Rear Elevation Solution Makes Cramped House Feasible for Growing Family

How Master Designer/Remodeler Sonny Nazemian Finds Useful Square Footage In Places Others Overlook

The front door now is framed by an arched portico with square columns; a new flagstone walkway links the front door to the driveway.

Robert Brooks and Julie Griffith had occupied their 2,800 sq ft Colonial in McLean for over 20 years. In time, the house had proved an ideal place to raise a family, but as the two children grew, it had gradually come to seem inadequate. Recognizing that the good local schools and easy commute to work would be hard to replace,  the couple had decided against shopping for a larger residence further out. Enlarging the existing house was a consideration, but what plan would work?

There was much about the existing house that called for improvement. The kitchen was small, dark and dated. The original U-shaped kitchen counter, which incorporated the range oven and the sink, made it difficult for the cook to move freely into other rooms when entertaining. Storage was limited. Circulation between the kitchen and other first level rooms often caused traffic jams.

Upstairs, the master bathroom was too small; floor space in a teen daughter’s bedroom was hardly large enough to accommodate a work station.

A first floor laundry room behind the garage was vexingly inconvenient for two time-pressed working parents.  A powder room just outside the family room was, likewise, in the wrong place.

All of these factors taken into account, an addition on the rear elevation seemed to offer a practical space expansion plan.

But the bigger question was: what scope of changes would the family budget allow, and how could such a long list of desired modifications best be integrated into a whole greater than the sum of the parts?

As the unanswered questions accumulated, Sonny Nazemian, chairman and founder of Michael Nash Kitchens and Homes, entered the scene.   

After opening up the existing home’s rear elevation, Michael Nash added a 12’ x 24’ two level addendum in the middle of the rear elevation and one level hyphen linking it to the rear of the garage. Decking and a screen porch complete the modification. The entire exterior has been re-sided in Hardiplank.

“Several design strategies appeared applicable from the start,” Nazemian reflects. “A  solution that integrates newly-built square footage with a thoughtful reconfiguration of interior space can offer a significant lifestyle enhancement. As remodelers, we look for an architectural context that will allow us to re-deploy out-of-date floorplan features while introducing an alternative that better accommodates individual requirements and the family’s social needs. We have found there’s very broad interest in this approach to remodeling—especially in the close-in neighborhoods.”

Taken as a whole, the Brooks-Griffith program called for two separate additions on the rear of the house. The new construction would be integrated into a whole house remodel that would include a new front facade and new siding on the entire exterior.

A 12’ x 24’ two-level addition in the middle of the rear elevation would house a first floor kitchen/family room suite integrated with the existing kitchen’s footprint as well as a second level master bedroom suite with spa bath and walk-in closets.

Meanwhile, a smaller (8’ x 24’) one level hyphen linking the garage and kitchen was designed to accommodate a mudroom and added storage as well as a new powder room.

A small grilling deck accessible from the kitchen segues to a screen porch built on a side elevation. The porch is also linked to the formal dining room via a side door.

In short, a perfect platform for fair weather entertaining.

The screen porch with decorative decor is accessed from a door off the dining room—a comfortable spot to take in the air.

To better integrate the two-level addition into the existing house, a 22-foot section of bearing wall was removed on the rear elevation. A structural beam flush with the existing perimeter and mounted on vertical I-beams now provides support for the second floor. The solution offers a seamless interface between the home’s new and old sections.

“The structural solution invites an open, transitional-style interior design,” Nazemian observes. “Sight lines are extended and the square footage is enlarged dramatically, yet formal design elements define activity zones that are functionally self-contained.”

The first level plan, moreover, allocates square footage needed for both an expansive L-shaped gourmet kitchen and a butler’s pantry between kitchen and new formal dining room.

The food prep island is visual linked to the hearth in the front-facing family room. Large kitchen windows and double French doors, likewise, invite abundant natural light in all directions.  French doors open into the spacious back yard, offering a comfortable indoor/outdoor component.

To augment first level visual continuum, the wall between family room and kitchen was replaced with a large food preparation island and dining counter.

Equipped with a sink, dishwasher and glass-facing display cabinets, the marble-surfaced  island dominates the open space.  Overhead, two glass and chrome chandeliers balance the composition.

A small refrigerator built into the island faces into the breakfast room; from the  family room side, the built-in affords easy access to TV and media equipment. The island also offers stool seating for four, and buffet-style counter space.

Despite its many amenities and functional work triangles, the kitchen/great room abounds in interactive gathering zones well-suited for entertaining.

White cabinetry and soft marble surfaces present a bright lively finish. Soft subway tiles and blue-tint glass tile recede softly into a French country ambiance.

Naturally-stained wood floors installed throughout the entire first floor reinforce an uplifting interior style.          

Upstairs, extensive modifications provide sweeping lifestyle benefits.

There’s a larger master bedroom suite with a 130 square foot walk-in closet.

The new 230 square foot master bathroom boasts a whirlpool tub with a view of the back yard, a large marble shower stall, a double vanity, marble floors and lots of storage capacity.

The master bathroom boasts a large whirlpool tub with a view of the back yard, a large marble shower stall, long double vanity and marble floors.

Linen cabinets and a walk-in closet with small windows located just outside the new bathroom provide ample wardrobe space.

For added convenience: the second floor bathroom has been converted into new laundry room—an easy reach from bedrooms, bathroom and closets.

The teenage daughter’s room has been enhanced by an 8’x8’ sleeping alcove built over the screened porch, a modification that provides the square footage needed for a larger work station and a walk-in closet.

Enhanced by an 8’x8’ sleeping alcove built over the screened-in porch, the daughter’s bedroom gains floorspace for a personal work station.

At the front of the house, the formerly cramped front foyer has been tastefully refurbished. Multi-color wood flooring in a basket weave pattern lends definition. The archway into the living room—widened by ten feet—makes the foyer seem substantially larger. Pocket French doors surrounded by built-in bookcases have been installed between foyer and living room adding both function and elegance.

Multicolor wood flooring in a basket weave pattern lends style and definition to the revised front foyer. The archway into the living room, widened by ten feet, makes the foyer seem substantially larger. Pocket French doors surrounded by built- in bookcases add both function and elegance.

Distinctive finishwork touches are everywhere. There’s crown molding throughout the first and second floors; shadow boxing in the dining room, hallway and stairway; wood flooring in the master bedroom and closet; new carpeting on the rest of the second floor among many upgrades.

Outside, old siding has been replaced with Hardie plank, trim, and fascia board; windows, gutters, roof and downspouts are also new.

New exterior windows in varied shapes and sizes combined with angular corners in selected roof lines enhance curb appeal.

The front door is now framed by an arched portico with square columns; a new flagstone walkway links the front door to the driveway.    

“As remodelers, we are particularly pleased when we can find budget-sensitive ways to help owners stay in a neighborhood where they’ve established their roots as a family,” Nazemian says. “In this case, we’ve enhanced the charm of the original house­—but it is much more functional and presentable. That’s the outcome we seek.”

For information: 703/641-9800 or

Pictured at top: 

The spacious Brooks-Griffith kitchen/ great room in McLean replaces the original 20 year old galley-style original. As the new heart of the house, L-shaped “open” plan is linked to the backyard through French doors, to a deck and screened porch, and to the new formal dining room via a butler’s pantry. It also segues to a front-facing family room with hearth, and to the foyer. As the largest gathering place in the house, it is ideal for entertaining.

BEFORE (inset). The footprint of the home’s original galley kitchen was incorporated into a substantially enlarged “open” plan. To  connect the new addition to the existing house, remodeler Michael Nash removed 22 feet of the rear elevation, supporting the second floor with a steel beam mounted on vertical supports.

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