Monthly Archives: November 2012

Before and After – Second Floor

The second post to bring closure to the WolfeStreetProject addresses the end result of renovation on the second floor. Before and after photos are presented below; some posts early on in the project documented the demolition of the upper floor (and discussed some of the discoveries of the original house that had been concealed for decades):

Before demolition actually began, we had developed a plan with our architect for transforming the second floor space. When there was a debate about whether we had the space for two bathrooms, Ben asked a great question: “So, let me get this straight, Kevin, you all wake up, Lisa heads to the shower on the second floor, and you head down two flights of stairs to take a shower in the basement?”

The design, including the addition of a second bathroom on the second floor, became pretty clear after that.

The floor plans for the before (bottom) and after (top) designs for the second floor are presented below.

Before and After Second Floor with Notes v2

Unlike the design goal posts for the first floor, we didn’t blog about the goals for transforming the second floor. However, a walkthrough of the second floor during framing, when a visiting building inspector from Pennsylvania was in town for a half marathon with Lisa, provides a brief summary of how the space would be used:

Although we had plenty of unforeseen issues and a few design changes along the way, the trauma and stress of the WolfeStreetProject definitely paid dividends – our design goals and functional living space aspirations, remarkably, were all met. One of the greatest additions (actually, a subtraction) by our second architect, Natalie, was the removal of the linen closet in the stairwell, noted by the red X above.

Presented below, with minimal commentary, are before and after pictures of the second floor to provide a view of the final product.

Master bedroom before:




And, after (the renovation to this space included a 5′ bumpout to the south, a new bathroom, walk-in closet, and en suite washer / dryer):












Guest room and second-floor bath before:


And, after, including Natalie’s brilliant idea to demo the linen closet (RIP, narrowest 5-panel door in the world . . .):



Guest room before and after:







Second-floor bath before:


And, guest bath, after:


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Design


Now that the project’s complete, we thought a repost of the house at the height of demolition would provide some interesting retrospective context in advance of the “after” photos.


For the past 2 weeks, the focus of renovation activities has been destruction, rather than construction. These activities reached terminal velocity on Thursday, February 23, with the removal of most of the joists supporting the second floor. The result, as you’ll see below, is a complete transition of a house (that was, frankly, pretty nice), to an empty hull. In the words of one of our young nieces commenting on the blog, “the house looked so sweet before and now it is a catastrophe!”

The photo below is during the penultimate step of demo. It’s a view from what used to be the dining room, through what used to be the master bedroom floor, to the exposed rafters. The skylight to the left is above the stairs, and will remain (although it’s not original to the house, like the one in the center, above the old bathroom).

Dave, the site…

View original post 454 more words

1 Comment

Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Interior Demolition



The last component of the renovation was implemented the Monday of Thanksgiving week, just days before the Thanksgiving Eve party: the fireplace surround. The fireplace itself was installed in July, as documented in this post. After the counter top over the fireplace built-in area was installed, we were able to move forward with installation of the surround.

We chose a black granite that was treated to appear like leather – the surface has been contoured and is pleasing from both an aesthetic and tactile perspective. The design for the surround included the following characteristics:

  • A face that was the same thickness as the cabinet doors, so it would be in the same vertical plane as these elements
  • A base that would extend forward in the same plane and at the same height as the cabinet toe kicks that circumnavigate the built-in cabinets in this area, with a critical functional design element that’s discussed below

The guys from our neighborhood counter top firm ended up coming twice to install – the first time the surround did not fit perfectly, plus, the lead installer identified a structural enhancement that would address a stability risk that existed if we just adhered the face to the fireplace frame without any load-bearing by the floor.

The finished product worked out perfectly. All of the new, stone surfaces are aligned with the existing wood cabinetry, exactly as designed.

The functional element of the design referenced above was a 3/8″ gap between the bottom of the surround and the floor. This subtle gap is sufficient to provide the oxygen supply to the gas fireplace without distracting from the overall aesthetics of the surround.


Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Fireplace


Wining and Dining: Opining on Design Refining

It’s now mid-November, and the house is basically done. We moved back into the house at the end of August, but stopped posting because we hit the 90% completion point, and most of the changes since have been incremental, and less dramatic than earlier stages of the project. We’ll be posting pics of the completed house after the Thanksgiving holiday festivities (and the annual Thanksgiving Eve party), but did want to post one update before then – construction of the dining peninsula.

As noted in the first floor design post, one of the objectives of the open-plan first floor design was to eliminate the dining room (which we rarely used, and simply walked around each day) and replace this with a dining element that would better support how we live and how houses these days generally function, from a social perspective. Namely, an area that explicitly accommodated guests aggregating in the kitchen, which is where everyone ends up, regardless of intent.

The overall vision for the peninsula is presented in 3D below, from our design work with Ben in 2011, before renovation actually began (check out the crazy thin-ass crown molding!):

In a photo from August 2012, after cabinets have been installed, but before the peninsula itself, we clearly maintained fidelity with the design:

However, reaching this stage prompted some serious work – we needed to figure out how to insert and support a 600-lb slab of 2.5″-thick quartz counter top into the picture. The actual mechanics for doing this were never really addressed during design, so the time had come to tackle this challenge.

The first action was, as always, an excellent drawing from Natalie. Just like with her bulkhead detail, this helped establish the parameters for everyone.

Her sketch below described the relative relationship of all elements for the parties involved – the GC, a custom metal fabricator we hired, and the counter top purveyor. The design on the top portion of the sketch addresses the relative position of the metal frame to the edge of the counter top – one side will extend farther than the other to allow for a 3/4″ overhang on the living room side of the peninsula, consistent with the overhang on the fireplace counter top on the other side of the room:

The next step was to install the peninsula legs, which would need to integrate with the metal frame, and support half the weight of the quartz. The 6″ x 6″ legs were fabricated by our kitchen cabinet maker and installed by our awesome carpenters with the GC – Dave and Freddie. The guys cut holes in the protective floor covering, measured the inside openings of the legs, and cut blocking and bolted these into the floor to serve as the foundations for the legs:

The next step (I think we’re up to Step No. 3, now), was to work with the metal fabricator to design and fabricate a metal frame that would be secured to the brick wall on one side and our new peninsula legs on the other, to support the counter top. (As Alexandria residents, we’re pleased to report that we were able to source everything locally – the metal fabricator, the counter top purveyor, and the GC are all local Alexandria businesses.)

Unlike most counter tops, which are supported along their entire lengths by underlying cabinets, our dining peninsula counter top would need to span an unsupported 6.5′ chasm – and not crack. The metal fabricator’s plan for the metal framework that would support the slab is provided below. The yellow elements are the steel frame; the red (pink? puce?) elements are cabinetry (cross-section of the apron on the bottom left and cross-section of a leg on the bottom right – obviously in different scales):

As you’ll note in the sketch above, one of the elements was the inclusion of tabs off the frame. This would allow the wood apron to be installed by the GC.

On the appointed day in August, the fabricator arrived and successfully installed the steel frame. It’s bolted into the masonry of the West wall on one end (it just “kisses” the cabinet below, in the parlance of the firm’s owner) and into the legs on the other end:

They used a “laser” to level the frame – Dr. Evil would be proud:

Note the void in the cabinet against the wall in the photo above. This will be filled by a subwoofer, and a grill will be installed in the cabinet frame to conceal this AV element, but still allow its sonic contribution to our music and video experiences.

The metal fabricator’s mission has been accomplished. Now, to trim out the elements. In the photo below, Freddie installs the cabinet baseboard to each of the legs:

In the photo below, the maple apron (mapron?) has now been installed around the circumference of the frame.


Now for the counter top design:

Counter top arrival day: the guys from our local counter top firm (they also did our old kitchen, as well as the radiator top in the old living room) arrive to haul in the big-ass slab of dining peninsula goodness.

The three guys had a hell of a time with this mother. I thought I might need to give one of them my hernia doctor’s info at one point.

Just slide that baby in, and we’ll all be good:

Fantastic! Looking good:

Um . . . wait . . .

This big-ass slab is 1″ short!

So, here’s the deal: something went awry with the measurement and templating, and our honkin’ slab o’ quartz is, literally, 1″ short of the proper length. Luckily, our counter top firm was (as all Alexandrians are) completely awesome and responsible. We discussed the issue, and they removed the slab and started over.

Counter top delivery, Part Deux:

Hernias averted – four guys this time.

The slab fits, and the guys epoxy the quartz to the frame to create a bond that will enable the two elements to become one, and avoid crackiness.

The result was perfect. This outcome, as well as a broad range of other elements in the finally renovated domicile will be posted after Thanksgiving.

Connell fam, Quicks, Florida Connells, Thomas, et al. – see you in a few days for the Thanksgiving Eve feast-o-rama on Wolfe Street!

1 Comment

Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Design, Kitchen