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See this room’s major transformation. By Michelle Thomas
All photos courtesy of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath.

This makeover renders this kitchen practically unrecognizable. The original space had a few basic layout problems—including a standard U-shape design that left lots of unusable space but offered little storage—and not much personality. The homeowners wished for a clean-lined, modern look with a touch of European style.

Designer Paul Bentham of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath completely renovated the space to incorporate a 13-foot center island that follows the room’s length. On one end is stovetop cooking and a waterfall top; on the other, seating for five and a table-style overhang. The island's four-inch Peruvian walnut imparts a rich warmth against the slick, high-gloss white of the wall and island base cabinets and cool marble backsplash and counters. Bentham searched for eight months to source the matching walnut veneer for the perimeter cabinets. Final touches? Hidden Miele appliances and wine chillers to stash the homeowner’s collection, a stainless steel vent hood, and sculptural pendant lights.

Take a closer look at the transformation below.

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Posted at 02:52 PM/ET, 04/21/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
This room takes a chic turn with mixed metals, glossy subway tiles, and a marble-top vanity. By Michelle Thomas

As one of the area’s top wedding photographers, Abby Jiu hangs out in some pretty glamorous settings on the regular. So it should come as no huge surprise that she’d want her home to reflect an equally stylish aesthetic—and that includes in her master bath. Jiu recently paired with designer Joanna Abizaid of Cline Rose Designs to transform her Alexandria home's basic bath into a dreamy, vintage-inspired haven.

Top priority was incorporating a freestanding soaking tub—a must-have that ended up informing the entire project as Abizaid worked to blend Jiu’s love of clean lines with a feminine, vintage vibe. Abizaid chose a modern take on the classic claw-foot and combined it with white subway tile on the walls and a dark gray herringbone tile on the floors. Next, the pair added a chic mix of metals, pairing a soft aged brass hardware with glossy chrome fixtures. The finishing touches? A luxe Carerra marble-top vanity, French-inspired mirrors—only $159 each!—and a shimmering crystal mini-chandelier to maximize the room’s glam factor.

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Posted at 04:10 PM/ET, 04/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
And now it costs nearly $4 million. By Michelle Thomas

If you've secretly always wanted to live in a church—and you also have nearly $4 million to burn—here's your chance. For 80-plus years, this 1855 Tudor was known as the Market Street Chapel to its Georgetown neighbors. Then in the 1930s, it was redeveloped into a residence, and in 2012 underwent a complete renovation to end up the place it is today—a five-bedroom, four-bath home with an in-law suite, a contemporary kitchen, two separately deeded garages, and a rare side garden that connects to the the rear patio. Architectural features include wooden beams and accents, a huge arched window, and, of course, cathedral ceilings.

1552 33rd Street NW is listed at $3.895 million. See inside below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for more details.

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Posted at 12:11 PM/ET, 03/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Builder-grade basics turn luxe. By Michelle Thomas
All photographs courtesy of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath.

With limited cabinet space, a standard-issue shower and bathtub, and no natural light, this 150-square foot master bathroom was about as basic as they come. The homeowners wished for a space that was both efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing. So designers from Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath stepped in, renovating the boring bath to create a relaxing, serene, and warm environment. The plain shower was replaced with a larger walk-in that includes a built-in bench and spa-style shower sprays, and the drop-in bathtub made way for a tranquil, free-standing soaking tub. Glass mosaic tiles behind the tub were placed to create a waterfall effect. To remedy the lack of daylight, a drop ceiling and cove lighting were built to mimic a skylight. Final details? A luxe heated floor and a TV screen tucked into the medicine cabinet for entertainment during long soaks.

Check out the renovated room below.

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Posted at 01:10 PM/ET, 03/24/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
See inside the incredible re-do of this 1889 Howard County church. By Michelle Thomas

Talk about a vision: Built in 1889, this Howard County Episcopal church had fallen upon years of abandonment after its congregation formed a new church. Enter Stacia Smith. She was smitten with the building’s bones, and in 2012 the interior designer snapped up the property with plans to convert the 3,800 square foot space into the headquarters for her design company, Homewood Interiors.

Smith shepherded the place through a full interior and exterior rehabilitation, taking care to retain and enhance much of the building’s original architecture. She sourced masonry stonework to match the original exterior, and replaced the battered accent windows with handmade stained glass versions done in her company’s hues. Next up, she added a custom eight-foot glass dome, antique reclaimed pine floors, and eco-friendly materials for the kitchen.

The result? An imaginative reuse of an interesting old space. Take a peek at the amazing transformation below.

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Posted at 02:53 PM/ET, 03/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
With the area seeing a spike in demand from homebuyers, here's how one organization saved a historical home. By Marisa M. Kashino
Lauren McHale and Carol Goldman are on a mission to save historic homes. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

The small green house at the top of Maple View Place in Anacostia has endured a lot of drama.

Businessman and landowner Henry Griswold built the two-story Queen Anne in the 1880s. By the start of this century, it was in rough shape. The elderly woman who lived there had sewage problems, and in 2012 she sold the decaying structure to a house flipper who was soon overwhelmed. The city ordered him to stop work—much of which was illegal—but not before he had ripped out load-bearing walls, further jeopardizing the home’s integrity.

At this point, tearing the place down would have been the easiest and cheapest solution. However, 1347 Maple View is in Anacostia’s historic district, meaning that wasn’t a likely option. It seemed destined for the same fate as many other vacant buildings caught in the neighborhood’s real-estate purgatory: too dilapidated to fix up and sell; too significant, according to the Historic Preservation Review Board’s standards, to raze.

Photograph of house before renovation courtesy of the L’Enfant Trust.

Then came a lucky break. The L’Enfant Trust, an organization that since 1978 has focused on preserving DC’s architecture, launched its Historic Properties Redevelopment Program last year, essentially becoming the city’s first nonprofit developer with a primary goal of historic preservation. The Maple View house was just what the group had in mind for its inaugural purchase. It bought the home from the flipper in August of last year for $125,000 and set out to save it—all with the understanding that it wouldn’t make any money on the property.

Everyone knows that Washington’s real-estate market is booming. But in historic Anacostia, things are complicated. Dozens of buildings and lots sit empty. DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) owns 36 of them, including at least one home the agency has held onto for a decade.

The city can sell its properties for well below market value, thus making them more feasible to rehab for a profit—so why are they still abandoned? DHCD spokesman Marcus Williams says physically stabilizing the properties, conducting “highest and best use” studies, soliciting community input, and leadership changes within his agency can all contribute to prolonging the process.

And for better or worse, historic-preservation laws are among the reasons some stretches of Anacostia streets remain darkened: “If developers could knock down these houses and build them new without design review, sure, they’d be doing it,” says David Maloney, DC’s state historic-preservation officer.

Buyers, it seems, would be waiting. Just as in trendier neighborhoods, bidding wars and escalation clauses have become the norm in Anacostia. The Zip code’s median home price was $300,000 as of September, up from $238,750 a year before, according to data collected by RealEstate Business Intelligence.

Anne and Cody McNeal, a consultant and an architect who used to rent at 14th and U streets, Northwest, bought another home renovated by the L’Enfant Trust’s program this year. The McNeals previously lost three other Anacostia properties to higher bids. “Inventory was extremely low. We were at it for seven months,” says Anne. “We saw maybe one home come on every other week that fit our needs.”

While relaxing the historic-district rules would likely speed development, preservationists argue that doing so would come at a major cost to Anacostia’s character. Carol Goldman, president of the L’Enfant Trust, and Lauren McHale, its preservation director, helped found their redevelopment program on the belief that rescuing the homes “both honors a community’s past and supports its sustainable future.”

Lauren McHale is the L'Enfant Trust's preservation director. Carol Goldman is president. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

When they—with architect Jonathan Kuhn and general contractor John Moody—got to work on 1347 Maple View, they found that the house wasn’t tied into the city’s sewer system (which explains its former owner’s complaints) and was resting on unstable soil. Its entire back was gone, too.

They brought in structural engineers to make the place safe and built a new rear section. Enviroshake, which manufactures a material that mimics old cedar shingles, donated the roof. Sherwin-Williams and Tech Painting Co. supplied the paint, and Ikea contributed bathroom fixtures.

In total, purchasing and rehabilitating the home topped $580,000. L’Enfant put it on the market this October for $365,000 and received eight offers. The three-bedroom, 1½-bath house sold for $390,000—though well over asking, still a nearly $200,000 loss. L’Enfant has completed two homes so far—1347 Maple View and the house bought by the McNeals, on 14th Street, Southeast. Goldman hopes future projects won’t be so expensive for the trust. One way to reduce costs would be if DHCD handed over some of its long-vacant properties.

Asked why she couldn’t acquire any of those houses rather than buying the two from private owners, Goldman gives a politically correct answer: “The city didn’t understand us yet. We felt it was fair that we prove ourselves.”

The now pristine green house at the top of Maple View Place sure looks like solid proof.

When the L’Enfant Trust bought the home, it was open to the elements and missing its back section. Keeping within the original footprint, architect Jonathan Kuhn and general contractor John Moody built a new rear with a bright kitchen. Photograph before renovation courtesy of the L’Enfant Trust. Photograph after renovation by Andrew Propp.
A house flipper had ripped out load-bearing walls, further jeopardizing the integrity of the 120-plus-year-old house, which was already in bad shape. Photograph courtesy of L'Enfant Trust.
The trust brought in structural engineers to undo the damage. Photograph by Andrew Propp.
A staircase to the second floor had to be shifted and widened to meet modern safety requirements. Photograph before renovation courtesy of L'Enfant Trust. Photograph after renovation by Andrew Propp.
1347 Maple View Place is one of two houses completed so far by the L'Enfant Trust. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Posted at 01:17 PM/ET, 12/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Remodelers from Jennifer Gilmer's Kitchen & Bath transformed this Old Town master bath from 1980s glam to spa-like tranquility. By Michelle Thomas
Photographs by Bob Narod.

Ornate is not for everyone. After buying a home in Alexandria's Old Town, the new owner of this dated black-and-gold master bath was ready for a more tranquil feel. She worked with bath designer Carolyn Thomas of Jennifer Gilman Kitchen & Baths, who spearheaded a complete makeover of the existing room. On the client's wish list? A steam shower with a convenient bench, a soaking tub, and an improved dressing area in the hall right outside the bathroom. Thomas took inspiration from a Calcutta marble and Gascogne blue limestone mosaic tile to inform the rest of the bath design, working in a contemporary glass shower, lighter marble counters, airy painted cabinets, a soft, feminine dressing vanity, and elegant wall sconces. Goodbye, '80s drama; hello, spa-like serenity.

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Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 11/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What you need to know about keeping your home updated and safe for years to come. By Kay Wicker
Aging homeowners often move the master bedroom downstairs, as in this home renovated by architect Bruce Wentworth. Photograph by Geoffrey Hodgdon.

Not everyone likes the idea of swapping a well-loved family home for a new start in a city condo. We asked local builders and designers to tell us what improvements can help aging homeowners stay where they are.


Entryway and Foyer

The path to the front door should be as clear and direct as possible; remove plants or patio furniture that could get in the way, and add walkway lights. Vince Butler of Butler Brothers in Clifton says older homeowners should have access to one entrance that doesn’t require stairs. They might consider installing a paved ramp and widening the front door, too. Inside, designer Russ Glickman of Glickman Design Build in Potomac suggests placing a bench or table in the foyer to set packages or heavy items upon entering.


Kitchen

Raising or lowering the height of countertops allows residents to sit on a barstool or a chair while they cook or do prep work. As people age and become more forgetful, glass-front cabinets that enable them to see exactly where everything is can be a big help, as can ovens that alert users when they’re left on too long or refrigerators that beep when ajar. Major manufacturers such as GE make such appliances. For an instant update, you can reorganize cabinets and shelving so that frequently used items are easy to reach.


Master Bedroom

Moving this bedroom to the main level, as Glickman recommends, is an obvious plan. AARP also suggests widening door frames and hallways in and around the room, especially if they need to accommodate a wheelchair. Some people add elevators if keeping the bedroom upstairs is the only option; closets stacked one above the other on multiple floors are among the easier places to install a shaft. Adding seating—near the bed, in the closet, and anywhere else someone may need to balance or pause to change clothing—is a simple, low-cost improvement.


Bathroom

This can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Architect Bruce Wentworth recommends a curbless shower in place of a bathtub. An adjustable shower head, grab bars or railings, and in-shower seating are also good ideas. A floor material with firm traction, such as textured vinyl, and nonslip shower mats are important, too. The National Association of Home Builders advises using a faucet with “anti-scald” controls—valves designed to prevent extremely hot water from leaving the tap—and bright lighting.


This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 11/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Davida's Kitchen & Tiles took this home's kitchen from outdated to awesome. By Michelle Thomas
This "before" shot of a Rockville kitchen shows the room's outdated style. After photographs by Bob Narod, courtesy of Davida's Kitchen & Tiles.

There's no arguing that this ranch-style home in Rockville was saddled with a majorly outdated kitchen. The room had plain, dark brown cabinets, old appliances, and zero personality. The homeowners craved a bold, contemporary design that would match their vibrant style while giving them storage and workspace. Enter Davida's Kitchen & Tiles. The renovation team kept the existing kitchen's U-shaped set-up—which worked well for maximum counter space—but swapped those boring brown cabinets for a bright white lift-up style, meant to offset the much deeper, richer base cabinetry and glossy brown backsplash. Next? A dropped ceiling panel and sliding door were painted a vivid orange, the homeowners' favorite hue. The resulting look: a modern-meets-retro renovation with plenty of personality.

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Posted at 11:50 AM/ET, 09/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Redfin reports on the neighborhoods that mark the largest flipping price gains nationwide—and our city counts four of the top ten. By Michelle Thomas
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

To locals, it’ll come as no surprise that renovating and reselling homes is big business in Washington’s many booming neighborhoods. Now, confirmation: A report released Thursday from the real-estate site Redfin ranked the country’s top ten neighborhoods for price increases due to flipping—and the Washington market counts four of the ten. Which one comes in on top? That would be Petworth, which ranked number one in the country with an average of $312,400 gained per flip. Next up is Brookland, listed at number three with $271,900 per flip, with Fort Totten and Stadium Armory a little further down the list, at numbers six and seven with $233,000 and $230,400 gained, respectively. Other cities with neighborhoods in the top ten include Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Redfin defines a flip as a home that was purchased and sold again within a year—and of course, a pricing increase doesn’t necessarily mean a profit, since improvement costs are often sunk into the home before reselling. 

The report includes a few other interesting tidbits about home flipping in our city: Last year, more than 4,000 area homes were flipped in about 172 days, according to Redfin’s analysis of MLS stats—and with 2013’s average of $104,100 gain per flip (that’s higher than the national average of $90,200), don’t expect it to slow any time soon. This year is already on pace to lap last year’s total.

Head to Redfin to see the full report.

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Posted at 11:53 AM/ET, 06/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()