A Residence in Kalorama, NW DC
This cozy townhouse nestled into a quiet residential street has a deceptively large back garden on two levels. For the front, the owners wanted to upgrade the entrance to make it more inviting but also more formal and fitting with the New Deco architecture and the full house renovation. In the back, where the cozy enclosure is created by the walls of the neighboring townhomes, they wanted a beautiful retreat – something wonderful to look at from the house but also a space for quiet dinners or small gatherings. Added bonus for the neighbors: they have a wonderful garden to look at!
The project which took place over several months, first involved the demolition of all almost all existing hardscape (the decking on top of the garage remained) in order to create the new spaces – both the lower level patio accessible from the house, and the garage roof-top patio area. In both front and back, elegant flagstone replaced the brick. Existing wrought iron railings were kept and the wrought iron stairways were rebuilt and refurbished to provide access and to be in a complementary style. A new irrigation system was installed front and back, in addition to landscape lighting.
The final product is a jewel-like oasis in the middle of the city that the owners can use for an intimate dinner for two or for entertaining friends and family.
The major challenge for the rear yard was the access. Going through the house was not a realistic option so all access was through a relatively tight back alley and garage. The garage was not big enough to accommodate production trucks so they used the alley for parking – the trucks needed to move several times a day to allow others residents to access the alley. All the old material was removed this way (the small door from the garage to the back garden was removed to provide slightly better access) and the new material brought in this way. There was a lot of going up and down steps to shuttle materials back and forth to the different levels of the garden by hand since no machinery was able to be used on site.
In re-doing the front which involved an all new stoop, steps, walkway and garden area, the major challenge was parking for our production trucks. The end result is a much more inviting and elegant front entrance.
Photography by Melissa Clark Photography.
- The original front entrance had a brick front walkway and stoop in need of repair. Plantings looked messy and did little to enhance the entry.
- The new entrance brings in flagstone, keeping brick just for the risers. A low boxwood parterre frames the ornamental trees while small pockets of annuals add seasonal color. Two small boxwoods frame the front stoop.
- This view of the lower garden during demolition shows the tight quarters. The narrow door on the left of the garage was the only way to bring materials in (flagstone, stone dust, gravel) and out (bricks, sand and miscellaneous construction debris). Ladders were used constantly to access the different levels.
- The same view shows the finished garden viewed from the house..what a difference! A beautiful flagstone patio (set on stone dust) creates the entertaining area. The trees on the left are the only plants that were from the existing landscape; all others were brought in through the garage door.
- A closer view of the hand crafted wrought iron staircase leading to the upper level. A simple plant palette for a shady part of the garden with boxwoods and golden Hakone grass.
- Looking towards the corner of the house, a Japanese maple anchors the corner; deep window wells were constructed to accommodate drainage . A small table is there for immediate family but the patio also accommodates additional seating for larger groups.
- Viewed from the upper garden, this photo shows the courtyard effect created by the adjacent buildings. A lush vine softens the brick wall while lower level plantings add texture and color contrasts.
- While the original decking on the upper level (above the garage) remained, the planters had to be emptied of all their soil, rebuilt, waterproofed and filled up again. Everything was carried in buckets up and down the steps.
- After completion, evergreens help provide screening creating a more enclosed space despite the surrounding buildings. All the soil and plants were hand carried up ladders. When the owners entertain, this area serves as another pleasant space for their guests.
The fountain set into the garage wall, featuring handmade tiles from Motawi Tileworks in Michigan serves as a focal point from the house. A hand crafted water spout is also a prominent feature. There was some existing plumbing but it was significantly improved during installation.