Rowhouse Problems and Solutions: The Privor House, Logan Circle

What was once a dark hallway now has a larger opening to the living and dining area.
What was once a dark hallway now has a larger opening to the living and dining area. (By Darko Zagar -- Ark Contracting)
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Problems: Bad condition, too dark, not enough storage.

Solutions: Opening up a hallway, enlarging the back of the house for closets and a pantry.

One might have thought that, at 20 feet wide and an ample 2,800 square feet, the 1885 rowhouse that Brian and Kim Privor bought in Logan Circle two years ago would have been exempt from some of these problems. The sneaky fact about rowhouses, though, is that no matter how expansive their dimensions, they still often have only one or two rooms per floor. In a wide house, there will be a large living and dining area as opposed to a cramped one (and the position of the stairs will determine whether the two areas are divided or contiguous), but the number of rooms generally remains the same.

The Privor house was in bad condition, with staircases pulling away from the walls and pine floorboards bending underfoot, according to Noah Blumberg, president of Chevy Chase's Ark Contracting, but the Second Empire-style house had the advantage of a hallway that led from the front door to the kitchen at the rear, eliminating the need to walk through the living and dining rooms.

In a typical rowhouse conundrum, that passageway was dark and "gave a very unwelcome feel" to the house, Blumberg said. Working with Ark, Takoma Park architect Rick Vitullo enlarged the opening from the corridor into a living and dining room. He left a low knee wall anchored by a square column to give the Privors an airier entry without sacrificing a wall to back up their sofa. The changes correspond to the traditional architectural touches of the front room, the "only part of the house that had any character," according to Kim Privor, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, whose husband is a lawyer.

To preserve an open plan, you can't close off spaces for closets and powder rooms. Instead, Vitullo formed a kind of service cluster around the revamped kitchen at the back of the house. There, adjacent to the stairs to the basement, he squeezed in a pantry and a powder room; in the far corner of the kitchen he found space, at last, for a coat closet.

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