Modern design can be the best solution when children are pets are involved. Its open layout and unfussy interiors can easily forgive things like running, chasing, and the occasional game of catch. This was certainly the case for a young couple with two high-energy boys and a happy golden Lab. They asked us to design a house on a DC plot overlooking the Potomac River that could handle lots of activity.
The family needed space both inside and outside for playing and entertaining. Our challenge was to give them everything they needed within a compact, narrow lot. Glass folding-door panel systems in the front and back allow seamless flow from the porch, where the family can welcome friends and neighbors, to a back yard where the boys can play. The interiors have a much more expansive feeling than the lot size would suggest, as we designed overlapping rooms that blend from one space to another.
Because the river views are in front of the house, the facade and floors are layered and tiered to take them in. The first-level family room is set back, for example, allowing for a covered front porch where the family can see the tree line on the Virginia side of the river. The master bedroom is above, with a wide bay of windows that reveals more of the vista. A side porch to the master suite, meanwhile, forms the roof of a front study below, where large corner windows offer a powerful incentive to work at home.
Natural stone, stained wood and stucco frame the architecture, which places the house firmly in its natural surroundings, though its modern lines cast it into sharp relief. The combination of cedar, Douglas fir and white oak used in the construction are sustainably forested, while geothermal heating and cooling and the latest insulation technology make this house extremely environmentally friendly. The best example of its energy efficiency might be the south-facing, 40-foot-tall glass stair tower, which fills the house with natural light—no lamps required.