“We wanted something different, not the same old brick and drywall,” says Grane, who estimates that he and his wife will spend $410,000 on the construction. “We picked these architects because they specialize in contemporary design. That’s all they do.”
Bloomberg, 47, and Loosle-Ortega, 58, specialize in offering edgy alternatives to the standard residential remodeling of crown moldings and Shaker cabinets. Their eight-year-old firm, Kube Architecture, is known for transforming urban rowhouses and suburban split-levels into flowing spaces defined by bright finishes and hard-edged details.
“We call ourselves the warm modernists,” says Loosle-Ortega. “We are different from other architects who do contemporary work in our use of colors and textures.”
During a tour of Kube’s most recent renovations, the architects pointed out a tangerine acrylic countertop, red cement-board paneling, cork floors and multi-hued mood lighting to prove that minimalist design need not be cold or austere. They use such vivid elements to animate clean-lined interiors as open as lofts.
Few people strolling past their remodeled rowhouses would guess that behind the historic facades are sleek spaces in which most everything is new.
“They take very traditional housing and slice it up in ways to create a different experience inside,” says Stanley Hallet, professor emeritus and former dean of Catholic University’s architecture school, where Bloomberg and Loosle-Ortega have taught. “Both of them come out of an academic tradition, and it’s been interesting to see them apply ideas about materials and transparency to their work.”
Glass floor panels in a remodeled Foggy Bottom rowhouse channel sunshine from roof skylights right through the center of each level. The three main floors, each completely open from front to back, are connected by a skeletal staircase set against a blue wall.
The architects call their design the“see-through house.”
“The whole concept was bringing light into every space,” says Gaines Mimms, 64, a neonatologist, who with wife Brigitte remodeled the home last year.
On the top floor, the master bathroom extends to the glass floor as an integral part of the bedroom. “You can look up from the living room and see someone taking a shower,” says Mimms, adding that some guests are uncomfortable with the arrangement.
The homeowners cite the architects’ balance of ingenuity and practicality as key to their ability to sell contemporary design in a traditionalist city. “They complement each other,” says Brigitte Mimms, 60, a retired dentist. “Richard is more of a dreamer, Janet is more realistic. She brings him back to earth at times.”