A rambling brick ranch located in leafy Potomac, Md. with a beautiful pool and yard was not a bad house to begin with. But the times had changed and the house had not aged well.
Like a lot of homes built in 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the ceilings were low and the floor plan offered box after box of formal spaces that were underutilized as a result. A family of four that purchased the home hoped for something completely different when they embarked on a whole-house remodel of it.
Where once there were boxy and dark formal rooms, they sought a progression of open spaces with large and numerous windows to allow natural light to shine throughout. Where once there were low-ceiling rooms, plain and unadorned, they sought rooms with niches, shelves, and prominent crown moldings along with window casements to match. Upstairs, the family wanted more space. They wanted space for a family room, an office and a guest bedroom.
Lastly and certainly most significantly, they sought a remarkable transformation of styles. They wanted their brick ranch to come out looking like a rambling shingle-sided beach house, similar in style to homes found where they vacationed on Nantucket.
All of these ambitions rested on the shoulders of Paul Gaiser, a designer and builder of new and remodeled homes based in nearby Rockville, Md., who, looking back at the solution he offered, is very pleased with the finished product.
“We accomplished everything we set out to achieve,” says Gaiser. “It is the classic story of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse. When they bought this house, it was about as uninteresting and dated as you can imagine, but the lot had tremendous potential. Credit the owner for having the vision of what could be done with an alternative roof line, without tearing the house down.”
The dramatic changes to the house began by removing a brick addition and small greenhouse that was attached to rear of the home. Gaiser says he and the owners contemplated ways to reuse it, but ultimately decided to raze it to make way for the dramatic first floor rear porch with a deck above adjoining the master bedroom. (It is the same porch that is pictured on the cover of this magazine).
The next steps involved a lot of framing. An existing family room which was located down a few steps from the main level was a cramped and dark space. The cramped feeling was exacerbated by 8-ft. ceiling heights throughout the main level. Gaiser’s solution was to completely rip out the framing above this space, installing temporary bracing and reframing the second floor a full 4 ft. higher than it had been. The new family room resides in the space, and remains a few steps down from the new main level, but the ceiling height is 12 ft. and via two sets of French doors opens out onto the new porch where the brick addition once stood. The entire second floor was framed at the same level from one end of the house to the other. While this creates a 12-ft. ceiling height over the family room, the rest of the first floor also got a boost from 8 ft. to 9 ft.
This ultimately offered the canvas on which the old, formal first-floor spaces were ripped out and replaced with essentially one, large open space that became a large kitchen, a breakfast room, a den, a formal living room, a dining room, a breezeway/mudroom all overlooking the existing pool and yard.
“About the inside, I think this is a good example of the drama that an open plan can have,” says Gaiser. “And it is not like it is one big room. The spaces are defined and distinct. There are vistas throughout the house that add a lot of interest. You can stand in the kitchen and look over the breakfast room and over the little den area into the family room. So the family is connected, but not on top of one another. We solved that problem.”