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Colleen Healey melds old and new for historic DC house renovation

Colleen Healey Architecture has revamped a home on a radial lot facing Washington DC‘s Logan Circle, retaining historic details while updating the spaces for contemporary living.

The renovated eight-bedroom house fronts Logan Circle, one of the city’s grand rotaries that connects several major avenues, created as part of engineer Pierre L’Enfant’s original masterplan.

Light shines down past exposed floor joists onto an original brick wall
During the renovation, brick walls and floor joists were exposed to contrast a contemporary kitchen

Due to its location, the lines of the building’s plan are subtly radial and therefore none of its walls are parallel to one another.

This proved a challenge for local architect Colleen Healey, who had no choice but to embrace this and incorporate the unusual parameters into the design.

Low chairs either side of a grey rug, in front of a large window
A garden room was created at the rear of the building, where sliding glass doors open onto a patio

“The effects of the radial lot not only informed design decisions, but provided inspiration for rounded references and other geometric subtleties,” said the studio.

Built in 1883, the home’s three-story front section once comprised an entry hall, living and dining room on the ground floor, an owner’s suite and two spare bedrooms on the first floor, and two further bedrooms on the second.

View through arched corridor to the back of the house
Since none of the walls are parallel, wooden flooring was laid diagonally

The rear section is set at half levels and features smaller rooms and lower ceiling heights.

“Much of the original elements and bones of the house were in great shape and our clients desired a mix of historic charm and modern upgrades,” said Healey.

Living room with tall ceilings, white walls, and dark wood trims
Rooms at the front of the house, which have taller ceilings, retain many of their historic details

The back portion received the most attention during the renovation, remade as the “heart of the house” where a large kitchen features a U-shaped quartzite counter and a garden room faces the patio.

Skylights were created in the roof, allowing light to wash down original brick walls and through gaps between wooden floor joists exposed above the kitchen.

Bedroom with white walls and minimal light fixtures
In the bedroom, a fireplace was sacrificed in favour of a headboard and art wall

Since the walls are positioned at angles, wood flooring was laid diagonally in this area.

An arched opening between the two sections of the house was extended to 10 feet, allowing a powder room and storage space to be added behind its plaster surfaces.

“A new finished lower level and existing bathrooms are upgraded with a mix of vintage and industrial charm, blending tastes of both clients and using elements original to the house whenever possible,” Healey said.

The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms retained their dark wood window trims and shutters, baseboards and ornate fireplaces, but are refreshed with bright white walls and contemporary light fixtures.

Bathroom with freestanding tub in front of a large window
The bathrooms also feature a mix of original details and new industrial-style fittings

However, in the primary suite, the fireplace was removed to make way for a widened headboard and art wall.

In the remaining rooms, items belonging to the clients are combined with mid-century furniture and minimal lighting to contrast the historic details.

Exterior of house facing Logan Circle
The house was built in 1883 and faces onto Washington DC’s Logan Circle

“The result is a modern sensibility that unites the old and new spaces and creates a striking juxtaposition with the home’s architecture,” the team concluded.

This isn’t the first time that Colleen Healey Architecture has worked with an atypical lot. The studio previously restored and expanded an early 20th-century carriage house in Maryland, on a site shaped like a smoking pipe.

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