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Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Task Lighting

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2,600 sq. feet


  • Robert M. Gurney
  • Robert M. Gurney
  • Anice Hoachlander



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Project Description

2006 CHDA
Custom Renovation / Merit Award

Even if you look hard at the pictures of this suburban Northern Virginia home, you might not guess that it began life as a split-level tract house. That says a lot. The ubiquitous three-bedroom split may have had its functional virtues, but it never was long on either looks or personality. And as many an architect will attest, it has proven stubbornly resistant to improvement. Architect Robert Gurney seems to have cracked the code with this renovation, though. With only a modest increase in footprint—and without razing the building to its foundation—he has created a split that really sings.

Adding only 500 square feet of interior living space, largely by incorporating an existing screened porch, Gurney addressed all of the functional shortcomings of the existing plan. Where once the front door opened directly into the living room, he used a frosted glass partition to carve out an entry hall. Two window walls open the existing dining area to the backyard gardens. A modest expansion of the bedroom wing boosted closet space to meet contemporary standards.

But the real action occurs overhead. Blowing the lid off the existing house, Gurney redefined the building's massing with four distinct roof elements. Flat decks cover the carport, bedroom wing, and entry-kitchen-dining space. A high vault, surmounting a glass clerestory, gives the living room a gallery-like openness without sacrificing privacy. Viewed from the street, the scheme thoroughly scrambles any split-level visual cues. Our judges called it “an unbelievable transformation.”
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