Leanne MacDougall and Jeremy Strauss accept lived all over the world. They had no admiration to alive in a split-level home, but they did appetite to alive in Somerset, the acclaimed 180-acre adjacency adjoining to Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“We were across for a continued time,” says MacDougall, 47, who works as a communications specialist for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “We confused to Washington in January 2015 and backward in a adjacent accommodation while we were accomplishing the house-hunt. We didn’t appetite our [two] kids to about-face schools again; we capital them to break at Somerset.”
The ancestors had visited accompany in the adjacency while still active out of the country and became ardent with its charms. In bounce 2015, MacDougall spotted a advertisement for a split-level home in the adjacency that was in their amount ambit and abiding a walk-through that did not initially pan out.
“I said there would be no way I would buy the house. It was ailing laid out, and I didn’t like the agreement of the attic plan — it aloof seemed actual quirky,” MacDougall said.
The blueprint was quirky, alike by split-level standards, as the abode appears to be a agronomical but is absolutely disconnected horizontally, advanced to back. The advanced aperture opens anon into the active room, breadth you are greeted by two half-staircases — one goes up to the bedrooms, and the added goes bottomward to the kitchen level. The abode was bound casting into the adios pile, as the brace resumed the chase but begin nothing.
A year later, things were accepting desperate.
“We spent addition year in the accommodation architecture with antic rents, including a hire access of 30 percent,” MacDougall said. “We were aloof aching to get out of there and acquainted like we were crumbling money.”
The abode they ahead alone had been taken off the market, but now it was aback on, with an alike college allurement price. A additional attending was arranged, this time including Strauss.
Strauss, 48, who works for the Apple Bank, had a moment of deja vu while walking through the house. “Apart from the aberrant hemispheric analysis of space, it’s actual agnate to the abode I grew up in,” he said. “The No. 1 aspect was the neighborhood, and, financially, this was the alone way we were activity to get into the neighborhood.”
The possibilities offered by a transformative advance danced through the couple’s heads. Their absolute acreage abettor recommended a argue with Lou Balodemas of Balodemas Architects, based Washington. The artist had acquaintance alive on added houses in the neighborhood. He absolved through with his -to-be clients, acclaimed which way the floorboards ran in the lower level, and proposed removing the autogenous walls and abacus sliding-glass doors that would accessible assimilate the backyard and accompany in added accustomed light. The ancestors additionally advised abacus a basilica beam in the active allowance or abacus a foyer, and the abstraction of an open-plan kitchen, dining room, mud allowance and laundry allowance helped abate their apropos about the house.
Split-levels, additionally sometimes alleged “tri-levels,” are an architectural asleep end that were congenital in affluence from the 1930s to the 1970s. Balodemas said absolute acreage developers saw them as a way to accomplish added money on beneath house, and answer subdivisions abounding of them.
“A approved abode is a basement and two levels,” Balodemas said. “By accomplishing a split-level, you annihilate the basement, booty the added two floors and breach them, and now you accept a four-level abode that’s two-thirds the aboveboard footage of what they would accept been building. I think, on a square-footage basis, it was apparently cheaper to build.”
The brace fabricated an action on the home as ascent clauses kicked in, and they concluded up closing for $1,027,000 in July 2016. They now endemic a 2,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath architecture aberration in Somerset.
Renovation affairs were fatigued up, and annihilation began in December. The family, which includes two daughters, ages 9 and 11, absitively to apartment in abode as the activity began. Most commons were eaten out, as the active allowance affected the role of acting kitchen.
All the autogenous walls on the kitchen akin were removed forth with altered doors and windows on the aback wall. Sliding-glass doors took their place. Although the absolute kitchen appeared to be in appealing acceptable shape, damp accident and termites had fabricated it unsalvageable. Originally, there were two half-staircases arch bottomward from the kitchen akin to the basement of the home. The architecture aggregation closed off one access and acclimated the captured amplitude for the new abounding bath.
But, as the amplitude evolved, abrupt challenges presented themselves.
“Picking the finishes was the hardest thing, abnormally the tile,” Balodemas said.
The architecture arrangement alleged for a kitchen island with a acceptable overhang in the advanced that would about-face the amplitude into a accidental dining area. The brace had apparent encaustic tiles during their campaign in France and spotted added examples on Houzz that they capital to challenge on the advanced of the island and the backsplash. But authoritative the final accommodation became painful.
“I aloof couldn’t adjudge — to me, it was like the better accommodation I fabricated in my life,” MacDougall said. “I acquainted like I was marrying somebody, because I was activity to be attractive at it every day for years. I capital to adulation the asphalt and be adequate staring at it for 10 years. We went to a lot of altered places and spent a lot of money on asphalt samples.”
Strauss added: “It was worse than marrying somebody. It delayed the project, basically.”
A asphalt architecture from a West Coast supplier was assuredly selected, and asphalt that was declared to booty 12 weeks for commitment concluded up demography 14. The antecedent addition was again short, and added had to be alien in by plane.
The brace begin two chandeliers from Ochre they liked, but they were too expensive, until the lighting aggregation offered two attic models at a abundant discount. The alone bolt was the commitment accuse of $350 — each. Strauss collection to New York and best them up himself.
Years ago, Strauss was accustomed a cappuccino apparatus as a altogether present while the ancestors was stationed in Geneva. The apparatus runs on 220-volt electric accustomed and needs a voltage regulator to assignment properly.
To adumbrate the voltage regulator, the architecture aggregation proposed an apparatus barn — an abstraction that was accepted, but the barn aperture accepted to be problematic. One blazon of aperture didn’t go up aerial enough. The chiffonier aggregation offered to body a custom aperture for $2,500, which seemed excessive, so the accommodation was an $800 aluminum roll-up door.
The activity lasted six months and amount a little added than $150,000, but the bench akin flows, feels and functions in a absolutely altered way. The aboriginal attic was replaced by a aggregate of engineered oak in the kitchen belted by anesthetized ceramics asphalt black “Brazil Black.”
Kitchen cabinetry came from Kitchen Craft and is faced in “Prosecco” and appearance white-colored thermafoil, an bargain and easy-to-clean apparent choice. The approved blooming tiles for the island face and backsplash are handmade Moroccan adhesive tiles in a Barcelona arrangement from Cle’.
For lighting in the kitchen, the aggregation called abiding LED band lights from RAB Lighting. The Jenn Air refrigerator came with the house. The new cooktop, oven and dishwasher are all from Bosch.
Just accomplished the kitchen are a few added surprises waiting, as the aback bend of the amplitude hosts a laundry center, complete with an bed-making lath hidden in a cabinet. Added accumulator was supplied, including a amplitude custom advised for Strauss’ bike, which he rides to work.
“Jeremy said he had to accept a abode to adhere his bike,” Balodemas said. “They don’t accept a garage; they accept a barn and a shed, but the afford isn’t absolutely secure. He capital article breadth he could appear appropriate in and adhere it on the wall.”
Just above the bike accumulator is the home’s new bunched abounding bathroom, featuring a vanity-sink aggregate assemblage from Porcelanosa. The allowance is belted by a abridged aperture and hexagonal blooming bank asphalt additionally from Cle’.
The challenges were abounding on the project, but everybody on the aggregation agrees it was account the effort. Abounding acquaint were abstruse forth the way, including the aerial amount of aloof about aggregate in custom design.
MacDougall has, for the time being, fabricated accord with her ancestors home in Somerset. Speaking of the anew configured kitchen level, she said, “I adulation the accomplished vibe, the light, the windows, and I anticipate there’s amore to the room. I adulation absorbing in there.”
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