This renovated kitchen sits at the heart of this elegant Flemish Revival townhouse on Massachusetts Avenue's historic Embassy Row. The townhouse, once the former Libyan Embassy, was closed and uninhabited for 25 years. The neglect suffered by the house was dramatic; the rear half of the house was structurally unstable due to protracted roof leaks. The finishes and layout had suffered from this neglect and unfortunate earlier remodeling.
The challenge to return the house to its original use as a single family residence, and restore the historic fabric and finishes that remained inside and out and emulate them elsewhere as appropriate, was a daunting undertaking. Compounding this was the project’s location within a number of Historic Districts. The restoration was done under the scrutiny of these Historic review Boards and also required a DC Zoning Special Exception for a minor rear addition. It was successfully completed under the Historic Preservation Certificate Application program.
The house was entirely restored, bracing and reframing the worst-damaged rear of the house's structure, where the kitchen is located. A small rear addition, terrace and garden were also added. Years of paint on the facade were removed and the brick and limestone facade restored. The Flemish gabled dormers were removed and rebuilt and slate roof replaced. Existing windows, doors, moldings and light fixtures were restored. The plumbing and electrical systems were completely replaced. Despite the addition of foam roof insulation, the restoration and reuse of the windows and older finishes on the uninsulated walls meant the house would remain energy inefficient. A geothermal system was used as the heating and cooling source with its low energy use to address the issue.
A new first floor layout puts the kitchen between the formal living and dining rooms at the front of the house and the informal sitting area that overlooks a new rear terrace. The working space of the kitchen wraps the corner to the existing exterior wall, while a large island anchors the room and provides a space to gather and entertain. A wall of taller cabinets and built-ins allows for ample storage and a small office space.
Natural light floods the space from the terrace doors of the adjacent sitting room. The counter follows the lines of the refinished windows, which provide additional light and views of the side terrace. Wood floors and painted cabinets with light counters provide a neutral backdrop for copper accents at the sink, stove and pendant lights hanging over the island.
The new space acts as a link between the various spaces within the house, making it a true thoroughfare and hub of activity. The renovated space is a fully functioning kitchen with modern amenities that responds well to the home’s historic fabric through well thought out details and finishes. The new kitchen is an integral part in the townhouse’s revival to a single family residence that once again stands proudly equal to its fine neighbors in Embassy Row.