Remodel: A Tall Order
This home's large rooms felt cavernous. The redesign is more human-scaled.
When Gail Kee and Javade Chaudhri moved into their stately brick Colonial in McLean in 2013 with their daughters, Hana and Alina, it still had the hallmarks of a luxury home from the 1990s. It was big, with dramatic windows and soaring, double-height ceilings. But almost too big. Parts of it felt cavernous, and not exactly cozy. Plus, the interiors were awkward. There were doorways of varying heights (some with decorative molding, some without) and large columns, Kee recalls, “which were supposed to connote a grand feel, but looked like they were put there to hold the ceiling up.”
And yet Kee, a former real estate developer, saw potential. “Since my husband [a partner with the law firm of Jones Day] is 6-feet-4-inches, we needed a tall house—one where he would not bang his head on the stairs to the basement,” she explains. “The craftsmanship was not good, giving the house a ‘cheap’ feel. But the inspector said the basic structure was very sound.”
Soon, architect Michael Ullrich of Pagenstecher Group, interior designer Marika Meyer and kitchen designer Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design (all based in Montgomery County, Maryland), were contemplating ways to make the interior spaces more cohesive and relatable.
Although the remodel did involve some structural work, including a gut renovation of the kitchen, other aspects were more surgical. “Part of our work was editing everything for consistency,” Ullrich explains. “There wasn’t a natural hierarchy to the design. We came up with a standard door height and crown detail that we used throughout to tie the rooms back together.”
That custom millwork proved transformative, bringing definition and a common language to previously non-descript rooms and entry points. “A lot of time was spent thinking about how to transition from one space to another while maintaining open sight lines through the house,” Meyer says.
Meanwhile, creative textile combinations (upholstery, rugs, wallcoverings, drapes) help to humanize the spaces by emphasizing small details. “We had a lot of fun with the softer part of the design,” Meyer says. “Gail was very open to patterns and colors, and they have beautiful rugs from their travels, plus an amazing art collection. Those, along with some interesting family pieces, were jumping-off points.”
Neighborhood: Langley Farms
Originally built: 1996 (although renovating revealed that the current structure was built around an earlier, smaller home)
Previous square footage: 4,171
New square footage: 4,171
Interior designer: Marika Meyer, meyerinteriors.com
Architect/builder: Pagenstecher Group, pagenstechergroup.com
Kitchen designer: Aidan Design, aidandesign.com