Whole-House Remodel with a Tuscan Feel

After living in it for seven years, the owners of this Tuscan-inspired residence in McLean, Va., knew what they loved about their 60-year-old home — and what they didn't. Making the decision to remodel rather than move, the couple put together their own carefully considered list of what they thought would improve the home's overall livability for their entire family which includes three s...

August 31, 2007
Whole-House Remodel
Products List
Heightened Experience

The homeowners had outgrown their old kitchen. The new kitchen was relocated to the space previously occupied by the family room.
After photos by Anne Gummerson Photography

After living in it for seven years, the owners of this Tuscan-inspired residence in McLean, Va., knew what they loved about their 60-year-old home — and what they didn't. Making the decision to remodel rather than move, the couple put together their own carefully considered list of what they thought would improve the home's overall livability for their entire family which includes three school-aged children.


One of their key desires was to retain the home's unique Mediterranean architectural character which was what had initially drawn them to the house. Its stucco exterior, beamed ceilings, hand painted details and arched colonnade reminded the wife of her northern California roots and holding on to that was very important to her, says Wilma Bowers, of Bowers Design Build, the McLean, Va.-based construction and remodeling company which she partners with husband and company founder, Bruce.

The remodeled home was expanded both vertically and horizontally, impacting literally every room, says Bowers. The company's updated design included additions for a great room off the rear of the home as well as an upper floor office and guest suite; relocation of the kitchen; extension of the rear footprint of the home's bedroom wing in order to increase their size and number; a new full bath; removal and reconstruction of the central core of the home in order to create space for a volume entry and new upper floor as well as to add ceiling height and windows to the basement which was then finished as recreational space; a mud room with secondary laundry facilities; and a three-car garage.

The new floor plan for the split-level home includes four distinct zones designed to meet all of the homeowner's requirements. The main level provides space for the family's daily living and entertaining needs with key areas relocated to improve their function. The original dark and narrow foyer was replaced by a dramatic, two-story entry with a view out to the rear terrace rather than into the kitchen.

"The foyer is a very important part of a home," says Bowers, "because it really sets the stage for how the whole house feels."

The kitchen/breakfast area was relocated to the rear of the home in the space that was previously the family room. The updated space includes a large center island and a more contemporary visual connection to the new great room. In place of the former kitchen the homeowners now have a large, open flex space which includes a lobby for greeting and entertaining guests as well as the home's formal dining area. Multiple sets of antique, arch-topped French doors provide access to the rear colonnade and terrace from this zone.

The next zone features the secondary bedrooms and master suite. The original stepped floor plan of this portion of the home was extended to the rear by six feet and reconfigured to provide space for a staircase to the new upper floor; create three, rather than two, secondary bedrooms, plus a powder room and two full baths. The elevated master retreat was also expanded to the rear and now includes its own entry vestibule and more closet space.

The addition of the upper floor contributed most to the dramatic visual transformation of the home inside and out by providing the opportunity for interior volumes and distinctive exterior architectural features. This level includes a computer center with a cathedral ceiling, a large office and a guest suite.

Big changes were also made in the fourth zone, the basement, which was located underneath the central portion of the home. A two-car garage, also below grade, adjoined the basement and provided the foundation for the master suite.

"Originally, the basement had a low ceiling and no windows. It really felt like a cave down there," says Bowers. "The homeowners really wanted to make better use of this part of their home so it could function as recreational and entertaining space."

In place of the kitchen, the homeowners now have a lobby which they use for greeting guests and entertaining.

The challenge was to add ceiling height to this level in order to make it feel less claustrophobic as well as to provide room for the addition of windows (see sidebar). The new basement includes a wine cellar, play room, TV viewing room, large recreation area and a putting green.

The remodeler paid careful attention to maintaining the integrity of the home's original finishes including preserving tile flooring, hand-painted frescoes and beamed ceilings and reintroduced similar details throughout the re-design. Arched doorways and windows were used to recreate, and even improve upon, the original architectural charm and character of the home.


Whole-House Remodel

REMODELER AND ARCHITECT: Bowers Design Build, McLean, Va.
AGE OF HOME: 60 years old
SCOPE OF WORK: Whole-house remodel

Products List

Cabinets: Crystal Carpet: Shaw HVAC: Carrier Ceramic Tile: Architectural Ceramics Columns: Crystal Countertops: Granite Doors: Masonite Garage Doors: Wayne-Dalton (custom wood) Faucets (Kitchen and Bathroom): Kohler; Newport Brass Flooring: Superior Flooring (reclaimed barn boards) Home Systems & Controls: Leviton Lighting Fixtures: Kichler, Lightolier, Progress, Sea Gull, Troy House Wrap: Tyvek (DuPont) Kitchen Appliances: Viking Appliances Locksets: La Forge Paints & Stains: Benjamin Moore Roofing: CertainTeed Security Systems: ADT Siding: Dryvit Stucco Sinks: Franke Water Heaters: Rheem Windows: Kolbe & Kolbe

Heightened Experience

With the basement serving as the foundation for the central portion of the home, raising its ceiling height proved to be a tricky operation, according to Wilma Bowers, vice president of Marketing and Strategic Planning for the remodeler. "Not only did we have to make the ceiling taller, but we were also expanding the living space into the area formerly occupied by the underground two-car garage directly underneath the master suite."

During the process, the majority of the home's existing central structure was removed from the roof down to the foundation. A new, taller rear foundation wall was built and the slab was extended to match the existing basement slab elevation. Then the front foundation wall height was increased by two courses of block in order to match the new rear wall height, increasing the head height in this part of the basement from approximately 7 to 8 ½ feet. Column pier footings, steel columns and steel beams were used to maintain manageable clear spans.

According to Evan Donaldson, senior estimator for Bowers Design Build, portions of the existing structure were supported during demolition and construction using temporary shoring walls and similar techniques. Under the master bedroom wing, however, the entire slab on grade floor was removed and three sides of the foundation wall were permanently "underpinned," a process by which alternating 3-foot segments of the foundation were excavated and "undermined," with new concrete footings and walls placed below them at the new design depth. After these segments had been supported and were stable, the remaining adjacent 3-foot segments were excavated, undermined and underpinned. The concrete slab for the new recreation room was then poured at the same depth as the rest of the basement slab. The new ceiling height in this area was increased from approximately 8 to 9 ½ feet.

The homeowner was thrilled with the results, says Bowers. "He wanted to be able to swing a golf club down there and now he can."

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