Willow Oak Residence
Originally built in 1889 a short walk from the old East Falls Church rail station, the vaguely reminiscent gothic Victorian was a landmark in a neighborhood of late 19th century wood frame homes. The two story house had been changed many times over its 116 year life with most of the changes diminishing the style and integrity of the original home. Beginning during the mid-twentieth century, few of the changes could be seen as improvements. The wonderfully dominate front tower was obscured by a bathroom shed roof addition. The exterior skin was covered with asbestos siding, requiring the removal of any wood detailing projecting from its surface. Poorly designed diminutive additions were added to the rear creating small, awkward, low ceiling spaces that became irrelevant to the modern user. The house was in serious need of a significant renovation and restoration.
A young family purchased the house and immediately realized the inadequacies; sub-par spaces, kitchen, bathrooms and systems. The program for this project was closely linked to aesthetics, function and budget. The program called for significantly enlarging the house with a major new rear addition taking the place of the former small additions. Critically important to the program was to not only protect the integrity of the original house, but to restore and expand the house in such a way that the addition would be seamless. The completed house had to fulfill all of the requirements of a modern house with significant living spaces, including reconfigured foyer, living room and dining room on the first floor and three modified bedrooms on the second floor. On the rear of the house a new addition created a new kitchen, family room, mud room, powder room and back stair hall. This new stair hall connected the new and existing first floor to a new basement recreation room below and a new master bedroom suite with laundry and second bathroom on the second floor.
The entire exterior of the house was stripped to the original sheathing. New wood windows, wood lap siding, wall trim including roof eave and rake trim were installed. Each of the details on the exterior of the house matched the original details. This fact was confirmed by researching the house and studying turn-of-the-century photographs. The second floor addition was removed, facilitating the restoration of the four sided mansard roof tower.
The final design for the house is strong but not overpowering. As a renovated house, the finished product fits the neighborhood, restoring its standing as a landmark, satisfying the owner’s needs for house and home.
Photography: Anice Hoachlander