A crumbling home in Chevy Chase, Maryland takes on new life

    Chris and Allison Marvin lived in their home in Chevy Chase, Maryland for eight years before embarking on a renovation and creating a space for their artwork.  The design team also added a loggia at the back of the house to blend in with the new dining room windows while creating a more usable outdoor space.
Chris and Allison Marvin lived in their home in Chevy Chase, Maryland for eight years before embarking on a renovation and creating a space for their artwork. The design team also added a loggia at the back of the house to blend in with the new dining room windows while creating a more usable outdoor space. (Jennifer Hughes)

Design-integrated spaces showcase an extensive art collection


Chris and Allison Marvin owned a home in Chevy Chase, Maryland where they lived with their two children and needed more space. But an expansion could have overcrowded the lot.

They wanted to stay in the neighborhood, but the houses sold almost as fast as they were listed. So the Marvins took an unconventional approach to finding a new home.

They wrote about 80 letters to their neighbors and asked them if they wanted to sell. “We said, ‘If you’re thinking of selling now or later, we’d love to talk to you,'” said Allison, 50, owner of Sightline, an art consultancy business she runs from home.

In 15 hours, they had six responses.

The Marvins went through the process in 2012, paying $2.95 million for a 3,600-square-foot, six-bedroom, five-bathroom, three-story Colonial that was built in 1957.

They lived in their new home for eight years, while pondering a smooth renovation. They began interviewing architects and, through a personal recommendation, scheduled a consultation with Catherine Fowlkes, director of the Washington-based Fowlkes Studio.

“They had a very keen eye on design,” says Fowlkes. “The idea to showcase their art collection came up.”

An Optimized Townhouse Sets the Stage for Minimal Environmental Impact

Fowlkes says the couple wanted to elevate the home while upgrading the master suite. The idea of ​​the screened porch was also integral. At one point, the Marvins weren’t going to remodel the home’s original galley-style kitchen. But things started to go wrong.

“The kitchen was a late addition,” says software manager Chris, 47. “A cabinet broke and the appliances were out of order. “We got to know the appliance repairer very well.”

Many home renovations start by removing all the interior walls of the house and reconfiguring the space, but that didn’t happen here. “We wanted to respect the house for what it was,” says Chris. “We weren’t trying to make it something it wasn’t.”

Along with updating the kitchen and master suite, plans called for replacing all of the windows. The height of the doors on the ground floor would be increased to give the house a more open gallery feel. Crown moldings and thick baseboard trim had to be removed. A bay window overlooking the backyard would be modernized and squared off. A new master suite has been fitted above the back porch, which is expected to be torn down and rebuilt.

Before demolition could begin, the family needed to tend to their extensive art collection, which includes paintings, ceramics and photographs. He filled 140 boxes.

“I created a spreadsheet to keep track of everything, and we had specialized crates built,” says Chris. Some of the items were put into storage, but most lived with Allison’s parents during the renovation.

Demolition began in October 2020 and the family returned in June 2021 with the punch list items still punched through. This process and the exterior improvements continued until the fall.

We made the biggest purchase of our lives, on sight

The front of the house looks like it did before the hammers started swinging. The front door opens into a hallway running the full width of the house with the dining room directly ahead. There is a cozy den around the corner to the left, and a powder room is tucked between the den and the kitchen. The living room is on the right. Most of the original hardwood floors on the lower level have survived and have been patched as needed.

The gracious living room that helped sell the family the home the first time they walked in needed only a few tweaks. The double hung windows were replaced by casement windows with reduced mullions and the sidelights were made a little larger. The egg-crate style fireplace and recessed shelving survived, while the trim was reduced.

There are two entrances into the dining room, leaving expanses of wall space large enough for larger works of art. The room runs along the back of the house. A new steel and glass door has been installed giving access to the screened porch.

The den connects to the kitchen through a pocket door. The kitchen, although gutted, has retained its original kitchen-style layout. The upper cabinets that framed the stove have been removed, along with the upper cabinets on the side wall. They have been replaced with a quantity of spare shelves to open up the space. A narrow, custom pull-out spice rack hides prominently next to the stove. The kitchen windows have been updated and enlarged.

The refrigerator is a paneled Sub-Zero that matches the off-white painted finish of the cabinets, which were supplied by DC-based Ferris Custom Cabinetry. The doors that lead to the basement have been disguised as cabinets with matching finish and hardware. The cooker and stove are both Wolf; the counter and the backsplash are in Caesarstone.

Manage a teardown to build a dream house

Items deemed non-essential to the kitchen have been relegated to a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry that borders a breakfast nook. The wall was once occupied by a large stone fireplace that restricted the flow to the back porch. It has been removed and a new double set of steel and glass doors allow easy access.

The back porch was a focal point during the process. It’s a favorite family meeting place, but it suffered from rotting floors and a crumbling ceiling. It was also the logical place to support a second floor hump that was needed to create space for the master suite. The original porch was demolished with its foundation down to the basement. The only covid-related delay on the project was securing the steel beams needed to support the weight of what was happening on the second floor.

The porch roof also allowed the design team to add a bit of modern influence through the use of industrial-looking slotted cement siding finished in gray. A loggia was added to the rear of the house at the basement level to help frame the rear patio and tie in the new dining room windows.

The second floor includes a laundry room; Chris’ office, with a full bathroom; one of the children’s bedrooms with a full bathroom; guest room; and the master suite. The master bedroom overlooks the backyard and includes a fireplace built into an accent wall. There is a large walk-in closet with built-in cabinets and drawers.

“Another place to live”

The master bathroom is adjacent to the master bedroom and has a large window overlooking the backyard and the golf course beyond. The window is partially shaded by roof mounted planters and proved to be one of the most distinctive features of the house.

“We wanted it to be like another living space. Another room with furniture,” Allison says.

Privacy issues were verified by Chris, who confirmed there was no line of sight in the shower. Ferris also did the floating vanity in the master bath, which is topped with Caesarstone. The tiles in the shower have been removed in exchange for Venetian plaster and the flooring is treated hardwood. The third floor of the house houses Allison’s home office, another child’s bedroom, and a full bathroom.

The biggest challenge the family faced during the ordeal was their own discerning eyes.

Spring home maintenance should include an energy audit

“I was worried about making things go the way we wanted,” says Allison. “We are very detail oriented.”

Although much of the house remained intact during the renovation, the renovation came with a large budget that the owners refused to reveal. Even with the delays incurred in rebuilding the porch, they were able to stay within 5% of their projected costs.

To get the house they wanted, working the way they wanted, the family went the extra mile. Financially, they feel close to equality. “Based on the neighborhood and the transactions that happen here, what we put in there, we think we can get it back. Especially since prices have jumped,” says Chris.

Allison adds, “This is the house we want to be in for the long term. … We are making a big investment, but the idea is that we will be here for a while. The village is a special place.

Back To Top