There are comfy sofas and loveseats all over the house, but as for the scale of Restoration Hardware furniture, well, it would dwarf these rooms.
Courieut and Fletcher liked the 1938 house when they bought it in 2002 — it had a living room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms and a bath on the main floor and a large unfinished attic space, enough for the couple and their son, Teofan, then 5 — but that’s not to say they weren’t soon bitten by the renovation bug, something of an infectious disease in the Washington area. The infection was transmitted, so to speak, by their next-door neighbor, Martin Bell, now 83 and a retired horticulturist.
“The size of the house was fine,” Fletcher remembers, “and it had a great backyard.” He had no thoughts of adding on. Not that long after they moved in, though, “I came home and Chantal said Mr. Bell told her I could dig footings behind the living room and add a room back there. Chantal and I didn’t know what footings were, but we thought, well, okay.”
As Fletcher and Courieut were to learn, their neighbor had lots of good ideas, and what started as a simple home purchase turned into a nine-year odyssey into construction and interior decoration, encompassing an eclectic collection of folk art, paintings, large French armoires and often fanciful sculptures. But the journey did not end in a big house with rooms of baronial proportions: “The anti-McMansion trend is alive and well in Silver Spring,” Fletcher says. Everything they did, Courieut adds, was true to the original scale and spirit of a little cottage.
In 2002, Fletcher, then a Secret Service agent and now retired, had flown home alone from his posting in Paris in preparation for moving back to Washington. He landed right in the middle of the housing bubble.
“I wanted to live in town, but I was a government worker and I couldn’t afford it,” Fletcher says — nor could he afford Chevy Chase or Bethesda or Kensington. But he could afford the leafy Woodmoor neighborhood in Silver Spring.
Outside, the house was a riot of spring bulbs and flowering shrubs. Inside, though, the place looked like the 1960s.
They purchased the house — for about $400,000 — from a 93-year-old widow who had lived in it since 1939, the year after it was built. Small surprise, then, that the new owners felt the need to update.
“Mr. Bell” pointed out that all around the neighborhood homeowners were busting out the backs of their modest houses and adding “big boxes.” Big spaces were where it was at. Courieut says, “Everybody said, Oh, you can take down this wall” — she points to the wall where the refrigerator stands, just as it did in the room’s earlier incarnation — “and make a big kitchen. But I don’t like a big kitchen.” Hence the kitchen has a new color scheme and 16 sets of vintage canisters — and, yes, a modest amount of granite. But the kitchen maintains the same 10-by-12 footprint it has had since 1938. Next door to the kitchen is the sunny, separate 12-by-12 breakfast room that Courieut and Fletcher resisted incorporating into the kitchen, making room for a mellow old Norman farm table — 23 enameled coffeepots displayed around the room.