Architect Colleen Gove Healey carefully preserves a Logan Circle row house with deft touches of industrial-modern flair
On stately Logan Circle in Northwest DC, venerable Victorian homes fan out from a verdant, tree-canopied center. Today, almost all of these historic dwellings have been converted into condos—so when a couple came across one of the few single-family homes left on the circle while house hunting, they jumped at it. “It was striking, with much of the architecture and charm intact,” recounts the wife, a lawyer. “We felt we had the chance to save it. And it was an opportunity to actually live on the circle and have that beautiful park for a front yard.”
Not surprisingly, the unrenovated, eight-bedroom house was crying out for an update. She and her husband, who is in finance, had consulted with AllenBuilt Inc., during the house search; when they purchased the home, principal John Allen recommended architect Colleen Healey for the task of protecting its 1883 bones while adding 21st-century comforts and functionality. “It was a collaborative effort,” Allen recalls. “Colleen and I felt that the house will be there long after our clients move on; we couldn’t tear out for ego what has been there for 100 years. And the clients were very much on board with that.”
Prior to the renovation, the home’s three-story front section comprised an entry hall, living and dining rooms on the first floor, the owners’ suite and two spare bedrooms on the second floor and two more bedrooms on the third. A two-story dogleg in back housed the kitchen, sitting area and a hallway leading to the back door, with two bedrooms upstairs. Because this portion had been poorly renovated in the past, says Healey, “I knew any manipulation to the original home was going to happen in the dogleg.”
Most of the work in the main-floor front rooms entailed cleaning up existing elements such as the chestnut millwork, stained-glass windows, carved-pine staircase and heart pine floor. “The wife wanted to salvage every door and doorknob,” Healey relates. “That’s something people think is going to cost less but doesn’t. They really took preserving the property to heart.” Upstairs, the design team enlarged the owners’ suite by appropriating the neighboring bedrooms for a new bath and closet. Reconfiguring the third floor created a home office and a spare bedroom and bath.
Healey overhauled the two-story dogleg to make way for an open kitchen/sitting area on the ground floor. A load-bearing brick wall that bisected the room became a two-sided gas fireplace, shared with the sitting area. Healey retained just enough of the hallway wall to install an inner door of glass and metal eight feet from the back entrance, forming a mudroom. The dogleg’s second story now contains a bathroom, guest room, laundry and nursery (the couple have since welcomed a baby). Accessed via the third-floor rooms, a rooftop deck with a hot tub crowns the structure.
The couple specified a modern kitchen, so Healey designed minimalist cabinetry out of ash—it contrasts with the backdrop of restored chestnut millwork and new heart pine flooring. The cabinets are configured in a U shape that preserves three carved, floor-to-ceiling windows that the owners love. “Every other scheme needed walls we didn’t have,” the architect notes. “The U created the cabinet and counter space they wanted.” A wall of exposed brick and black-framed, steel-look sliders along the back imparts an industrial vibe. Ten-foot-deep archways connect the front of the house with the kitchen; one conceals the powder room while the other holds a shallow wall of pantry cupboards.
A major goal was to bring in natural light. Healey replaced a stained-glass skylight over the stairs with clear glass that illuminates the front rooms on three stories. In the dogleg, the architect got more creative: She installed three skylights in the roof deck to illuminate the second floor, then “peeled back” a section of the second-floor floorboards directly below “to wash light down the brick wall on the first floor,” she explains. “We left the joists in place; you can see the 138-year-old post-and-pin construction that connected them.” A sleek glass-and-metal railing on the second floor surrounds the open section of flooring for safety; the skylights are delineated by a curving, sculptural framework of plaster that creates a ribbon effect. “Instead of blocks coming down between the skylights, they act as bellies to bounce the light down,” Healey says.
The home’s furnishings lean contemporary, mingling items belonging to the clients with mid-century pieces and minimalist lighting, all selected by Healey. The result is a modern sensibility that unites the old and new spaces and creates a striking juxtaposition with the home’s architecture.
While the husband numbers the roof deck among his favorite features of the finished home, the wife is partial to the lower level, which has been transformed with heated, poured-concrete floors and now contains a home theater, workout room, guest room and her favorite space—a “basement lounge” facing the circle, complete with a chic bar and beverage sink against a background of raw, exposed brick and ceiling joists. Components of the bar were repurposed during the renovation—from floor joists that top the island to the sink’s spigot, which once served the claw-foot tub in the owners’ bath. Says the wife: “I’m collecting original pieces of the house that we moved while looking for that balance between preservation and function.”
Renovation Architecture & Interior Design: Colleen Gove Healey, AIA, NCARB, Colleen Healey Architecture, Washington, DC. Contractor: John Allen, principal; Rigoberto Perez, project manager, AllenBuilt Inc., Bethesda, Maryland.
Windows: loewen.com through thesanderscompany.com. Skylights: veluxusa.com.
Sofa, Barcelona Chair, Coffee Table: dwr.com. Corner Chair: Vintage. Ceiling Fixture: franceandson.com. Rug – chilewich.com
Table: ikea.com. Chairs: dwr.com. Ceiling Fixture: rollandhill.com. Fireplace Paint: Graphite by benjaminmoore.com.
Ib Kofod-Larsen Rocking Chair: 1stdibs.com.
Cabinetry: virginiamountainwoodworks.com. Countertop & Backsplash Source & Fabrication: Quartzite through marblesystems.com. Metal Shelving Over Range: akmetalfab.com. Island Pendants: illumininc.com. Counter Stools: About a Stool 33 through us.hay.com.
Rug, Jey Occasional Table, Saarinen Side Table & Crosshatch Chair and Settee: dwr.com. Doors to Mudroom: akmetalfab.com. Fireplace: Custom by healeyarchitecture.com.
Cabinetry & Island Countertop: custom. Fabrication: allenbuiltinc.com. Main Countertops: Granite through usmarbleandgranite.com. Stools: About a Stool 33 through us.hay.com. Woven Chair & Occasional Table: cb2.com.
Built-Ins: custom. Fabrication: allenbuiltinc.com. Bed: crateandbarrel.com. Crate and Barrel. Bedside Pendants: illumininc.com. Overhead Fixture: Owners’ collection.
Vanity: kitchenndbathstudios.com. Countertop: Carrara marble through usmarbleandgranite.com. Mirror: Custom. Shower, Floor & Wall Tile: marble through architessa.com. Shower Enclosure: starfiredirect.com. Ceiling Fixture: cb2.com.
Shower Enclosure: akmetalfab.com. Shower Fixtures: deltafaucet.com, finnishdesignshop.com. Floor Tile: architessa.com. Vanity: kitchenandbath studios.com. Countertop: Granite through usmarbleandgranite.com. Mirror: crateandbarrel.com. Light over Mirror: roomoandboard.com.
Light Fixture: anthropologie.com. Small Table & Chair and Pouf: roomandboard.com. Art on Wall: katezarembacompany.com. Rug: crateandbarrel.com. Eames Elephant: dwr.com.