Urban Oasis 

Natural light and fluid space are key elements in the renovation of this home for a resident of the historic “Strivers District” in the center of Washington DC. A new kitchen was connected with a pocket courtyard and “vertical” garden to create an urban oasis at the heart of the house. Natural light floods the kitchen by day for cooking or reading the morning paper. Glass doors open to a stone patio blurring the line between inside and out. Cool colors help to create a visual connection with the greenery and blue skies of the adjacent outdoor space. Cedar fences were designed as green walls with trellises, hanging flower boxes, and a row of planters on top that transform the urban skyline. At night, candles glow in perforated metal holders and create a magical place for a summertime party. In the fall, friends can gather around the brick fireplace on wood benches with hot drinks.

light + color

Materials were used in such a way as to enjoy the ephemeral quality of light, while a palette of cool colors, warm woods and simple patterns add visual interest throughout the home. In the powder room, a translucent countertop is backlit while the sink appears to float. Concrete slabs set with chips of blue and green glass provide an accent counter in the kitchen, newel post caps in the stairway, and a living room mantle. Glass tile is juxtaposed with glass block and free-floating glass shelves in the bathroom. Glass and aluminum cabinets in the kitchen reflect light, making the space feel more open.

health + environment
Materials chosen for their eco-friendly properties include: all-natural linoleum floors, stone from a local quarry, recycled glass counters, and sustainably-harvested cedar. Non-toxic pressure-treated lumber and low-VOC paints and sealers keep the house healthier, while putting less of a strain on the environment. Energy-saving measures include EnergyStar rated appliances and windows, energy-efficient lighting, daylighting, and a new roof coating to cut down on internal heat gain. Water is conserved with efficient appliances and fixtures and properly managed with outdoor landscaping that allows stormwater infiltration.

Creative thinking and teamwork allowed the owner, architect and contractor to work together to establish common goals and provide solutions. Tools such as the Sustainable Building Industry Council’s “Green Building Guidelines” and Energy10 energy modeling software – as well as the resources available from a growing community of like-minded practitioners in the DC area – helped to ensure a greener end product.