Converted long ago to office space, this townhouse in the heart of Washington, D.C.'s downtown commercial district seemed an unlikely candidate for a return engagement as a residence. But this thorough renovation—historically correct on the outside, yet fearlessly imaginative on the inside—makes a convincing case for the appeal of a family home in the urban core.

Architect Robert M. Gurney's orderly floor plans emphasize the linear quality of the building, which stretches some 100 feet from sidewalk to rear alley. The section reveals bolder moves: a room-size shaft of vertical space, which opens the two main living floors to a huge skylight, and a rooftop addition whose glass garage doors link two separate roof decks. “The interiors bring light all the way into the core of the building,” noted a judge.

Because the owner shuns wood but loves color, Gurney and project designer John Riordan specified a liquid-applied epoxy floor finish in bright blue and stark white. The galvanized steel sheets that line one long side wall face an opposite wall of exposed brick masonry—the contrasting materials bookend the house's century of life. And while this renovation reflects a contemporary concept of downtown living, it also returns the building to a time-honored pattern of use: The owners plan to lease the ground floor as a coffee shop.

Project Credits
: Robert M. Gurney

, FAIA, Alexandria, Va.
Builder: Prill Construction Group, Bethesda, Md.
Structural engineer: D. Anthony Beale LLC, Springfield, Va.
Living space: 3,700 square feet
Site: 0.04 acre
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Paul Warchol

Product Specs
Bathroom fittings: Agape, Kaempf & Harris, Kohler Co.; Flooring (ceramic tile/stone/concrete): Fusion Floors; Lighting fixtures: ANTA Leuchten GmbH, Artemide U.S.A., BEGA/US