Tucked among the nearby storefronts, the bland entry door of 1247 Wisconsin Ave. in northwest Washington, D.C., shows no hint of the dramatic secret that lies on the other side. Bethesda, Md.-based McInturff Architects has deftly inserted six luxury rental apartments into two restored mid-19th century commercial buildings, creating what firm principal Mark McInturff, FAIA, calls a “rooftop village floating above the bustle of the city.”

It's a bold project—one developer Eastbanc embraced, putting full faith and trust in McInturff's firm. “They gave us the freedom to do what we wanted,” says McInturff, who has worked with the developer before. Freedom wasn't easy to extract from Georgetown's historic district, nor from the site itself, however. According to McInturff, the 46-foot-by-200-foot lot with 50-foot- and 80-foot-deep buildings imposed multiple constraints. “We knew we would have to preserve the existing historic buildings, but we also knew there was the potential for a hideaway village up top,” he says.

McInturff Architects carefully transformed two historic buildings into six rental units while creating precious—and unexpected—outdoor spaces.
Julia Heine McInturff Architects carefully transformed two historic buildings into six rental units while creating precious—and unexpected—outdoor spaces.

To build this village, the firm extended the rear of the existing structures and inserted a new volume that creates a bisected courtyard. Ultimately, this new piece and the original four-story buildings morphed into five two-level apartments and one three-level unit. All have open floor plans and large windows and doors to bring in light. “We opened up the top floors to give them generous space and removed walls that didn't make sense for an apartment,” says Peter Noonan, AIA, project architect and a firm principal.

The luxurious yet understated units are appointed with high-quality products, including Douglas fir windows, German-made kitchen cabinets and bath fixtures, and vertical-seam zinc exterior cladding. Eastbanc, McInturff explains, has a European point of view about design, stressing quality and refinement in the materials it specs. The company also appreciates energy efficiency and sustainable design, so the units have low-VOC paint, bamboo flooring, and efficient mechanical systems.

These sleek, high-tech elements are all hidden behind the buildings' preserved façade. (The architects even managed to slip five parking spaces at the rear.) The result is so effortless you'd hardly guess the project is the firm's first foray into multifamily design. “I have been spoiled,” McInturff says of the project. “It was a joy and pleasure, and we are happy with it.”

1247 Wisconsin Ave., Washington, D.C.

McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Md.

general contractor:
Kadcon Corp., Washington, D.C.

project size:
1,000 square feet to 2,700 square feet per unit

site size:
0.21 acre

construction cost:

rental price:
$2,500 to $7,000 per unit per month

number of units:

Julia Heine

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