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Rowhouse Problems and Solutions: The Adams House, Georgetown

 Decorating mostly in white gives the illusion of space in this 12-foot-wide home.
Decorating mostly in white gives the illusion of space in this 12-foot-wide home. (Darko Zagar)
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By Nancy McKeon Photos by Darko Zagar
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Problem: Narrow space.

Solution: Choosing paint and furniture that make the home seem bigger.

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Southeast light streams into the rear of the two-story Georgetown rowhouse Amy Adams bought five years ago, thanks to a renovation by a previous owner. That remodeler stripped away the narrow straight-run staircase that ran along one side wall and replaced it with an iron spiral staircase in the rear corner of the main room. The resulting two-story opening allows the morning and early-afternoon light from two large windows to flood the home's dining area, where it almost meets the afternoon sun that streams in through the living-room windows.

The spiral staircase is a boon for a second reason: Like Adams herself, the house is nothing if not petite, 848 square feet in all. Trip on the front doorsill and you're likely to land in the fireplace. The house is 12 feet wide, and having the stairway tucked in the rear corner allows Adams to use the space formerly taken up by the stairs for a full-width dining area.

With the main reconfiguring done, Adams's main approach to her jewel box of a house has been mostly cosmetic. When Adams, director of sales and marketing for a real estate development company, bought the place, the living and dining room walls were painted different dark colors; she unified the space with a soothing coat of white paint -- walls, ceiling, spiral staircase. Framed mirrors dot the walls of the kitchen, letting light bounce into dark corners of the tiny room.

Adams's furniture choices were equally apt. A high-backed 65-inch-long love seat from Lee Industries is the focal point of the living room, crisp in white, set off with black-and-white pillows and an area rug. She glazed vintage dining chairs a pale gray to lighten the simple mahogany dining table she found at Random Harvest. The result is a traditional rowhouse with a contemporary vibe.

Adams's house is one in a row of 10, only a few of which have been truly modernized. Upstairs, most still have two tiny bedrooms and a small bath; Adams's upper level was transformed by the previous remodeler into one large bedroom lined with closets and bookshelves and a full bath, which received an upscale makeover from Adams. The window end of the room has two big armchairs in view of a television and within arm's reach of her laptop computer. "It's where I nest," she said.


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