DC Family Tears Down Old Renovations, Reveals Dream Home

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Plans for a cosmetic remodel turned into a full gut makeover

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The house had been extended at least twice. The front porch was largely enclosed, and a front-facing skylight had been added to the third floor. It was opened up and simplified during the renovation. (EL Studio; Anice Hoachlander)

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Eric Carter and Lauren Herrington lived on a farm they loved in the Palisades-Kent neighborhood of northwest Washington, but ran out of space as the family grew to five – plus a dog.

“It was a nice little farm we bought in 2002,” says Herrington, 47, a vet who is currently taking a break from practice. Eric, 48, is an executive in a legal recruitment firm.

“We got engaged on the front porch and originally wanted to keep the house,” Herrington says. “It was built in 1888, a bit of a jumble with oddly shaped rooms and a backyard.”

They wanted to keep the house, but a slope on the outside made it nearly impossible to adapt for a renovation.

With the arrival of their third child, things took a turn for the worse. Then the family got wind of a house for sale a few blocks away.

The potential location had four bedrooms, five bathrooms and an in-ground pool in the backyard.

“We walked in and the backyard was beautiful,” Herrington says. “It had the indoor-outdoor life we ​​wanted, and we thought it just needed cosmetic repairs.”

The family paid $2.45 million for the new location and decided to stay put until repairs were completed. The design team shifted gears and came together for a year while the family continued to live on the farm.

Peeling back old renovations

The new house started life as a bungalow but was added at least twice. “It almost looked Victorian,” Herrington says. “There were stained glass windows, Victorian style light fixtures and a tile backsplash in the kitchen with fish on it.”

In one of the renovations, a dormer on the third floor had been added to create a bedroom. The front porch had been closed off and a back porch had been added. The relocation of the skylight and the reversal of the functions of the two porches were included in the new design scheme.

With a plan in place, demolition began in August 2020, with the pandemic playing an active role. Added odds, based in Takoma Park, Md., signed as a builder. As the layers were stripped away, the demo became more overbearing.

The floors on the second floor were sloping because there were not enough joists. The covered porch was barely closed. The staircase was hung from drywall, Herrington said.

What was supposed to be a cosmetic fixer quickly turned into a full-fledged job. “There were a couple of times after we had demonstrated and started rebuilding, we thought we should have just torn it down,” Herrington says. “But I think it was still beneficial to do like a renovation.”

With the pandemic in full swing, the new home and its pool offered some solace. “It was our covid treat,” Herrington says. “Crews would end the day and we’d come down with cocktails, set up lawn chairs, imagine what it would be like to live here and what it would be like to finally be in it.”

In November 2021, they finally made the move. The front facade of the house was radically altered when the existing third-floor dormer window was removed. The porch was uncovered to resume its role as a simple coffee and cocktail porch. The immediate effect led to many neighbors asking the family why they had downsized the house, but the living space was expanded by around 800 square feet. The exterior of the house is painted black.

The front door opens to reveal stairs lined with a clear glass balustrade that lead to the upper floors and the basement. The large living room is on the left. An entry walkway leading from the front door is clad in gray mischievous patterned tile to look like hardwood. The living room floor is European white oak imported from Portugal.

The interior walls separating the living room and the dining room have been removed, the lintels now supporting the load of the upper floors. The original plans called for two separate rooms separated by pocket doors, but the owners changed their minds and opted for a wallless approach.

Passing the living room you come to a bar on the way to the kitchen. There is a bloated pantry behind the bar, which was the original location of the kitchen. The kitchen-style pantry is illuminated by existing skylights that shine on a mix of henrybuilt walnut cabinets in an iron color hue mixed with open shelving.

The pantry is directly connected to the main kitchen, which is defined by a large island that helps hide base cabinets, also from Henrybuilt, and a Mercury range from Aga. The island seats four, contains a sink, and is topped with PaperStone. Other appliances include a Thermador refrigerator and a wine refrigerator from Sub-Zero.

“The pandemic changed some of our device choices because you couldn’t get them,” Herrington says.

“We love this house”

What was once the back porch of the house has been captured and brought inside, allowing for an expanded dining room and kitchen. The move also connected the family room, which is tucked away in the back corner and was once anchored by a massive stacked stone fireplace.

Herrington wanted to keep a fireplace in the space but wanted something more contemporary. The team explored ways to add built-in furniture around the existing fireplace to make it more welcoming, but nothing worked, so it fell via the hammer. A new suspended chimney comes from Focus fireplaces based in France. Some of the models can be rotated, but some building codes require that they remain locked in place.

There is a mudroom adjacent to the basement staircase, which leads to a family gathering space, storage and a full bathroom. To make up for the space lost due to the removal of the dormer window in the front of the house, the new design crashed into what was once the back porch.

The second level includes a laundry room, children’s bedrooms with full bathrooms and the master suite. The main bathroom has a free-standing Duravit bath and a separate toilet. The vanity was also from Henrybuilt with a Corian top. The shower has no threshold and no door. The tile was also from Mutina. The third floor houses a home office and a full bathroom.

When the family purchased the new place, the old farmhouse still held a place in their hearts and because they had moved in the past for work opportunities, the possibility of another outing was on their minds.

“We’re always one step away from the door if an opportunity arises, but we love this home,” Herrington says.

Due to unforeseen construction issues, the renovation budget became fluid and resale was always on the family’s mind. Renovation costs remain private, and the biggest challenge of the project was the uncertainty.

“You pour in a lot of money for a long time before you see results and even then you’re a little nervous – will it pay off?” said Herrington. “Will it actually look like what’s on paper?”

But, comfortable in their new home, the family has no doubts about their investment.©

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