American architect Robert Gurney sought to open up views and balance old and new while renovating a four-story historic dwelling in the Georgetown area of the US capital. Alongside with interior designers Sybille Schneider, Leroy Street Studio, this has become a major design project that combines a modern interior with a historical building.
The project, called Renovation on Cox’s Row, entailed the refurbishment of a slender brick dwelling built between 1805 and 1829 by Colonel John Cox, who later served as Georgetown’s mayor.
Set back from the street, the residence is composed of three distinct volumes: a four-storey main block in the front, a two-storey block in the centre, and a rear volume that is split between one and two storeys.
The renovation aimed to honor the past while updating the building for modern and contemporary use. It was designed for a couple with two children and for that reason, it had to be practical and clean through modern furniture and an eclectic look.
While changes to the exterior were fairly minimal, the interior has become a modern space, with minimal design and a stunning atmosphere. The windows were added or enlarged, and wooden frames were replaced with steel ones. A protruding glass skylight, which is not visible from the street, was added to the roof in order to bring natural light deep into the home.
In the original design, the front and back portions were physically and visually disconnected, and the rear rooms were dark and lacked sufficient access to the garden. With brand new windows and an open space area to connect all the divisions, the house started to appear bigger and wider.
Through the removal of partitions and the expansion of openings, along with the creation of a new staircase near the centre of the plan, a modern atmosphere and a brighter ambience started to take over the room design. A bridge on the second storey connects an office to the master bedroom suite. The fourth floor is accessed via an original staircase in the front of the home.
Interior elements are a mix of old and new. Distinctive features, such as mouldings and pilasters, were preserved. New flooring was added in some areas and renovated in others. A range of contemporary decor was used throughout the home, including a number of midcentury pieces.
In practice for nearly three decades, Gurney has an extensive portfolio of high-end homes in the US.