Resolving remodeling hurdles to create a stunning, contemporary space

Real Estate

After a long search in Washington's tight housing market, Azi and Ali Hendi found their first single-family home on a leafy hilltop in Forest Heights.

Despite the exterior's clean lines and its sylvan setting overlooking Rock Creek Park, the formal interior was outdated and traditional, the rooms sequestered. Azi Hendi saw the potential for transforming it to a contemporary, child-friendly space. So three weeks after closing, the couple asked Bowa Builders in McLean to renovate the main floor into an airy, open space with a seamless flow.

"I have my ultimate dream home, and it took only four months," Azi Hendi said. "It took finding a home with the potential and the right people to make my vision come alive."

For project manager and architect Sean Ganey, however, it was four months of work flow, engineering and design challenges.

Right away, the steep, S-curved driveway prohibited large trucks from delivering or hauling materials.

"Big, burly men hand-carried granite slabs, appliances and drywall 40 feet up the hill, or they reloaded it into pickup trucks. If ever there was grunt work, that was grunt work," Ganey said.

There were engineering hurdles, as well. Hendi prioritized a panoramic kitchen view, which meant demolishing two walls. But with the walls gone, the precast concrete foundation would not hold the weight of the new loads, Ganey said. "The tricky thing was that the house didn't sit on concrete over rock or dirt. It floated on a bed of gravel, so there was nothing for our concrete posts to sit on."

Bowa poured a new concrete foundation and set a steel column in place to support a steel beam. The column is hidden inside the wall. "To the homeowner, it looks like magic," he said.

A spiral staircase in the foyer was a major design challenge. It accessed the basement and second story but hogged the foyer. Getting rid of it left a gaping hole in the floor and meant sawing into beams and ductwork. The refreshed foyer offers a line of sight to the stunning stone fireplace, the focal point of the renovation.

Ganey conceived the fireplace as a sculptural piece to draw people to the space. But with Hendi's input, it became a hub of activity and a perch for a decorative gold Buddha. The three-sided fireplace has multiple functions.

"It's a brain for the house, with music, TV, security systems, art and toy storage," Ganey said. Wood floor and ceiling beams share the stone's weight, and custom media cabinetry conceals the rerouted flues.

The original kitchen was small, dark and enclosed. For clean lines and plenty of light, Ganey demolished walls and refocused the window's arresting, linear sweep, integrating it with the cabinetry's flow.

Less wall space necessitated creative storage solutions, Hendi said. A bar and stovetop on the two-level island lets people watch while Hendi teaches gourmet cooking or entertains guests.

The island combines prepping, cooking, dining and cleanup. "Instead of pockets of activity, we unified the kitchen functions," Ganey said. "This ties into the way we conceptualized the main floor, which was to draw it all together."

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