilt the screened porch as a sunroom, cantilevering the back wall over the foundation to gain 2 feet; added patio doors leading to new back stairs.