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Bloom House, Glen Echo, Md.

Bloom House

Bloom House

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Washington, D.C., is a haven for many things, but modernism isn’t among them. This is a colonial kind of town, with taste in design as traditional as a gray flannel suit. Which makes it all the more remarkable that just 10 minutes from the city is the very modern Bloom House, the Builder’s Choice Project of the Year. The home earned the ultimate nod from the jury because it’s a generously proportioned house that’s as at home on its site as it is light on its feet. Varied materials and differentiated forms result in a house that, despite its size, feels light and airy.

And when minimalist massing is involved, that balancing act is easier said than done. “The site informed the project,” says architect Bob Gurney of the wooded setting and river views. “The last thing we wanted to do was level the land—our goal was to save as many mature trees as possible,” he says. Those wooded views, adds Gurney, made lots of glass an obvious choice. The windows are custom steel and they were a splurge, along with terrazzo floors, mahogany millwork, and hydronic heating.

But as with any project, budget was an issue; rectangular and square forms made framing easier and less expensive. Simple forms and abundant daylight in turn let the interior walls take on shadows and light. “You can get away with simple painted drywall and can use millwork and paneling more sparingly,” says Gurney. “Here, the focus is on the exterior, so interior finishes can be more subdued.”

The home’s two large volumes are connected by a glass bridge suspended over a small pool. There are views both to the woods and the river, and the glass floor makes you feel like you’re suspended in air. “The transparent element makes a nice juxtaposition with the solid elements,” says Gurney. Instead of a corridor that you just walk through, he says, “You find yourself stopping in the middle to take in the space.”